Making objective hiring decisions is hard. Recruiters and hiring managers have their own perceptions, preconceived notions, subconscious biases, and they make assumptions, just like anybody else. Trouble can arise, however, when subconscious bias influences hiring, possibly limiting the diversity of the company’s workforce, and potentially causing hiring managers to miss out on top talent.
During the recruiting process, candidates apply because they are drawn by the job description. Then, in most cases, the hiring manager reviews resumes, and screens candidates based on subconscious biases – whether it’s where the candidate is from, or which college the candidate attended, or even the candidate’s name. Those who make it to the interview stage are further scrutinized and selected based on a hiring manager’s “gut instinct,” which is a euphemism for subjective impressions and assumptions.
Before a company knows it, its workforce begins to look homogeneous, with a certain type of employee: maybe all the same gender, age, race, or work skills and experience. This can be detrimental because the company ends up missing out on top talent that doesn’t fit its unintentional employee mold. Of course, talent comes in all shapes and sizes. The more diverse your workforce, the more perspectives, opinions, and skills it has.
So, What Can A Company Do to Prevent Hiring Bias?
Even before the recruiter or hiring manager meets with a candidate, the net cast by a job posting can exclude many top performers, just by its wording or tone. For example, according to Unitive CEO Laura Mather, a job announcement that includes terms such as “fast-paced” or “hard-working” might appeal to a particular type of candidate, most likely “mainstream male.” Something as simple as rewording the job ad, by including for example terms like “team player” or “supporting,” can go a long way towards appealing to more diverse candidates.
Resumes are also roadblocks to a more diverse workforce since recruiters can’t help but bring their own biases to the table when reviewing them. Some companies hide identifying information on resumes as a way to prevent discrimination. That way, when a recruiter reviews a resume, only skills, past work experience, and education are examined, and not the candidate’s gender, age, and race.
Another excellent way to circumvent resume hiring bias is by administering a pre-employment skills assessment test to a candidate and then considering a candidate’s test results along with his or her resume.
Using skills assessment testing, recruiters can base their decisions on hard facts – a candidate’s test results – instead of depending on a resume that may spark biases. Say a young woman applies for a job in a company whose workforce is predominantly older men. With just one look at her resume, the hiring manager would know her gender and age and subconsciously pass on her because she doesn’t register as a good fit in the hiring manager’s mind.
However, if that same candidate were to score top marks on a skills test, the hiring manager would see how talented she is, and that she would be a good fit for the company – something the manager never would have known by just looking at her resume.
By skills testing candidates, recruiters get more accurate answers to crucial questions than they would simply by reading resumes. Some of these questions are: Does this person have the necessary skills for the job? Do the candidate’s skills match the candidate’s resume? Will the candidate be a good fit for the team and the company? Once a recruiter has the answers to these questions through pre-employment skills testing, the recruiter can make better decisions.
Using skills assessment tests can also help companies avoid discriminating against candidates based on gender, age, or race since recruiters will base their decisions on a candidate’s proven competencies. When used in conjunction with resumes, skills test results can help legitimize hiring decisions and lead to a more. Having different perspectives and opinions from a more diverse workforce leads to increased innovation, and thus increased productivity and higher revenues – a real win-win for any company.
Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of online skills testing for pre-employment assessment and benchmarking. Eric has degrees in Psychology and Business, and a fascination with matching people with roles they're best at, and that they enjoy.