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Inclusive Hiring: How to address bias in the recruiting process

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Posted 3 months ago by Helen Jones

As organisations try to promote greater diversity and inclusion within their ranks, many hiring managers are focused on sourcing candidates from a variety of backgrounds. 

In the ICAEW Diversity and Inclusion hub we bring together timely D&I resources on regulation and equality, along with our latest insights into diversity in the profession.

To promote inclusivity in the workplace, companies must ensure that candidate interviews and assessments are not biased against minority professionals.

Let us address the two types of bias that can significantly impact your organisation’s diversity recruitment initiatives: unconscious bias and conscious bias. 

What is unconscious bias? 

Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) is the preferences and prejudices that we don’t realize we have. These biases often come from our background and aren’t necessarily apparent in our day-to-day interactions with others. However, they can inform the decisions we make about the people with whom we surround ourselves. 

Everyone has unconscious biases; many hiring panels might unwittingly lean toward hiring — or not hiring — candidates based on those implicit prejudices. 

What are the most common unconscious biases to watch for? 

There are several common unconscious biases hiring teams should watch out for during the recruitment and selection processes.

Three common types of unconscious bias include: 

1. Affinity bias: This type refers to the tendency to prefer people who are similar to us in terms of ethnicity, religion, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, age, physical appearance or disability.

2. Confirmation bias: This bias occurs when we pay greater attention to information that confirms pre-existing beliefs, thus essentially confirming stereotypes we hold.

3. Conformity bias: This refers to being influenced by the opinions and behaviours of others, such as other colleagues on a hiring panel, in order to conform to “proper” behaviour.

What is conscious bias, and how does it differ from unconscious bias? 

Conscious, or explicit, bias refers to prejudices of which we are aware. Someone who falls into this category acts deliberately and knowingly on conscious biases, such as mistreating people from a specific group that they feel deserve it. Conscious bias can be just as detrimental to building an inclusive environment — perhaps even more so. 

10 strategies to prevent and address these biases during the hiring process.

You and your team can prevent and address these prejudices through consistent, strategic action, try these strategies:

1. Identify your unconscious biases. You can use tools like the Implicit Association Test from Harvard to help you. Then, make sure these biases are top of mind throughout the interview and assessment process. We must keep our prejudices front and centre to fight them when they arise.

2. Infuse inclusiveness into your communications, both internally and externally. For example, use a job description analysis tool that identifies gendered language to make job descriptions more inclusive.

3. Require diversity training and ongoing education for all employees, particularly managers, recruiters and senior leaders.

4. Make inclusion a regular part of your conversations regarding the brand and company culture. ICAEW are committed to diversity in the Chartered Accountancy profession and we believe the profession, and our own organisation, does best when it reflects the society we serve, take a look at the  ICAEW Diversity and Inclusion policy.

5. Implement mentorship programs across teams and demographics. Exposing team members to people from different backgrounds can promote greater understanding and empathy across the company culture, which I have found can significantly affect recruitment and retention efforts.

6. Look at candidates’ skills and talents before you consider anything else. You might accomplish this by requesting that a sample assignment be completed before the one-on-one interview.

7. Always ask the same interview questions in the same order for every prospective candidate. Consider using a weighted scoring system on these questions, then compare candidates objectively based on their scores.

8. Put a diverse hiring team in place. Make sure a wide range of people are represented, including multiple ages, genders, sexual orientations, cultures, personalities, backgrounds and talents.

9. If you choose to work with a recruitment company, partner with one that specializes in diversity recruitment.

10. Commit to fighting explicit bias. This may take the form of new company procedures, training around addressing unacceptable behaviours such as sexual harassment, and a no-tolerance policy for hate speech or discriminatory language. 

Becoming familiar with our biases might be an uncomfortable process, but it is necessary to create a fairer and more inclusive recruitment process. And when we accomplish that, we start developing workplaces where professionals of all backgrounds can thrive.

Join the ICAEW Diversity & Inclusion Community.  ICAEW is committed to supporting the diversity agenda, ensuring that the chartered accountancy profession is a truly inclusive one. The community outlines its work in promoting diversity & inclusion, alongside resources and information, to support both individual members and firms wanting to promote diversity within their organisation.