Hidden Biases in the Workplace: Recruiting and Hiring

Hidden Bias graphic

As discussed in the first article of our series on Hidden Biases in the Workplace, we all have biases. It is critical that you are aware of your biases, especially when recruiting for your company.

Humans make decisions every 2.5 seconds: Should I get out of bed or hit snooze one more time? What should I wear today? Do I have time for breakfast? Should I email or call that person? Because of the fast pace of our society, people begin to use intuition for all decisions. This unconscious psychological behavior can lead to biases without our even realizing it.

Recruiting and hiring based solely on your instinct can lead to hiring the wrong person and can cause lack of diversity, company “groupthink,” employee turnover, and even lawsuits. To help avoid this, review our first overview article in this series to remind yourself about the types of biases, and then ensure you have specific guidelines in place during your recruiting and hiring processes. These checks and balances should be part of each step of the hiring process, which can be broken down into these areas:

  1. Recruiting and marketing
  2. Reviewing resumes
  3. Interviewing and hiring
  4. Onboarding and training
  5. Retention and turnover

Recruiting and marketing

Where your business is doing recruiting and marketing could be unconsciously biased. Marketing only on Facebook assumes everyone uses it. Promoting open positions only at your local college limits your recruiting to that school’s specific degrees and graduates. Accepting job applications and resumes only online assumes everyone has internet access.

Companies need to make sure their employer brand and their workplace culture are being accurately represented and marketed to their entire community. Businesses in Greater Minnesota may still find it beneficial to market their business and job openings in their local newspaper. You may want to discuss open positions at local high schools to assist students in understanding job opportunities in their community. Reviewing the job skills truly needed – rather than just requiring a specific degree – may also assist in recruiting the right person. Having a “Walk-in Wednesday” job application and hiring event at your business gives everyone in the community the opportunity to apply and learn more about the positions you have available.

Using DEED’s labor market information to research Minnesota – and your region’s – populations will help you hone your recruiting and marketing strategies. Reviewing certain demographics such as race, gender, age, and education will help your business better understand unemployment rates within these categories and incorporate them into your recruiting efforts.

Your company also needs to understand the opportunities of diversifying your region’s workforce. Become involved in local or regional committees and learn how to increase workplace diversity. CareerForce partner Career Solutions in Stearns and Benton counties is a great example of how one organization reached out to all diverse communities in an area by starting an Immigrant and Employment Connection Group. The organization educates employers and assists them in overcoming barriers that are real or perceived when hiring immigrants.

Reviewing resumes

Who would you interview: Jamie Schmidt or Dawb Xoom? Just like that, you could have made a biased decision. As soon as we see or hear a person’s name, we make assumptions. It could be that we think Jamie is a male or that Dawb speaks English as a second language. That could be a biased notion. Make sure there is more than one person reviewing resumes and have a template to score resumes on what you’re specifically looking for to ensure everyone applying has a fair chance of being interviewed. You could even make copies of the resumes, delete the applicants’ names and contact information, and label each resume with a number or a letter to help avoid favoritism or unconscious bias by those reviewing the applicants.

A lot of companies now rely on technology to assist with resume sorting, but this too can give biased results, depending who set up the program. If the system is set up to search for specific work experience, make sure it is also designed to find synonyms or alternative skill sets. Have a process in place to manually double-check resumes that are not being selected to ensure that qualified people are not being passed over due to a faulty algorithm. By taking this extra step, you may find that a person who applied for one position is actually a great fit for another position within the company.  

Interviewing and hiring

Most people form an impression within the first seven seconds of meeting a new person. It can be influenced by how a person is dressed, their tattoos or piercings, the way they shook your hand, mispronounced your name, or the eye contact they did or did not make with you when introduced.

Humans tend to form split-second impressions of others’ characteristics, trustworthiness, and competence.1 Goals, values, and beliefs of others also have been shown to influence first impressions.2 When people are being judged so quickly, this results in businesses hiring staff members who are similar and that can lead to “groupthink” at their organization. Interviewers need to be especially cognizant of their biases in this stage as they can be noticeable to the interviewee and coworkers involved in the interview process.

Each position should have a weighted scoring template for interviewers to ask the same, specific questions to each interviewee and to evaluate their responses and performance using a numerical scale. Scores should then be tallied after all applicants are interviewed, and the position should be offered to the highest-scoring and most-qualified person. If necessary, second or third interviews should be given to those with similar scores.

Onboarding and training

A lot of companies feel once the position is filled, they are done with marketing and recruiting – but that’s not the case. Ten positive reviews on your company website won’t offset the damage one negative review can cause – especially when the negative review is from an ex-employee. Make sure you follow through with marketing your company culture by offering a full slate of onboarding and training opportunities.

Once the position is filled, have a structured schedule for the new hire’s first few months at the company. Check in with the new employee weekly at first, then monthly for their first year. Ask questions about what your company could do differently to ease their work transition and discuss this with the company executives to improve the process for others.

Have a welcome committee available to mentor and train new staff. Make sure your training facilitators and employees have gone through discrimination and bias training so that your company culture is truly inclusive. Always offer exit interviews to staff leaving the company, even when they are being terminated, so you can see what could be done better.

CareerForce (was) also offering free Coursera training to your business and its employees. This (was) a great way build stronger training programs or to provide specific training opportunities for you and your company. NOTE: REGISTRATION FOR FREE COURSERA TRAINING VIA THE MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (DEED) CLOSED ON DECEMBER 31, 2020.

Retention and turnover

Turnover is estimated to cost 1.5 to 2 times an employee’s salary, depending on their level of seniority. When surveyed, employees often say that they were being treated “differently” than others, were not recognized for their hard work, and/or there was poor communication from the company.

To ensure your company has a healthy work environment, survey your employees annually and ask how they enjoy working for the company and their job. Review the results and adjust where needed. Employees will only be honest when there are not repercussions – and if their feedback results in changes to improve the workplace.

The StarTribune produces an annual ranking of the state’s Top 150 Workplaces. This is a great opportunity to review what your competitors are doing and look at ways to continually improve your workplace. Your company could also participate in the survey.

Bottom line: Companies that have a diverse workforce are more likely to perform above industry standards. Unconscious bias can prevent companies from hiring diverse employees and hamper their overall productivity. It is essential to be aware of your biases and to reduce and remove bias from your recruiting and hiring processes.

Footnote Sources:
1. Willis, J., & Todorov, A., “First impressions: Making up your mind after a 100-ms exposure to a face,” Psychological Science 17 (2006): 592–598.
2. Moskowitz, G. B., & Olcaysoy Okten, I., “Spontaneous goal inference,” Social and Personality Psychology Compass 10 (2016): 64–80.


Workforce Strategy Consultant Author:

Della Ludwig, Workforce Strategy Consultant for Central Minnesota


Related CareerForceMN.com content:

Main Hidden Bias in the Workplace page

Previous Hidden Bias in the Workplace blog post in series: Overview of Hidden Bias

Next Hidden Bias in the Workplace blog post in series: Retention Strategies