The field of psychology has drastic implications for talent acquisition and retention. Psychology is the study of why people do what they do – in essence, what makes people tick. There are certain motivations and fallacies common to much of the population. In many cases, it affects what we say and do.
A cognitive bias is a flaw in judgment. There are dozens of cognitive biases, many of which you are probably familiar with. Think about a coin toss that comes up heads ten times in a row. There’s still a 50% chance that the next flip will be tails – even though it seems unlikely. If you’ve already spent money on something, like an all-you-can-eat buffet, you might gorge yourself to ensure you ‘get your money’s worth.’ This is the sunk cost fallacy. You’ve spent the same amount regardless of how much you eat.
Hiring bias has much more important implications than the examples above. Gender and racial hiring bias are most frequently mentioned, but there are other types of cognitive biases you might be falling victim to. The first step to overcoming a bias is knowing that it might exist.
Types of Cognitive Hiring Bias
The Halo Effect
We all know that first impressions matter. Part of this is because of the halo effect. Once we have a favorable opinion of someone, it takes a lot to change our minds. Another element of the halo effect is the idea that because a person excels in one area, he or she will also excel in others. We might assume that because someone is an excellent public speaker and is especially talented in his field, he will also make a good group leader. In reality, these skills don’t necessarily influence each other.
A recruiter might read through dozens of resumes. One candidate looks particularly good “on paper.” When that person comes in for an interview, the recruiter may be more likely to overlook obvious flaws; say, the person doesn’t make eye contact or is inarticulate or incompetent. If you expect someone to be something – whether that’s good or bad – he or she is likely to fulfill those expectations.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out information that validates your current opinion. For example, people who tune into Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck are typically more conservative. These pundits espouse beliefs that are congruent with the conservative mindset. As a hiring bias, confirmation bias can be seen in the tendency to focus only on the aspects of a person that coincide with the recruiter’s pre-established thoughts on the candidate.
Anchoring is a hiring bias in which the recruiter or hiring manager fixates on one piece of information, giving it more weight than it deserves. Say, for example, you have a candidate who went to Harvard, or who is president of the local Mensa Society. Even if the candidate isn’t the best for the job, it may be tempting to overlook his or her flaws because “She’s in Mensa!” or “He went to Harvard!”
Social Comparison Bias
This is a tough one for managers who are hiring employees to join their team. The social comparison bias is the tendency to dislike or feel competitive with others who may have the same kinds of skills. For example, if you’re widely seen as the company’s expert in a certain software program, you’ll feel reluctant to hire someone whose skills meet or exceed your own. Research has shown that this is a relatively common phenomenon, so it’s a hiring bias you’ll want to consciously avoid.
Ingroup bias is the tendency to favor people who are similar to oneself, or who are part of the same “group.” It’s an interesting hiring bias because in some cases, like sexism or racism, it’s blatantly seen as wrong. But there are less obvious examples of ingroup bias. Some hiring managers, for example, might look more favorably on fellow alumni. You may feel a sense of camaraderie and kinship with a candidate who participated in the same fraternity or sorority that you joined in school. There are several types of ingroups, but any kind of favoritism based on this is a hiring bias that could negatively impact your hiring decisions.
Shared Information Bias
While this type of bias may not directly affect your candidates, it can certainly draw out the hiring process. Shared information bias is the tendency for members of a group to discuss information that everybody is already aware of, rather than focusing on hidden information that is only available to some. For example, if one interviewer notices an irritating quality in a candidate, he or she should share this with the group – even if it doesn’t seem relevant. Don’t focus on just making a decision. The process is important, too.
Overcome Hiring Bias
Do you know how to recruit in a way that will avoid this? Awareness of these kinds of hiring biases is critical. Many publications have recently suggested that automated intelligence is the solution for removing (or at least significantly decreasing) hiring bias. An applicant tracking system can show or hide certain aspects of a candidate’s profile that you don’t want to consider. You can decrease the shared information bias, since everyone keeps notes in a central location. Hiring bias doesn’t have to be an insurmountable problem. Learn about more tips for avoiding hiring bias here.
When it comes to hiring top talent, we want to believe we give everyone a fair chance and choose the most qualified candidates. But what if our judgments aren’t as fair as we think they are?
We all carry unconscious biases, both positive and negative, that influence our opinions of others. When we see a piece of ourselves in someone else, we’re more likely to have a favorable impression of them. However, when we see others as different from ourselves, we may be quick to judge.
This prejudice can be particularly harmful in the hiring process and prevent diverse candidates from moving up the pipeline. If managers subconsciously hire employees similar to themselves, teams quickly become homogeneous. Luckily, there’s a way to break the cycle. Here are a few steps to help you reduce unconscious bias in your own hiring process.
1. Create Gender-Neutral Job Descriptions
Could your job descriptions be chasing away qualified candidates? Certain words and phrases can skew feminine or masculine and actually discourage applicants from applying. Scan job descriptions and swap out skewed terms with more gender-neutral phrases. Words like “disciplined” and “tackle” may discourage women from applying, while phrases like “our family” and “empathetic” may see an uptick in female applicants. Being mindful of your word choice will help you attract a more diverse talent pool from the get-go.
2. Review Resumes Blind
Studies show that resumes with white-sounding names receive more callbacks or interviews than those that seem non-white, causing many candidates to “whiten” their names and backgrounds. But why should a candidate’s name dictate whether he or she is a fit for an open role? You may be able to use applicant tracking software to remove names and hide demographic information during the resume review process to help avoid unconscious bias.
3. Train Employees on Hiring Bias
You can’t solve a problem you aren’t aware of. We’re more biased than we think we are, but many of us don’t know how we’re biased towards others. The Harvard Business School’s Implicit Project is an eye-opening exercise that can help people recognize and measure their biases. Before you start training, have participants take a few surveys to learn what social stereotypes they may be harboring.
Then, within your training program, encourage your employees to challenge their assumptions. You can create your own internal training program, hire a consultant, or use online resources like Google’s unconscious bias training.
4. Diversify Recruitment Panels
Creating an interview panel is one of the easiest ways to introduce diverse perspectives into your hiring process. When hiring managers have the only say in hiring decisions, they may overlook a qualified candidate in favor of someone more similar to themselves. A recruitment panel lets more people share feedback on applicants and helps avoid unconscious bias when selecting the right candidate for the job.
5. Standardize Interview Questions
Standardizing interview questions enables a consistent and fair experience for all candidates. Regardless of whether applicants apply through a job posting site or are personally referred by the CEO, they should be asked the same questions and given the same opportunity to show their qualifications.
Lastly, urge employees to avoid asking questions that could lead to a candidate sharing his or her age, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. This information doesn’t relate to a candidate’s ability to perform in the role and could bias hiring decisions. If the candidate volunteers the information, instruct your interviewers to steer the conversation elsewhere and discourage them from sharing the information with the rest of the panel, so as to not influence others’ feedback.
6. Incorporate Employee Resource Groups
Make diverse candidates feel more comfortable by incorporating employee resource groups (ERGs) into on-site interviews. When you invite candidates on site, explain what ERGs you have and ask if they’d like to meet with a representative from any of the groups. Having an ERG representative meet them at the front door is a great opportunity for candidates. They can ask questions, learn more about ERGs, and meet an employee with a common interest or similar background.
Many organizations are devoting more time and effort into hiring diverse teams, but there’s still a long way to go. According to Namely’s Workplace Diversity Report 2018, the “similar-to-me” bias has led to a tremendously high likelihood that employees report to managers of the same ethnicity and/or gender.
The hiring process is critical to the overall reputation of the company, and most of all to your employment brand. Companies with better reputations attract better people, are seen to offer more value, and can even charge a premium for their products and services. One great way to improve your brand reputation? Improve your hiring process.
A good process is the result of strategic planning and efficiency, which can be achieved with the help of ATS systems. If you’ve recently purchased or are thinking about investing in applicant tracking software, there are three things you can do right off the bat to improve your hiring process.
Customize screening questions by department.
ATS systems should allow you to tailor your online screening questions. Save time using department-based screening questions. One size does not fit all in the hiring world. The qualifications you need for a finance expert aren’t going to be the same as those for a customer service representative. Take a few minutes to talk with the hiring managers in each department. What kinds of people are they looking for? What are the core competencies critical to the overall success of a person taking on a position in that department? Knowing the right questions to ask can save you time by winnowing down the number of unqualified candidates who apply. Why waste everyone’s time? Customize the screening questions according to discussions with your hiring managers and you’re more likely to hit the mark sooner.
Get the team on board.
Effective collaboration with stakeholders is essential to streamlining your hiring process. ATS systems can be powerful tools, but only if your people are taking advantage. You’ve got to make it easy for everyone to understand and implement your applicant tracking system. Encourage team members to use the ATS systems’ most basic features. Over time, they’ll become more adept and can leverage advanced tools. Hint: try out the software before you buy it. If it isn’t intuitively obvious, your team is not going to want to use it.
The interview process is essential when deciding on a candidate’s eligibility. Your candidate will come into contact with several members of your organization, both formally and informally. ATS systems give you a centralized location to enter feedback, notes, and reviews. It’s the easiest way to consolidate everyone’s thoughts as you work together to reach a decision.
Use the email response function.
This is an important habit to get into. Communication is critical to your applicants; always respond in a timely and professional manner. Candidates are typically applying for several jobs at once. You need to remain in frequent contact, especially with your most desirable candidates. ATS systems allow you to schedule and send emails automatically based on triggers. Build customized templates ahead of time so you don’t come across as impersonal. The email response function is common courtesy for your applicants, and it’s easy to implement.
There are many ATS systems out there. Do your research before you buy. After you’ve made a purchase, set up prescreening questionnaires and email response functions. Get your team excited and on board. They (and you) might be surprised by the many ways an applicant tracking software can augment your current hiring process. If you’ve never used an applicant tracking system, check out this two-minute demonstration of ApplicantStack. Ready to try it out? Click here for your free trial!