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Three ways to beat unconscious bias

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Worldwide, more and more companies are becoming aware of the impact of unconscious bias during the recruitment process. People get paid more, have a higher chance of landing a job interview, or a better chance of getting a raise depending on their looks, gender, name or other factors that are unrelated to their skill set.

As the awareness grows, so does the number of companies and organisations that attempt to eliminate the bias by changing the way their HR processes work. For those professionals who’d like to change, but are unsure how, Human Resources magazine has picked three great ways to get started.

1. Determine your bias

The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one. If you suspect your company’s hiring process might be affected by some form of unconscious bias, but are unsure about the specifics, an online test can help. Developed by researchers at Harvard University, the so-called implicit association test measures whether your brain associates good things more with one sort of person than another.

The test lets participants pair concepts together, like white and good, or black and good. By measuring the time it takes people to make the pairs, the results can reveal an unconscious bias. For example, if it takes you longer to pair black with good than it took you to pair white with good, this suggests that on some level you associate goodness with white faces more so than with black ones.

Participants can test themselves for unconscious bias in relation to race, skin-tone, sexuality, gender, weight, age, and more.

2. Recruit blind

So what if your entire hiring team shows signs of strong unconscious bias? Although the researchers say that it is possible for someone with unconscious bias to act in a non-prejudiced fashion, a better way might be to limit the opportunities for bias to influence your team’s decision making.

Blind recruiting is one way to achieve this. This way of recruitment involves removing certain identifying details from CVs, such as name, race, gender, schools attended, and past workplaces. Consequently, all that’s left for recruiters to judge the candidate on, is their skill set.

Although anonymising CVs removes the possibility of unconscious bias during the first selection round, it still leaves plenty of opportunity for prejudice to strike during the face-to-face interviews that usually follow. One way around this, is to have the applicant sit behind a screen, in order to hide some of their identifying factors. Of course, once the candidate opens their mouth, their gender and age won’t stay secret for long.

3. Hold auditions

Another option is to have candidates show, rather than tell you what they can do. Plenty of companies already ask job candidates to complete a small project in addition to face-to-face interviews, in order to evaluate their skills. With the help of dedicated online platforms, hiring teams can now have candidates apply for a job by simply taking part in a performance audition challenge.

Companies can post challenges that require certain skills and experience to solve, based on their team’s needs. The top performers’ results are sent to the hiring manager for review, all without any applicant information other than how well they did on the challenge.

During the next stage, the hiring manager does invite his top picks for a face-to-face interview, meaning bias can still play a part. However, at this point the company is guaranteed to start with a shortlist of applicants based on nothing else but skill, which is more than you can say of most current hiring processes.

ALSO READ: Does better grooming equal a bigger paycheck?

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