Confronting Hiring Biases

The great irony of unconscious bias is that most of us have bias, even though we strongly believe that we are fair and actively try to avoid bias in hiring.

Writing for Harvard Business School, Becca Carnahan and Cristopher Moore describe unconscious recruitment bias as “mental processes that cause us to act in ways that reinforce stereotypes even when in our conscious mind we would deem that behavior counter to our value system.”

What Does Bias in Hiring Look Like?

During a client engagement, one of the senior sales leaders questioned the impact of bias on their recruitment and selection decisions.  The PerceptionPredict® consultant asked the room of managers, “when interviewing candidates, what are you looking for?”

One hiring manager said, “I look at their track record and experience.”  Another said she “explores the candidate’s employment timeline to assess if the candidate is a job hopper,” while a third manager said he liked to know if the candidate has “played a team sport.”

Our consultant said, “what you’ve just shared are the biases that are at work when you’re interviewing candidates and considering hiring decisions.”  The managers listened as the proverbial penny dropped.

What is Hiring Bias?


Hiring BIas Definition

In Strategic HR Review, Rosie P. Chamberlain defines hiring bias as “beliefs that block the ability to see candidates’ potential… thoughts, interpretations and beliefs that create misconceptions about people,” and “verbal and non-verbal communications that send implicit cues.”  

Example: Confirmation Bias in Hiring

One common type of hiring bias is confirmation bias, “the seeking or interpreting of evidence in ways that are partial to existing beliefs, expectations, or a hypothesis in hand.”  Although we don’t realize it, most of us make many split-second assumptions about the people we interact with.  

The bias creeps in when we begin unconsciously constructing theories about someone based on details that give us a misleading impression.  During the recruitment and hiring process, these assumptions can cause us to favor the wrong candidates and overlook the best ones.  

What’s the Point of Eliminating Bias in Hiring?

Sure.  Bias is not always a bad thing.  An artist or musician’s emotional states and biases can inspire and positively influence their work.  But emotions and unconscious biases in hiring are costly forces on hiring managers who remain blind to them.  This is particularly true with sales team hiring.

Chamberlain finds that, in a competitive marketplace, organizations with unconscious hiring biases at play “miss out” on the best candidates “by not seeing the value added by hiring them or because the message being sent by those in recruitment and hiring is unwelcoming and/or off-putting.”

We rise to become competent business leaders by solving everyday business problems and by using rational and practical thinking to make decisions that have a positive influence on the organization.  It can be uncomfortable to consider the reality that our recruitment and selection decision-making is flawed, but developing awareness about hiring bias is the first step to eliminating it.

Two Steps For Eliminating Bias in Hiring

  1. Identify bias, and replace it with data. Whether we’ve had two years or 20 years’ experience, unlearning ‘natural’ instinct and years of behavior is tough.  That's the value Performance Fingerprints deliver.  They enable hiring managers and recruiters to consciously move beyond their biases and replace them with data and neutral intelligence.

  2. Use data to drive hiring decisions.  This idea shouldn’t come out of left field for most of us, because organizations constantly make a multitude of operational, financial and strategic decisions based on data.  So why wouldn’t we extend the use of evidence-based knowledge and prediction to making optimal sales hiring decisions?

Role-specific Performance Fingerprints are a powerful and reliable tool for identifying high-performing sales talent.

We hope you’re ready to find out more about Performance Fingerprints and other features PerceptionPredict can use to help you get out of your own way when it comes to hiring.  Book a demo if you’re interested in finding superstar sales hires.

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