How to reduce bias in the hiring process for your small business

It’s human nature to have biases, especially unconscious ones. When it comes to hiring managers and potential employees, extensive research shows that today’s hiring process is unfortunately still plagued by bias. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to reduce bias in the hiring process.

Eliminating unconscious bias in the hiring process should be something you take seriously as a small business owner. But how to do it? And how can you help your other team members to do the same? From how to establish an inclusive interview process, to how to write an inclusive job posting, here’s what to know—and what technology can do to help.

What is bias, and how does it show up in the hiring process?

Bias is when we compartmentalize or create categories in our minds, creating generalizations or stereotypes in our dealings with other people. 

In the hiring process, bias is employee prejudice that favors one segment of workers over another. While some biased attitudes are conscious, others are unconscious: outside the person’s awareness and control.

What is unconscious bias in the hiring process?

Unconscious bias in the hiring process, also called implicit bias, is when a business owner or manager is prejudiced toward one group of workers without being aware of it. Unconscious bias can sometimes be in direct contradiction to a person or organization’s stated beliefs and values. Self-awareness is the first step in minimizing this unconscious favoritism.

How to write an inclusive job posting

Leaving prejudice at the door starts with writing an inclusive job posting. Job descriptions play a vital part in your hiring process, giving candidates their first impression of you and your organization. 

When you sit down to write a posting for an open position, here are the most important things to bear in mind.

1. Be aware of gendered wording

When a candidate is reviewing your job description, even subtle word choices can have a huge impact on whether they can see themselves in the role. This is especially true when it comes to reducing unconscious bias regarding gender, and a major factor in the gender pay gap.

Keep a careful eye out for gendered pronouns, verbs, and descriptors in your job post. Either remove stereotypically gendered words altogether, replacing them with more neutral ones, or strike a balance by using the same number of gendered words. An example? Every time you use a word like driven, competitive, or confident, make equal use of words like collaborative, cooperative, and interpersonal. You can even use software programs to highlight gendered words for you, showing gender-coded language you may not be aware of.

2. Don’t use unnecessary jargon

We’ve all seen them: those job descriptions bursting with industry-specific terms and overly professional language. Unless you want only insiders to understand, these are the kind of postings to avoid. Instead of intimidating job seekers—making them feel under-qualified—use inclusive vocabulary that encourages a more diverse application pool to apply.

3. Put the focus on essential skills

Prepare to facepalm… did you know that men will typically apply for jobs when they see themselves as having 60% of the qualifications, while most women hold off on applying if they don’t feel they offer 100% of what’s being requested? Sad but true: the more skills you list, the less women are inclined to think they’re qualified. By mentioning only the truly essential skills in your job postings rather than a long list, you’ll help get a more equal balance of men, women, and non-binary people to apply for the position.

4. Show, don’t tell your commitment to diversity and inclusion

A job description is more than just a call for applicants. It’s an opportunity to highlight your company values, showing prospective workers what you stand for. Do you have a DEI strategy in place? Have you taken any measures to ensure that people with disabilities can thrive in your workplace? These are important things to mention in all your job postings, to attract diverse candidates and to show (not just tell) who you are.

How to avoid hiring bias when reviewing resumes

When resumes come in for review, make sure you’re doing all you can to tackle any hiring biases at this stage. Here are three ways to level the playing field as you go through your pool of candidates.

1. Consider a blind reviewing process

To make sure you’re focused on people’s specific skills and qualifications—not surface demographic characteristics—consider a blind, systematic reviewing process. 

Blind screenings hide details like the candidate’s name, photo, college or university, address, and graduation year, all things which can reveal their race, gender identity, socioeconomic background, or age. This can help you take a more open-minded look at what each person brings to the table, keeping bias from trickling in. 

Again, technology can be extremely helpful here. Consider trying a software program like Pinpoint or Blendoor that “blinds” or anonymizes the process for you. If you don’t have the resources for a blind recruiting platform, you can also try a DIY approach: ask the candidates to strip out identifying information from their applications themselves. 

2. Ensure diversity among reviewers

One of the best ways to avoid bias as you screen candidates is to have a diverse group of people involved in the review process. Getting candidate opinions from a balanced mix of men and women, people of different races and ages, and people from different teams within your organization ensures that biases aren’t unfairly limiting your hiring pool. 

In your existing screening process, also consider doing regular checks for discrimination. How many candidates from underrepresented groups applied for a position? How many of those applicants ended up getting an interview or pre-screening? When you regularly evaluate your process in this way, you have a much better chance of meeting your diversity goals. 

3. Replace resumes with a different kind of assessment

Another way to reduce the effects of unconscious bias? Try eliminating resumes altogether. Rather than asking for a traditional resume, give each applicant an assessment or a challenge related to the skills you’re looking for. You could ask people to describe a recent great customer interaction, for instance, then allow their answers to speak for themselves and decide who to interview accordingly. 

How to create an inclusive interview process

How do the best and fairest employers tackle the interview process? They avoid hiring based on intuition. By following these best practices when interviewing, you make data-driven hiring choices that are fair and equitable for all applicants.

1. Work to understand bias and set diversity goals

Change can only happen with open and honest communication. Talk about bias openly and candidly with your hiring managers. Offer bias awareness training if appropriate. Remind everyone of your company’s diversity goals at different stages of hiring. And when assessing a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, encourage managers to give you specific feedback. If a hiring manager thinks a candidate isn’t a good fit because they “can’t put their finger on it,” for example, make sure you press for more well-defined reasons.

2. Ask the same questions to every candidate

Research shows that unstructured interviews that lack defined questions are often unreliable for predicting job success—and more prone to biased, “gut” decisions. Rather than letting the conversation unfold in an “organic” way, be rigorous about asking all candidates the same set of questions. Make sure your decision is based on informed comparisons of people’s capabilities rather than on your first impressions of them.

3. Ask only acceptable questions

At both the state and federal level, laws exist to make sure that certain unacceptable interview questions aren’t asked during a job interview. These laws protect people from discrimination based on things like their race, gender, religion, age, or disability. Judging someone based on these factors is unfair, and that’s why certain questions are off the table.

Some acceptable interview questions to ask could include:

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself and your work history?
  • Do you have any salary expectations?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest weakness?
  • Can you give me some good reasons we should hire you?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strength?
  • Do you have any salary expectations?
  • Can you tell me why you chose to leave your previous company? 

4. Use an interview scoring system

The hiring process becomes much more objective when you’re vetting people using data. An interview scoring system helps you easily rate applicants based on the qualifications you’re seeking. There are many different scoring scales you can choose, but one of the most common is to score each of the questions they answer on a scale of 1 through 5. A free interview scoring sheet can help you implement your system, come up with a final score, and move forward with the candidate who scores the highest.

Why unbiased hiring matters to your business, and how technology can free up your time

Regardless of whether bias is conscious or unconscious, it negatively impacts all aspects of a workplace. A commitment to unbiased hiring, though, positively affects everyone in your organization, with benefits across your business. Putting every employee on a level plane enhances employee morale, reduces turnover, and improves retention. When you create an atmosphere of inclusion and trust, your employees feel supported and respected and are more likely to be happy and productive

All too easily, creating anti-bias policies— and continuously implementing and improving them—is a task that slips through the cracks. Hiring is so much more than just the interview process, and it can be extremely tedious and time-consuming if you don’t have the right tools at your disposal.

That’s where Homebase can help.

With Homebase hiring, you can streamline your hiring process from beginning to end. Our software makes it simple to write your job postings, add your open positions to leading job boards, and manage potential hires using our applicant tracking systemall in one place. And when you’re ready to onboard new employees and add them into your payroll process, we have tools for that, too.

With the hours you save on tedious manual tasks, Homebase lets you put more time into the other important parts of your business. Like making your hiring process as well thought out – and as inclusive – as possible. Get started today

Bias in the hiring process: FAQs 

What is bias in the hiring process?

Bias is when we compartmentalize or create categories in our minds, creating generalizations or stereotypes in our dealings with other people. In the hiring process, bias is employee prejudice that favors one segment of workers over another.  

What is unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias in the hiring process, also called implicit bias, is when a business owner or manager is prejudiced toward one group of workers without being aware of it. Unconscious bias can sometimes be in direct contradiction to a person’s or organization’s stated beliefs and values. 

How can you create an unbiased hiring process?

You can create an unbiased hiring process by writing an inclusive job posting, following a blind reviewing process, or even eliminating resumes altogether in favor of a different kind of assessment. When conducting interviews, first make sure that you and your hiring managers have worked to understand bias and set diversity goals. Then ask the same questions every time using an interview scoring system, and move forward with the highest-scoring candidate.

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