Holly PennebakerOctober 06, 2020
Topics: Candidate Experience

Eliminating Unconscious Bias Throughout the Candidate Experience

When HR professionals talk about diversity and inclusion at work, the context of the conversation can make or break the candidate journey.

Bias can exist in almost every aspect of talent acquisition, but all candidates deserve to be treated fairly. It's time to figure out how to reduce bias in the workplace, with unconscious bias being the most difficult to dilute. But how can HR leaders implement meaningful change throughout their organizations?

We spoke with two people passionate about the topic. Shelia Gray, VP Talent Acquisition at Quadient and Christine Kensey, Phenom's Sr. Director of Training, shared their insight on unconscious bias that impacts talent acquisition and how to reduce it across the candidate experience.

Learn how to start cutting bias out of your candidate journey: Diversity & Inclusion: Overcoming Bias in the Candidate Journey

Part 1: Identify the Unconscious Bias that Influences Talent Acquisition

Bias in the workplace comes up when someone supports or oppresses another person or thing unfairly because they allow personal opinions to affect their judgment.

Unlike bias, which can be inherent or learned, unconscious bias is a learned stereotype that becomes automatic. It's a judgment or belief that's deeply ingrained, universally shared, and powerful. Everyone has an unconscious belief, if not more, about people of different and social identity groups, which comes from a tendency to place groups of people in categories.

For instance, of male and female scientists, both trained to be objective, were more likely to hire men, consider them more competent than women, and pay men $4,000 more annually, according to a Yale University study.

"We need to recognize the influence that context, culture and community play in our development," Kensey said. "After we acknowledge that, we can then start doing the hard work to uncover, examine and reduce bias."

Part 2: Identify and Reduce Bias in the Candidate Journey

The reduction of bias in recruiting is accomplished by pinpointing the exact moments it can occur throughout the candidate journey, because whether we're aware or not, there's potential for bias at every step.

What's your organization's end goal of its recruitment process, and will your strategy in each step help you achieve it? It's important to evaluate the outcome of each stage before considering that of the candidate journey as a whole.

Here are just a few questions to ask to help rid your candidate journey of bias:

  • Attraction: Is your company engaging with different demographics that will help the organization grow?
  • Sourcing: Can your sourcing channels be more diverse?
  • Assessment: Have you trained your team to be "consciously unbiased?"
  • Hiring: Does your candidate debriefing process focus on objective criteria and is there fairness among job offers?

"When you think of diversity," Gray said, "start with your end in mind, ask the tough questions and take yourself back through the journey to see where bottlenecks are in attraction, sourcing, assessment and hiring."

Leading companies that remove unconscious bias from their candidate journeys require expansive thinking — thinking on a global scale. Diversity means different things depending on where you are in the world. It's important to consider demographic differences that impact multiple cultures, and to focus on talent who can contribute to organizational development.

Part 3: Educate Recruiters and Employees About Diversity & Inclusion

Kensey is passionate about seeing that bias related to Diversity & Inclusion is understood by the entire organization. She recommends creating a D&I Task Force.

If your organization is really committed to advancing D&I, one of the best things you can do is get all your employees involved. You'll find that you'll get a lot of people who are committed, passionate and have amazing insights into what your organization can do better and what your organization can do differently.

The more people who work to advance D&I and reduce bias within your organization, the better. Don't allow education to pertain solely to recruiters — overcoming bias takes the entire team.

Part 4: Build an Inclusive Company Culture

Similar to education on Diversity & Inclusion, development and retention of current employees should include everyone. The recruiting team should only be part of the conversation and the solution, according to Gray. The organization-wide inclusion empowers employees, and allows your people to feel safety and belonging, to learn and grow, all which helps your organization retain top talent.

Another idea? Make inclusivity one of your core values so it stays a priority for all employees.

Develop your own strategy with the help of our Definitive Guide to Diversity and Inclusion here

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