5 tips to eliminate unconscious bias from your recruitment process 

Published: 11 February 2021
Author: James Chapman

Diversity is an important aspect of recruitment; however, unconscious biases are still an issue in workplaces today. Unconscious bias, also called Implicit Bias, happens when an opinion is formed about candidates based solely on first impressions.

While many talent acquisition professionals have the best intentions to remain neutral and fair, biases can easily seep the hiring process.

At application stage, hiring managers who are faced with a high volume of CVs, may resort to scanning them for specific key words and phrases that validate their assumptions. Affinity bias takes place when hiring managers prefer candidates who share similar interests, experiences and backgrounds, based on an assumption that they present a good “fit” with the current team.

At interview stage, something as minor as the way someone dresses, their accent or where they studied can bring out unconscious bias in the interviewer’s mind. As unconscious bias in hiring decisions can eliminate qualified candidates from joining your business, what can you do about it?


How can I eliminate unconscious bias in hiring?

There are small adjustments that can be made to the recruitment process which make a big difference to diversity.


  1. Remove biased language from job adverts

Carefully examine your writing. Biased language has serious effects on diversity.  You may have language that is gender-biased in your job descriptions. For example, although ‘ninja’ or ‘guru’ might be fun to use to advertise a new role, these words may have the opposite effect and deter individuals who believe they don’t fit with these images. Researchers have found that women are less likely to apply to job descriptions that include ‘masculine-coded’ language such as “active”, “confident” and “driven.”.

Job adverts need to be clear and precise, and avoid jargon. This can remove unconscious bias. Studies show that men are likely to apply for roles where they have less than 50% of the required skills, whereas women tend to only apply for roles where they have over 80% of the required skills.

There are simple tools to prevent and reduce gender bias and here at Recruiter On Demand our consultants are experienced in writing clear job adverts.


2.    Advertise roles through new channels

There are a number of specialist job boards, from those catering for disabled candidates to those aimed at the BAME community, to help target a diverse selection of candidates. There are different mediums too.

When it comes to candidates’ job hunting, statistics have predicted that over 87% of all mobile internet traffic is video.  A job description has traditionally been the starting point for hiring managers, but with written content not gaining the cut-through needed on mobile devices, something more visual could help. Video job adverts can help target candidates who have disabilities including dyslexia and sight-loss.


3. Introduce blind skills challenges

While CVs remain the most efficient way of introducing a hiring manager to candidate, there is information in CVs that can lead to unconscious bias. One way to address this is to encourage ‘blind applications’ that remove details like race, nationality, gender, educational institutions and age – all factors that can lead to biased decisions. A number of graduate recruiters have started doing this.


4. Consider introducing interview panels into your recruitment process.

Look at the makeup of your interview teams. A diverse group of interviewers shows you are committed to different viewpoints and helps decrease unconscious bias. Panel interviews are a common practice within the higher education sector and can be highly beneficial. Establishing a panel that includes a diverse set of colleagues (in terms of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background and age) can ensure any personal unconscious biases are moderated and help you to consider an applicant from a wider perspective to make a more informed decision.

Ensure you have a diverse recruiting team as well. To assist with this, Recruiter On Demand can supply experienced talent acquisition professionals to work as an extension for your talent acquisition team for as long as you need.


5. Structure questions for the interview process

Creating a structured process that tests all applicants in the same way ensures they are all assessed against the same markers. The simplest way to achieve this is to stick to a set of questions for every applicant. This can help reduce subjectivity and allow candidates to be judged against others on the specific answers they provide.

Thinking carefully about the questions you ask is important to removing bias from interviews. Having a score card matrix that requires each interviewer to rate a candidate on a points system can be useful. Use a set of objective criteria and an evaluation form to shortlist candidates.

For diversity efforts to succeed, hiring teams need to recognise and reduce unconscious bias to make fairer and more informed decisions during recruitment. By recognising and guarding against it, you will be able to recruit employees objectively and build the best team for your business. Companies that have more diversity are not only seen as more desirable to work for, but data shows that diverse and inclusive businesses outperform their competitors.


Our whitepaper 5 easy ways to reduce unconscious bias in your hiring process contains strategies to minimise bias to attract, select, and develop employees. Download your free copy today: https://www.recruiter-on-demand.com/in-house/whitepaper/