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Eliminate Bias in Your Hiring Process: A Checklist

Debbie Madden
Jul 11, 2018

Hiring the right people to join your team is likely something that keeps you awake at night. If it's not, you're likely not thinking about it enough.

Whether you need to hire 1 or 100 people, your team is your greatest asset. Hiring is hard, as it should be. Each team's culture and values are unique. Therefore, the better you become at seeking out others who align with your passion and vision, the more successful you'll be at building a diverse team that excels.

Bias exists in every hiring process.

I have yet to see a hiring process with zero bias. The best we can all do is recognize bias and minimize it as much as possible.

In order to eliminate bias, we have to first understand what it is. In the world of hiring, there are three types of bias to look out for:=

  • Conscious bias -- prejudice in favor of or against something
  • Unconscious bias -- quick judgments of people and situations that our brains make without us realizing
  • Confirmation bias -- the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of our existing beliefs or theories

Bias of all three types exist. The hardest type to identify and remove is unconscious bias, because it's invisible.

Diverse teams are three times smarter than homogenous ones.

Diverse teams are smarter than non-diverse teams. The reason is: when I sit across the table from you, if you look like me, I make all sorts of assumptions that you think like me. And then I ask fewer questions and challenge you less often. Whereas, when I sit across the table from you, and you don't look like me, I make less assumptions that you think like me. And then I ask more questions and challenge you more often.

Challenging others and asking questions is what makes teams smarter. So, the more we can remove bias in our hiring process and attract a more diverse talent pool, the smarter our teams will be.

So, to sum up: bias exists and if we can remove it and increase diversity, we have a competitive advantage because our team will be smarter than it is today. So, the root question we need to ask ourselves is: How can we identify and remove bias from our hiring process?

The answer is long and complex. Here's a simple 4 step process to get you started.

1. Set an annual goal.

Before you set out to identify and remove bias, understand what your goals are. A good goal is something like doubling the percentage of women on your team in the next 12 months. It's a good idea to also establish an anti goal. For example, an anti goal might be to avoid becoming too junior heavy.

2. Brainstorm all the potential biases that might exist in your hiring process.

Don't worry about getting this perfect. Start with a quick brainstorm. Grab a few folks that are interested in brainstorming, take one to two hours, and write on a whiteboard all of the possible areas in your hiring process that possibly contain bias. Examples of potential bias include: website images, website text, job descriptions, employee benefits. 

3. Rate each item on your brainstorming list across two dimensions: effort and impact.

After you have the brainstormed list of potential bias, rate each item on the list in terms of effort and impact:

  • Effort: Do you expect it to be easy, medium or hard to remove or minimize the bias.
  • Impact: Do you expect the outcome of removing the bias to be small, medium or large?

For example, replacing an image of two men playing foosball with an image of something more diverse might take five minutes and have a large impact.

4. Prioritize the easy effort, large impact items first.

Once you know the effort and impact of each item, tackle the low hanging fruit first. That is, work on the easy effort, large impact items first. And then, meet weekly and work your way through the list, one at a time.

Originally Posted on Inc.

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