How to use technology to eliminate unconscious bias in your hiring

June 16th, 2020

Diversity and inclusion are high on the agenda of most businesses. Among the many benefits of a diverse workforce, numerous studies have proven that it is linked to higher productivity and even revenue generation.

Most organisations today have policies in place to build and maintain a diverse culture, but for many, it may actually be the hiring process that is standing in the way of realising these goals. 

How unconscious bias impacts the selection process  

From a young age, we are taught that first impressions matter, but judging a person on an initial encounter can lead to bias. It can be positive or negative, but most of the time we don’t even realise we are doing it. Our unconscious biases are learned stereotypes that we use to profile people, and they can play havoc in the selection process.  

In the recruitment process, unconscious bias can occur when you form an opinion based solely on information in a candidate’s resume, like a photo, name, age, address or other such attributes used to describe the person, and not their skills or experiences. For example, immediately taking the view that an older candidate is not suited to a digital role because of your underlying belief that older people aren’t good with technology.  It’s not actually relevant to whether they are suited to the role, but it might lead you to bypass their resume, even if their experience makes them a great candidate. 

Another common bias that can occur in the recruitment process is when hiring managers seek candidates that are similar to themselves. These candidates confirm a belief or hunch they have and may be more likely to support their way of thinking – but it doesn’t do much for diversity in the team. The Halo Effect is another example, whereby the hiring manager or recruiter takes the view that the candidate is right for the job from the outset and, as a result, ignores gaping holes in experience or traits that aren’t suited to the role.

Eliminating unconscious bias

To develop a truly diverse workforce, it’s critical that the role of unconscious bias is acknowledged and addressed. 

One solution is to limit the information you are collecting from candidates. Where possible, only collect the essential information you require for assessing the candidate against the job criteria and skill set. Photos, date of birth, gender or ethnicity, aren’t necessary or even helpful, so if you can restrict them from being part of the selection process, you’ll eliminate any bias from the outset. 

As unconscious bias is viewed as an ingrained human behaviour that can be difficult to bypass, many recruiters are turning to technology to find the solution.  And in many cases, you can leverage technology you already have, utilising your Application Tracking System (ATS) to screen candidates. 

Simply set-up business rules and automations that align directly to the skill set and experience your role requires, and you can search your entire database for the candidates that best match your criteria. 

AI and emerging technologies 

Your ATS is just the beginning of how technology can help.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) is in its infancy in the recruitment industry. Soon we’ll start to see recruiters go beyond business rules and automations to help select candidates, using AI to test and validate assumptions. For example, AI can be used to test whether a list of skills, qualifications or traits really translate into a successful employee for a particular role by cross-checking the traits of high performing people who are already active in these roles.

Another AI trend in its infancy is using facial recognition technology to detect whether candidates are lying during the interview.  Companies such as Unilever, gather AI insights as part of their video interview process, measuring candidate facial expressions to capture moods and further assess personality traits. Whether or not you see this technology as a good thing, Unilever claims this approach has significantly improved its ethnic diversity. 

While it’s likely that the recruitment industry will remain sceptical on how much gravitas should be given to this particular piece of technology in determining suitability for the role, staying on top of developments is critical, particularly when looking to eliminate unconscious bias in the hiring process.

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