What Is Hiring Bias?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) establishes laws, regulations and guidelines meant to provide fairness for all job seekers. Hiring bias based on age, race, nationality, gender identity, religion, family status, sexual orientation, or disability is illegal in the U.S. Hiring someone or not hiring someone, based on any of the above categories, is called hiring bias. Explicit hiring bias is exceedingly rare in the U.S.
However, it does happen, such as in the 2017 cases involving Facebook ads with age targeting. Facebook and other social media platforms are now barred from age targeting in employment-related advertising.
What About Outside the U.S.?
Developed countries such as Australia, the U.K. and Germany all have similar laws prohibiting hiring bias. Developing nations often do not yet have such protections in place. For instance, in India, an airline may advertise a job for a stewardess and say they only want unmarried females under the age of 30. However, in the United States, such a hiring bias would violate federal law several times over as it constitutes family status, age, and gender identity discrimination.
Is Subconscious Hiring Bias the Same?
Subconscious hiring bias, also known as unconscious hiring bias or implicit hiring bias, is still considered hiring bias and is still against federal law. Unlike the example above with the Indian airline, subconscious hiring bias is not explicit or overt discrimination. Instead, subconscious hiring bias is in the mind of the hiring manager and is triggered involuntarily. Often, it involves stereotypes or personal preferences about qualities unrelated to the job.
A well-documented example of hiring bias is how the hiring manager reacts to the applicants’ hometown or high school neighborhood: A hiring manager might see an applicant attended a school in a less economically privileged neighborhood and therefore believe the applicant is less well-educated— despite the resume listing a competitive program and advanced degrees. On the other side of this, the hiring manager may have affiliated the same sorority or fraternity as an applicant and immediately see that person as more likable than others.
How Can Hiring Bias Harm Your Recruiting Efforts?
GQR is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in hiring. With all the effort recruiters put into finding the best candidates, wanting to see them placed based on merit is only natural. Yet when we must not only find the best quality talent in our specialisms but also overcome implicit bias, it can make the job that much more difficult.
Employers in today’s business climate are aware of the need for diversity. Yet, if they still struggle filling positions despite being presented with qualified, talented candidates, there is likely an issue of subconscious bias. An even stronger signal that recruiting efforts may be succumbing to subconscious hiring bias is if diverse candidates repeatedly reject job offers from an employer.
What Can Be Done About Subconscious Hiring Bias?
Undoing years of culturally reinforced bias on any level of scale is an impossible task in the short-term. Ideally, hiring managers should learn to recognize if and when they have such biases, and work against them by sticking only to the qualifications when selecting which candidates with whom to move forward in the hiring process.
A diverse, multi-person hiring team may help add voices to the hiring process and root out bias. For example, in the case where one manager was in the same sorority as a candidate, another that was not would not judge the candidate based on that alone and might find, for instance, that the candidate had strong opinions that went against how the company operates.
Looking at how the company operates is also important. Having policies such as paid leave for religious holidays may also attract more diverse candidates, as such candidates would feel more accepted with such a policy in place.
High-level technology, such as artificial intelligence, is being used to remove bias from resumes and job advertisements. Removing names and gender cues from resumes and presenting them in a standard format is shown to eliminate a lot of bias almost immediately.
That said, even the word choice used in a resume or job advertisement often offers clues for employer preferences and bias. Masculine sounding words in a job advert such as “competitive,” “high-intensity,” or “ninja” often give women the perception that they would not belong in that work environment. Words like “collaborative” and “open” often attract more women than men.
The other great part of working with a high-quality specialist recruiter committed to diversity, equity and inclusion is that the recruiter has thoroughly vetted a candidate and believes he or she would be a great fit for the company and the role. That adds a layer of bias removal from the process, freeing the hiring managers to look at a bias-scrubbed resume for merit alone. GQR takes this aspect of the recruiter’s role very seriously, having placed hundreds of talented and diverse candidates in high-level positions with some of the world’s top employers.