Fixing Hiring Bias: 4 Things You Need to Know


Diversity in the workplace is a major focal point for employers and a key selling point for many job candidates. Many companies, despite their best intentions to truly commit to diversity, struggle to put this into action. The reality is that to really create a diverse workplace, employers need to go above and beyond the standard resume and interview – and job applicants need to be ready.


Many studies have found that hiring managers can be swayed by personal preferences leading to a less-than-impartial analysis of an applicant's skills and qualifications. When this occurs during the hiring process, job applicants are missing out on opportunities and employers are missing out on hiring great talent.

There are a number of unconscious biases that permeate a hiring process. We all hold our own subjective world views that are influenced and shaped by our experiences, beliefs and values. An article in Fast Company reported that context during a hiring situation can lead to bias. In one study, applicants were perceived to be more serious when their resumes were attached to heavy clipboards, as opposed to other candidates whose resumes were handed out on flimsy clipboards.

Obviously, hiring decisions should be based on more important factors – especially objective qualifications and requirements!

In order to create more diversity within organizations, employers need to pay attention to the unconscious biases that can inadvertently prompt hiring managers to choose candidates who may not necessarily be the best for the position.

So, what can you expect from today's hiring experience as employers aim to rely less on flawed human judgment?

Blind Hiring. Blind hiring removes telltale signs about a person's observable features from the recruiting process; everything from the person's name and alma mater to the candidate's gender, making it nearly impossible to judge the candidate on anything other than their work experience and capabilities. Instead, job credentials or tests that measure skills pertinent to the job are used to make decisions before personal details are shared about the candidate.


Blind Resumes. In a blind resume, all personal information is removed from the resume before the employer ever gets a chance to see it. Everything that hints at culture, age and gender is removed from the resume, making it difficult for someone to form an unconscious bias. Some blind resumes will even go so far as to remove the university where someone received an education, as this too can create a bias.


Blind Auditions. On the front end, testing applicants to determine their skill levels – versus focusing exclusively on resumes, educational background or from initial perceptions during interviews – can help reduce implicit biases that can occur throughout candidate screening. GapJumpers, for example, is a technology platform that works with its clients and creates a list of skills that are required for a job, then designs a test for applicants to complete online. The scores from these tests are the first thing that employers see, and based on these assessments, then the employer can see the candidate's resume.


Reference Checking. If an employer is really trying to understand the whole of the candidate, then they need to look at the way they have performed at work in the past. On the back end, when you base your talent decisions on reliable, detailed, job-specific confirmation of candidates' skills and past performance from as many references as possible, you are making decisions supported by data points versus gut feel. Impartiality is one of the benefits of using an online reference-checking process, which averages ratings provided by references across job-specific competencies. The confidentiality provided to references solicits more candid responses.


Using technology, organizations can now more easily get feedback from many and varied sources, which can provide a more fulsome picture of a candidate's profile. Perhaps the greatest value in reference feedback comes when employers can assess a candidate's "soft skills" – competencies such as "being a team player" or "adapting to change." The feedback on soft skills complements the pre-hire skills assessment of the applicant, rounding out the picture of a candidate's capabilities.


One day, the American workplace will truly reflect the diversity of the population. Until that vision becomes a reality, companies are adopting more advanced hiring and referencing practices that impartially measure a person's skills and potential. As a job seeker, it is important to be aware of these new – and increasingly fairer – hiring practices.