You rely on many things to do your job—your experience, training, and even your gut feelings help you make decisions every day. But can you be sure that these feelings aren’t your unconscious biases at play?
Unconscious bias is not a new phenomenon. It happens when our brains make quick judgements of people, without us consciously realizing that we’ve done so. And as recent news shows, it can cause big problems in the workplace.
Some 175,000 Starbucks employees will undergo mandatory unconscious bias training following public uproar over the arrest of two African-American men at one of the coffee chain’s Philadelphia stores. The company is facing harsh criticism and accusations of racial profiling.
Google also caught heat after releasing disappointing workforce demographics—70% of Google employees are male, 60% are white—and vowed to devote $150 million to improving those numbers and getting more women and minorities into technology.
How unconscious bias can stifle hiring
Unconscious bias can unduly sway decisions that need rational thinking—like who to interview, who to hire, and who to promote. If left unchecked, these hidden preferences can create a homogeneous workforce that ultimately stifles the innovation and growth businesses need to succeed.
Most people are aware of biases based on gender and race, but a job candidate can be unfairly judged on everything from their age and appearance to their marital status and socioeconomic background.
While everyone has biases, employers need to be extra careful not to let their biases dictate behavior that could be seen as discriminatory and used as grounds for potential legal liabilities.
Types of unconscious bias in hiring
The first step in minimizing the effect of unconscious bias is to simply call for self-awareness; acknowledging first that you do have biases and second that those biases could be limiting your ability to build diverse teams. Here are four biases in particular that could be hampering your hiring efforts.
1. Affinity bias
When you share an affinity with someone—say you grew up in the same neighborhood or went to the same high school—you’re more likely to have a preference for that individual. You may smile more, engage more thoughtfully, or even deem that person a better fit than other, equally qualified candidates.
Affinity bias is one the reason so many workforces are comprised of carbon-copy employees who often lack the dynamic problem solving and creative thinking to push companies ahead of their competition.
2. Halo effect
The halo effect is when you draw sweeping judgments on a candidate based on one positive trait or characteristic. For instance, you might reason that an individual who attended a prestigious ivy-league college is a shoe-in for the position because he/she is a probably a quick learner with good presentation. But does a college degree tell you anything about an individual’s work performance or professional acumen? Probably not.
3. Confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, or favor, information that supports your own beliefs, while discounting information that doesn’t. People like to be right; it validates their competency and feeds their confidence.
If a hiring manager believes that individuals with professional certifications are high-performing workers, he or she will be uninterested any candidates that don’t hold certifications, and disregard other skills they may bring to the table.
4. Conformity bias
Think of conformity bias as peer pressure. Though no one is twisting your arm for your seal of approval on a candidate, you may withhold your opinions, if everyone else is in agreement. It might be easier to go along with the group and you may even question your capability to properly assess a candidate.
How ALTRES Staffing can help you battle biases
Are your job descriptions carefully crafted? Are interview criteria standardized and measurable? Are hiring decisions run through multiple individuals? A structured hiring process is another way to curtail unconscious bias, though it’s not something most businesses have adopted, let alone execute consistently.
Here at ALTRES Staffing, recruitment is what we do best. With over 50 years of experience placing qualified people at Hawaii’s workplaces, we can do the leg work for you.