Unconscious Bias in the Recruitment process and how to tackle it

Unconscious bias is a type of bias that arises when an individual forms a judgment or decision based on unconscious, pre-existing beliefs or attitudes. These biases can impact every aspect of our lives, including the hiring process. In fact, a 2020 survey by LinkedIn found that 82% of hiring managers believe that unconscious bias plays a role in their hiring decisions. While Unconscious Bias is important, in a 2019 study by PwC, 71% of UK employers surveyed said that diversity and inclusion were important to their businesses, but only 28% had taken action to remove bias from their recruitment processes.

In the hiring process, unconscious bias can manifest in a variety of ways. For example, People in positions to recruit may make judgments about a candidate’s suitability for a role based on factors such as their gender, ethnicity, or age. They may also be influenced by a candidate’s appearance, education, or background, without realizing that these factors are not necessarily indicative of their ability to perform the job.

One common form of unconscious bias is affinity bias, which is the tendency to favour candidates who are similar to ourselves or share our backgrounds. This can be particularly problematic when it comes to diversity and inclusion efforts, as it can lead to a lack of diversity in the workplace.

Another form of bias that can impact the hiring process is confirmation bias. This occurs when hiring managers look for evidence that confirms their existing beliefs or assumptions about a candidate, rather than considering all of the available information. For example, if a hiring manager believes that candidates with Oxbridge degrees are the most qualified, they may overlook candidates with comparable experience from other universities.

Unconscious bias can also play a role in how job postings are written and advertised. If the language used in the job posting is gendered or otherwise biased, it can deter certain groups of candidates from applying, and may lead to a less diverse pool of applicants.

The consequences of unconscious bias in the hiring process can be significant. Not only can it lead to a lack of diversity in the workplace, but it can also result in missed opportunities to hire highly qualified candidates who do not fit the mould of what the hiring manager considers to be the ideal candidate.

Unconscious bias can also affect the bottom line too. For example, a 2018 report by McKinsey & Company found that companies with more diverse workforces are more likely to outperform their peers in terms of financial performance. Despite this, only 20% of executives surveyed by McKinsey felt that their companies were effective at promoting diversity and inclusion


How to overcome it

To combat unconscious bias in the hiring process, companies can take a number of steps. One approach is to implement blind hiring practices, such as removing identifying information from resumes or using structured interviews with a standardised set of questions. This can help to reduce the impact of unconscious biases related to factors such as a candidate’s name, age, or gender.

Another approach is to train recruiters and hiring managers on unconscious bias, and to encourage them to be aware of their own biases and to actively work to overcome them. This can involve providing education on the different types of unconscious bias, as well as strategies for mitigating bias in the hiring process. For example, a 2018 report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that only 18% of UK employers surveyed had trained their managers on unconscious bias.

In conclusion, unconscious bias can have a significant impact on the hiring process, leading to a lack of diversity in the workplace and missed opportunities to hire highly qualified candidates. To address this issue, companies can implement blind hiring practices and provide education and training on unconscious bias to their recruiters and hiring managers. By taking these steps, organisations can create a more fair and inclusive hiring process that leads to a more diverse and successful workforce.