What types of biases can affect recruitment, and can we do anything to mitigate them?
Bias is one of the overarching factors that can affect the recruitment process, and it is important to note: that there is not just one type!
With that being said, not everyone will know about or even know how every type of bias manifests, and that is what this article is for. Some forms of bias, mainly unconscious bias, often goes unnoticed as it is not deliberate forms or immediately evident or the recruiter in question. Of course, in some cases, it may be difficult to tell if a researcher has any biases at all, but this is something that this article is going to address.
Some biases are more common and evident than others, and it is not necessary that all or if any of these biases are present within a recruiter selection process.
- Conscious bias
- Unconscious bias
- Confirmation bias
- Affect heuristics
- Expectation anchor
- Halo effect
- Horn effect
- Overconfidence bias
- Similarity attraction bias
- Illusory correlation
- Affinity bias
- Beauty bias
- Conformity bias
- Contrast effect and judgement bias
Some of these words may seem jargony and inaccessible. Hopefully, breaking them down will help this article become a helpful resource for recruiters to understand if bias affects the hiring process and workplace morale and environment. Before breaking down the different terms listed above, it needs to be said that points 1 and 2 are umbrella terms, in which the successive 13 terms may fall.
- Consciousness is when you are deliberately sanctioning someone based on a demographic characteristic. This can range from how an individual looks, height, race, religion, parenthood status, the educational institution previously attended, sexuality and marital status. This is highly problematic, as a recruiter can be aware of how their personal views directly influence the hiring process, where recruiters are knowingly not giving equal opportunities to candidates who are applying.
- Unconscious bias is when you are not aware of any thoughts or influences affecting your decisions within the recruitment process. Sometimes the influence can be so small that it may not immediately be apparent. This has already been discussed in one of our articles in more detail, “Name Blind Recruitment and Unconscious Bias: An Evaluation”, for more information about the different ways unconscious bias can manifest. As I mentioned above, unconscious bias, in particular, can manifest in a range of different ways. The following are some of the ways unconscious bias could be present in any recruitment process.
- Confirmation bias is having an initial assumption about a candidate, and what the recruiter does is look for information, behaviours, or tendencies within a candidate that confirms their bias. This can be a very conscious decision. An interviewer can ask specific questions or complete certain tasks in a trial workday that are entirely non-essential to the recruitment process. In some cases, confirmation bias can be affirmative action in ensuring that you can find a reason to disqualify a candidate based on a recruiter’s bias.
- In some ways, this is similar to confirmation bias, but there are specific differences. When a recruiter judges a candidate’s abilities or suitability for a job, and in some cases, they may come to short ended conclusions about whether they will be able to do the job or not. This can be something that is done due to conscious or unconscious tendencies. The underlying thing here is that a recruiter’s predetermined bias can stop them from hiring an exceptional candidate who will be perfect for the position.
- An exciting analogy put forward by Thrive Map suggests that recruiter’s have many things to consider when they are hiring for a new role. In turn, they may reduce the scope to what they would be appropriate for a position. This could unconsciously alienate specific candidates who do not meet the narrowed criteria, though it may not be intentional on the recruiter’s part. However, this could also be a conscious attempt at excluding certain candidates who may not fit a specific, not essential quota or agenda that the recruiter has set.
The Halo & Horn Effect
- The halo and the horns effect are exciting demonstrations of bias that were understood and deeply rooted in psychology. The Halo effect is concerned with believing that people who are considered traditionally attractive are also believed to be more successful and competent. The implications for this can be dire, as considering someone to be beautiful in a ‘traditional’ manner could racialize individuals negatively according to race and religion and a myriad of other factors like hair colour, eye colour, and other physical aspects. If there is the belief that an individual is ‘traditionally beautiful’, their negative tendencies and qualities can be overshadowed in the recruitment process leading to an unfair hiring process. The horn effect is the complete opposite of the halo effect, where you assume that someone unattractive is unable may have negative tendencies and attitudes; therefore, they would not be fit for the role at a company, common examples that have been founded in recruitment research is being overweight and wearing a headdress.
This has been part 1 of understanding the different types of recruitment bias, numbers 8-15 will be covered in the next half of this mini-series. Here at DJM, we work hard to ensure that our content is as accessible as possible, providing audio content for those who need or prefer it.
Stay tuned for the podcast and part 2 of the recruitment types blog coming to you soon!