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Have We Eliminated Interview Bias?

Think bias no longer exists in the workforce? Wrong. Some may believe that interview bias isn’t much of a problem anymore, but research shows the opposite. In fact, you could be guilty of it without even knowing. While diversity initiatives are flourishing, unconscious bias has bubbled to the top of the hiring pyramid in an interesting and unusual way:

Indeed recently discovered 37% of managers who said they went to a top school said they like to hire candidates from highly regarded universities. That compares to a measly 6% of managers who weren’t top school grads.

But the bias cuts both ways, with 41% of managers who didn’t graduate from a top-ranked college saying they consider candidates’ experience more important when making hiring decisions. Compare that with just 11% of managers who attended a prestigious school.

“It’s a worrisome trend that a manager’s personal experience and background has such an influence on hiring decisions. This type of bias can prevent companies from finding the diverse talent needed for their organizations to grow and thrive.” – Paul D’Arcy, a senior vice president at Indeed

Your thoughts on top schools notwithstanding, most hiring managers and recruiting professionals agree they want the BEST person for the job, so how do we create a system where we can locate the best person for the open requisition and get past all our biases, conscious and unconscious alike?

Some of the solutions implemented, seemingly with great intentions, have actually pushed diverse hiring initiatives back quite a bit. A perfect example of this is recent “Ban the Box” policies that have been implemented throughout cities and some states.

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Here’s The Rundown

In many cases, one thing that often leads to skewed hiring statistics, and leads to less diverse workplaces is criminal background. Because African-American individuals are jailed at six times the amount of white individuals (often for similar crimes) this causes most employers to hire more white candidates (7% or more than African-American candidates). To help combat this, so-called ban-the-box policies—which prevent employers from asking about a candidate’s criminal history until later on in the hiring process—aim to help those with a criminal record more easily enter the labor market. President Obama “banned the box” on federal-government employment applications last year, and as of December 2015, 24 states and the District of Columbia have required employers to ban the box in some form.

But this plan backfired. According to a study done by SSRN (Social Science Research Network), equipped with similar resumes, white candidates were now 45% more likely to get a call back.  What happened?

It’s not as shocking as you would think. Since employers could no longer ask about these possible criminal records, they simply guessed. Often, employers would (unnecessarily) judge candidates based off of other factors and guess if the candidate had a background or not. Not surprisingly, this meant employers were more in favor of the white candidates instead of their, almost identical, counterparts.

So, if something as in-depth and positive as the Ban the Box policy can’t fix bias, what can?

Getting Rid of The Bias

You want to make sure you give everyone an equal chance right? Make sure to do the following, including just talking with your candidate and getting to know them a little bit, it truly can make a huge difference.

Take Good Notes: Take note of everything you feel is important about the candidate. This can include answers to questions, how they presented themselves, and others. Also, be sure to jot down any thoughts you may have during the interview process. Ignore your own vague notes like “got a bad feeling” or “not feeling this one”, these aren’t helpful. Make notes about skills, presentation and behavior.

Use A Standard or Rubric: Figure out exactly what you want for the position and in an employee. Did they not meet those requirements? Take note as to why they did not and be sure to note if there seems to be potential in certain areas. A “fail” in a certain section doesn’t always have to be the end all-be all. It helps to make sure your interview process is standardized so a candidate doesn’t fall through the cracks.

Is Your Decision Justifiable?: Is your choice based on emotion or favoritism? If yes, then don’t do it. Make sure you have hard evidence as to why this candidate is the very best out of all the choices. Look at your notes, maybe even get a second opinion to ensure there is no unnecessary bias present.

Get Input from Others: Face facts. Everyone is going to have a bias but the more people in on the vote, the better a chance you have for not giving in to any unconscious biases you have. To that end, try to get a hiring manager, a recruiter, and a third-party who has no benefit from the new hire to weigh in. Having a standardized hiring process with a defined source, selection, screen, interview, group interview, and assessment/skills test will allow you to compare like with like, instead of letting biases cloud your judgement.