Throughout this series I have been exploring unconscious bias. In the first blog post, I introduced you to unconscious bias. We then looked at the impact of unconscious bias in the workplace. This time, we'll explore how unconscious bias plays out in the hiring process.
Despite an increasingly diverse labour market, women, racialized people (visible minorities), Aboriginal people, and persons with disabilities continue to experience higher rates of unemployment and under-employment, even with equivalent levels of education. The outcomes for these groups provide evidence of the systemic and interpersonal discrimination they continue to experience in the labour market.
While it is important for organizations to review their hiring process to ensure that it focuses on assessing the candidate's skills and abilities, it is also important that those on the hiring panel understand the impact of their biases on the process and the hiring decision.
In this post, I'll review the 13 types of unconscious biases that impact the process and hiring decisions. These biases are summarized here and discussed below:
1. First Impressions
This is the tendency of an interviewer to make snap judgments about a job candidate within seconds of their meeting. These snap judgements can impact our assessment of what we hear from a candidate during the interview and our assessment of their competence.
2. Non-Verbal Behaviours
We often misread, misinterpret, or place too much emphasis on non-verbal behaviours that have nothing to do with the candidate’s ability to do the job. These behaviours can include eye contact, whether and when they smile, or the firmness of their handshake. Often, these non-verbal behaviours are culturally determined, so our biases could negatively impact our hiring of candidates from diverse communities and backgrounds because of these non-verbal behaviours.
3. Personal Discomfort
We may also allow personal discomfort with a candidate to influence our behaviour in the interview and our assessment of the candidate. The interviewer could be uncomfortable with the candidate for a number of reasons, including the candidate’s race, physical appearance, or disability.
4. Affinity Bias
This is the tendency to want to work with someone who is like us culturally, someone we like, and who we can socialize with. Our similarity and comfort level with the candidate can then override our assessment of the candidate’s skills and abilities to do the job.
One study that was conducted with elite American law firms, banks, and management consulting firms found that when hiring, decision-makers focused on hiring people like themselves and those they want to social with, over those best qualified for the job.
5. Stereotype Bias
The stereotypes we hold about various groups impact our assessment of job candidates. These stereotypes mean that we filter in information that supports our stereotypes and filtering out contradictory information. As such, it may be more difficult to hire a male kindergarten teacher, a woman tradesperson, a South Asian manager, or a Black engineer. Further, when the candidate is applying for a job that goes against the stereotype we have for the group to which they appear to belong, they need to be more qualified than others to be seen as minimally qualified for the job.
6. Gender Bias
This is the influence of gender stereotypes and assumptions on our assessment of candidates. This tends to result in the preference for men over equally qualified women. Various studies have shown that when both men and women are hiring to male dominant positions, a male job applicant is more often preferred over female job applicants with the same qualifications.
There are also a number of news stories that highlight the impact of gender bias on the hiring process:
Heightism is the tendency to judge a tall person as more competent, intelligent, and ambitious. As such, taller job candidates tend to be preferred over equally qualified counterparts.
8. Confirmation Bias
This is the tendency to seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms our initial assessment of a job candidate, and ignore or devalue evidence that contradicts this assessment. For example, if the candidate projects confidence and gives the appearance of being intelligent we may give more weight to the strong points in the candidate’s responses and overlook weak responses to some questions and gaps in knowledge.
9. Performance Bias
This is the tendency of interviewers to become enamoured with how the candidate performs or presents themself during the interview. The assessment of the candidate can then be highly influenced by their performance, e.g., their charisma, confidence, and how they express themselves, rather than their skills and abilities to do the job.
10. Attentional Bias
This occurs when a candidate’s features or mannerisms distract the interviewer from fairly assessing them. The interviewer may be distracted by the candidate's facial tattoos or piercings, perfume, or accent and miss important information shared.
11. Anti-Black Bias
This is the tendency to treat Black candidates differently in interviews and assess them as less competent when the same qualifications are presented.
A number of studies have shown that:
12. Anti-Immigrant Bias
This is the tendency to view immigrants, or those perceived to be immigrants, as unqualified or lacking the language and social skills to be a good fit for the workplace.
A recent study conducted in Canada found that when comparable resumes were submitted, those with Greek, South Asian, and Chinese names were less likely to be invited for an interview over those with Anglo names. The results were similar for applicants who were educated within Canada and those educated abroad. When recruiters were interviewed, they responded that a name is a signal that an applicant may lack the language or social skills needed for the job.
13. Opportunity Hoarding
Opportunity hoarding occurs when one social group reserves job opportunities for their family members and people within their own social circle. This then excludes people from outside one's social circle from accessing jobs for which they are fully qualified.
In my next blog post, I'll continue focusing on unconscious bias in hiring and will offer strategies to minimize the impact of bias in the hiring process.