How to prevent “unconscious bias” in recruitment

Published Aug 24, 2023

Unconscious bias is a common occurrence in recruitment processes. Unconscious bias occurs when those involved in recruitment decisions select a candidate based on their age, gender or race but they don’t know they are doing it.

Unconscious bias results in potentially high calibre applicants being overlooked and prevented from working for the recruiting organisation. Because recruiters unconsciously exclude certain types or groups, they do not consider the full range of candidates or the skills, knowledge and experience they could bring to the organisation.

The bias can occur at each stage of the process from personal details on a CV to the appearance of the candidate at interview. Perceptions of bias are real, with 75% of job applicants claiming to have experienced it during recruitment.

What can employers and recruiting managers do to be more awake to the risks of unconscious bias influencing their decision making?

Job adverts
Write job adverts so they are gender neutral so as wide a range of potential applicants as possible know they will be considered.
Avoid figurative expressions such as “successful applicants will be required to go the extra mile” as potential applicants with autism may regard this language in a literal sense and be deterred from applying as they do not literally go the extra mile. Focus on using inclusive language in your adverts.

Appoint a team member to remove personal information from application data and instead give candidates a reference number.

Organisational culture
Make it a part of your culture that employees and leaders challenge themselves and each other on whether they are being biased in their selection decisions. The risk of unconscious bias applies beyond recruitment and into many aspects of business such as selecting teams and succession planning.
Source: Gavin Parrott