Eliminate Unconscious Bias To Hire Diverse And Inclusive Talent

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Sep 30, 2020

Thankfully, many of us managed to cross most of 2020, where one witnessed a global pandemic and disturbing riots across North America. The one thing that was common amongst these two major events- racism. Since the coronavirus emerged in China, there were incidents across the world where people from the Asian community were slurred with racial comments.

Further, the riots that took place in Minneapolis were sparked by the death of George Floyd, which set the stage for the protests across America in demand of justice for the Black community. As a human being, I was concerned about the state of the world. Still, as a Talent Acquisition Professional, these events strengthened my passion for Diversity & Inclusion. Further, they evoked me to share my thoughts and best practices globally with a broader audience.

In my opinion, discrimination has an alternative word, known as bias.  Bias is not visible or tangible, but something that is felt and originates from our minds.

Two sides of the Brain

Moving the dial back to the 90s, a famous neuroscientist Melvyn Goodale researched few individuals with a visual agnosia condition. He started the study to understand how a brain processes vision, but it further led towards the discussion of Conscious and Unconscious parts of the brain.

Conscious Part

As per Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, it defined our brain’s “Conscious part as our mental processing aspect that enables us to think and talk rationally.” The conscious mind includes thoughts, emotions, sensations, perceptions, and reveries inside of our existing awareness. Extension to the conscious mind is a subconscious mind, also known as a preconscious mind, which encompasses feelings or emotions that we are not thinking momentarily but can be quickly drawn into our conscious awareness.

Unconscious Part

Here comes the flip side of the brain- our very own shadow, which we cannot see or feel, i.e., Unconsciousness. We all have hidden emotions, beliefs, urges, and emotions in our unconscious mind, which we are unaware of, but studies prove that it still influences our behavior.

Existence of Unconscious Bias in Sourcing

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” – George Eliot

  1. The first thing we see in a resume or profile is an individual’s name, which signals a hint to their race or cultural background. Some studies suggest a hidden bias against both men and women of color while applying to jobs, originating from their names.
  2. Next are the previous employers and education of a candidate. This is the most common type of unconscious bias that many recruiters and the hiring managers might have. We tend to gravitate towards well-known companies or universities we have heard of or favor someone from our Alma mater. We should focus on the role and skills that a candidate displays in those organizations or institutes and not misinterpret it as their performance.
  3. An additional component of the Employment section of a candidate’s profile is also exposed to our Unconscious mind. At times, many recruiters assume that Tenureat a job or gap between two jobs depicts the candidate’s work principles, loyalty, or commitment. Many people take breaks in their careers due to personal and professional reasons, like becoming a parent, relocation, taking vacation or time off for mental well-being, and becoming jobless due to a layoff. That is neither a reflection of their performance nor commitment.

Also, the times are changing now, and not many people stick with one company for a longer duration. Mostly, we live in a Gig economy, and many people choose to contract now. Sometimes, a candidate starts a new job with certain expectations, and post 1 or 2 months; they find a stark difference in either the culture, role, organizational structure, etc. compared to what they expected.

Therefore, we should be intrigued to identify the motivation or real reasons behind these gaps or small/long duration jobs. Whatever reason you find out, good – bad – ugly, you will ensure inclusiveness in your recruitment process.

  1. The last one I will discuss is not a common bias these days, but I will still touch upon it. Location of a candidate or sometimes referred to as address. Based on a candidate’s background, our unconscious mind presents us with an assumption of an individual’s ethnicity or financial success.

For Example…

A candidate based out of a lower socio-economic location might come across as an individual who did not do well at their last jobs. A candidate from an area known for higher criminal activities or a specific ethnicity would not define incompetence or mediocre performer. As mentioned earlier, many candidates these days choose not to disclose their address on a resume, which has helped eliminate this bias to a certain level.

We should always be aware that not all candidates are great at drafting resumes or LinkedIn profiles. So, there’s still more than what meets the eye.

How To Eliminate Bias In-Sourcing And Assessing Talent?

  1. Identify hidden bias since each individual has a different set of their own. There are various ways and suggestions on the internet for doing so, but I found the Project Implicit to work best for me. Harvard University researchers introduced the world with this initiative to help people assess conscious and unconscious preferences for over 90 different topics. 15 minutes are all you need to identify your unconscious bias and take action. Be ready to be surprised by the results, but it is the first of the many steps you will take to help yourself, and your company achieves the Diversity and Inclusion goals.
  2. Reimagining your job descriptions and how the recruiters or hiring managers review resumes. Job ads tend to have a lot of unconscious bias because most companies follow a specific format for each position and just make changes to the requirement section. Each Job Description needs to be carefully evaluated for gender-neutral language. My preference is always to build these systems in-house using the resources within your Talent and Communication teams, but many companies blame it on the bandwidth, whereas I believe D&I initiatives need to be at the core of each business. Yet, this can also be achieved by using paid tools such as Textio, TapRecruit, Grammarly, etc. My personal favorites have been Textio, Grammarly, and The Gender Bias Decoder (Free).

Following the Job description revamp, the next important step is to review the resumes blindly (Not literally). Review the candidates’ resumes by comparing them with the job description you just created and not focusing on their names, university, photos, or personal information. If you feel that you cannot control the urge to look at these details in the resume, try downloading all the candidates in an excel file (Depending on your ATS features) and hiding the columns representing their personal information.

If your company has some extra budget for D&I initiatives, a few of the paid options of doing this is to utilize specific tools like Textio, Hired, Blendoor, and PinPoint.

  1.  Improve how you design your Interview processes and include

ways or methods of assessment that provide equal opportunities to the candidates regardless of their background, sex, religion, color, etc. Standardization of interview processes for all jobs by categorizing a specific job profile type is where one should start. The interview process should have an assessment in place for all qualifying candidates who meet the job’s essential requirement. Assessments can be done via self-defined questionnaires that have to be filled by the candidates before applying to a job or more advanced based on the job type.

For example, Technical job openings will require an assessment tool that involves some coding exercises or assignments. Suggested tools- HackerRank, HackerEarth, Codility, CodinGame, etc.

These days, even Non-tech roles such as Marketing & Sales, Finance, Operations, etc. require an assessment in place. Suggested tools- HireVue, Pymetrics, Mettl, HireSelect, etc.

Assessments help you, and your company kills two birds with one stone (Again, not literally). One benefit is that you provide equal opportunity with a standardized process for each candidate to prove themselves. The second benefit is that you turn your interview process into a more efficient one (Reduced Time to Fill and Improved Quality of Hires).

  1.  Ensure Diversity in your interview slate for all roles. This is possible when recruiters or Talent partners working with the hiring managers help them understand the importance of having Diversity in the interviewing team.

Imagine what impression a female candidate will have of the company culture or diversity when she is being interviewed by a group of 5 interviewers who are all men?

  1. Hire for cultural add-ons and not fits only. This is where we forget to question our processes when we define an interview as a Cultural Fit round, which depicts that a company is only interested in hiring a specific type of candidate.

 Everything Considered…

Unconscious bias is our own shadow, and on a typical bright sunny day, we can see our shadow walking and behaving just like we do, but the only difference is that unconscious bias is a hidden shadow, which impacts the entire decision-making process of our mind. More than ever now is the time when we need to identify this hidden shadow or unconscious bias of ours and take control.

Unusual times call for extraordinary measures, and it is time for each of us to contribute our bit. Let’s open the doors to Diversity of all kinds, make them feel included, because, at the end of the day, change begins at Home.

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