Reducing Bias in the Hiring Process

01 March 2021

Company leaders and hiring managers understand the importance of a diverse workforce. The business case for diverse teams is clear and being an inclusive employer is undoubtedly the right thing to do. However, despite your best efforts, it’s highly likely that your hiring process is biased and unfair. Everyone has unconscious biases, and a Yale study found that even when interviewers are trained for objectivity, they still were influenced by their unconscious biases. With the understanding that unconscious bias is unavoidable, it’s critical to consider how the impact on the hiring process can be mitigated.

Acknowledgment and Education

To manage unconscious bias, everyone involved in the hiring process needs to understand what it means. It’s important to acknowledge that interviewers and hiring managers are not intentionally trying to make decisions that are unfair.  The “gut feeling” they have about a candidate is very likely driven by their unconscious bias and they may be completely unaware of their bias and its impact. Providing your team with education and training on unconscious bias will help open up the conversation and allow employees to recognize that everyone possesses them and help them acknowledge their own.

Job Postings

Job postings can create unconscious bias through the particular language that is used. Specific words and phrases can affect your candidate pool by attracting a specific group to the exclusion of others. When women read masculine language like “competitive” and “strong” they are less likely to apply for the position. The reverse is true for words like “collaborative” and “team” which tend to attract more women than men. To eliminate this issue, you can either choose neutral words or you can intentionally try and balance the type of descriptors and verbs that you use. Tools like Gender Decoder can also be a helpful ‘second set of eyes’

Resume Review

Anonymizing candidates’ resumes can be an excellent way of ensuring the interview team is focused on skills and qualifications and not demographic data. Simply removing the names of candidates from the resumes can help ensure a level playing field.


An assessment that mimics the type of work that candidates will be doing on the job can help level the playing field. It can provide an objective measure of how well a candidate will perform on the job and gives the interviewers a decision criterion that is free of bias.

Interview Structure

Structured and standardized interviews are essential for minimizing unconscious bias. Candidates should be asked the same set of questions that are based on factors directly related to the job. The candidate responses should also be scored using a predefined scale. The scoring of the various candidates can then be compared and discussed much more objectively.

Improving workplace diversity and inclusion is a job that is never done. As seen with the New York Times, even large organizations with resources and people dedicated to diversity struggle to provide all employees with a safe and fair work environment. Do not think of workplace diversity as a project with a start, finish, and an end. It will be continuous and ongoing and it’s important to set your own diversity goals and metrics so that you can measure success over time.

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