Factors that Trigger Recruitment Bias during Screening Process

Hiring bias can obscure the benefits of a diverse workforce, which include stronger organizations, increased employee productivity and happiness, innovative ideas, and a higher bottom line. There are numerous reasons to strive for a more diverse workforce, but before we can do so, we must first understand and overcome the barriers that our hiring biases impose.

One of the most common reasons why diversity hiring fails is that HR leaders place too much faith in the effectiveness of unconscious bias training. Because unconscious biases are ingrained in our brains, this training fails. Since the entrenchment is unconscious and embedded, it will take much more than a few hours of compelled and unwelcome training to overcome it.

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Another much more effective and simple method for reducing conscious and unconscious biases exists. It entails “blind assessments,” which purposefully “strip away” (hide, blind, mask, or redact) the individual factors that cause biases in resume screeners and interviewers. This “blind assessment” method isn’t perfect, and it does require some effort. Nonetheless, the approach allows you to hide, redact, or “blind” almost every pre-identified non-job-related factor that causes unconscious bias in those who evaluate candidates.

We need to take the simple concept of blinding to the next level. As a result, blinding is used to conceal almost all non-job-related bias-raising factors, including images, demographic information, and voice and language usage.

It’s time to benefit from the best blinding techniques used by true experts in the field. Fortunately, almost all of the blinding techniques developed outside of HR are transferable to our hiring process. Unfortunately, one of the reasons that so many diversity hiring efforts fail is that dozens of bias-creating factors are dispersed throughout the hiring process. These various bias factors can be classified into four categories. Biases are caused by 1) visuals, 2) demographic information, 3) the candidate’s language, and 4) their voice.

Visuals that can trigger biases

This category emphasizes visuals, such as photographs, videos, and in-person interviews with the candidate. These visual biases can react to the physical appearance of the candidate. A picture can be used to judge many areas of bias. Gender, skin color, age, race, national origin, ethnic hairstyles, and body language are all examples of biases. The following are some tried-and-true methods for reducing visual-related biases.

Hide videos or pictures from assessors to limit biases triggered by even a cursory glance at the candidate. Here are some eye-opening actions to consider.

Visuals are limited in telephone interviews

Since only the candidate’s voice can be heard, there are no visuals here (which can still be revealing). It is impossible to judge the candidate’s appearance and body language/posture without visuals.

Remote video interviews were conducted with the candidate’s face obscured

When the candidate is physically obscured in the video view, this method reduces biases and some first impressions. Alternatively, the person’s picture is replaced by an avatar. Without a photograph, it is impossible to see the candidate’s facial expression, body language, or if they have a visible physical disability.

Interview from behind a screen

Orchestras have used “behind the curtain” interviews successfully since the 1970s. They can, however, be used during standard in-person interviews. You must explain why the candidate is using the screen. Often, the screen is only used during the initial rounds of interviews.

Give them a skills test

Another technique for avoiding physical and visual distractions during interviews This is accomplished by supplementing them with online skill tests. The majority of the current vendor-supplied skill tests have been validated over a long period of time.

Bias can be caused by demographic information

A large body of research concludes that seeing a candidate’s demographic information can trigger a variety of non-job-related biases. Unfortunately, many non-job-related demographic factors, such as marital status, home address, non-job-related credentials, family information, pronouns, grades, and hobbies, must be withheld or obscured. Simply having a candidate’s full name at the top of their resume can lead to an assessor making assumptions about their gender, national origin, and ethnicity.

Consider using masking or blinding actions to prevent any inappropriate demographic information from being displayed.

Candidates should be warned not to provide inaccurate demographic information

Make it clear at the start of the application process that you only expect the candidate to provide requested job-related information. And don’t try to be subtle. Tell the candidate not to include any information that could reveal their gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, national origin, race, religion, or any other sensitive information.

Consider making the candidate’s name invisible on their resume

Their name should be obscured or removed from the reviewer’s copy of their resume. You can either do it manually or use one of the available software packages that will automatically remove their name (and picture) from their resume.

Remove any remaining demographic information

In addition, candidates should redact any demographic information in their resume that could reveal their age. Birthdates, as well as high school and college graduation dates, are typically included.

Require an application form

Custom-designed application forms are preferred because they limit the candidate’s ability to provide inaccurate information. Unfortunately, requiring a complete application (and only accepting a resume) will turn off many employed applicants, who are often extremely busy.

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Bias can be triggered by the candidate’s language

When a candidate writes or speaks, their language can cause bias among individual evaluators. The primary bias stimulating language factors in resumes often include their language level, grammar, spelling, and writing style. Additional negative language factors during interviews may include pronunciation, making concise points, answering questions directly, and understanding and using industry jargon.

Several language issue reduction actions are included in the list below.

Recognize that language evaluation is inconsistent and may harm diversity

Whether, through writing or speaking, evaluator biases can be triggered simply by the language used by candidates. Begin by acknowledging that people of different cultures, education levels, and income levels will most likely use language differently. Different people will use language in different ways.

Use an unbiased ATS screening process for résumés

If you want to make the content of the resume the sole focus of the screening, you reduce an evaluator’s ability to count off for what they perceive to be language errors (it turns out that many of these language issues are not job-related).

An evaluation checklist for resumes can help limit inappropriate language assessments

First, keep in mind that the language errors that are detected are rarely consistent. Define what language errors are unacceptable in advance. Next, create and train resume screeners to use a written evaluation checklist for each job family’s résumés. A resume evaluation checklist adds value by making it more difficult for a screener to deduct points for non-job-related linguistic issues. It’s also worth noting that using a “permanent hiring committee” can help with diversity hiring.

Encourage candidates to use language improvement software on their resumes

Screeners typically encounter language biases for the first time when reviewing resumes and cover letters. You can prevent language problems from occurring. Warn your candidates ahead of time that their spelling, language, and writing style will most likely be evaluated. As a result, they should use one or more language-improving programs (such as Grammarly) on their resume and cover letter. Rejecting resumes because of spelling errors is a major and costly diversity killer unless the job specifically requires it.

Voice characteristics that trigger bias

Many biases are activated as a result of what some perceive as negative voice characteristics. These voice characteristics could include their accent, pronunciation, voice volume, voice inflection, or the aggressiveness of their voice tone.

Biases are frequently triggered when the candidate’s voice does not match the interviewer’s voice expectations. Several voice-blinding actions are listed below for your consideration.

Use voice cancellation software

During an interview, evaluate a candidate’s voice. So, in some cases, the candidate’s voice should be neutralized or “made vanilla” in order to remove all voice indicators of gender, national origin, race, age, and so on. Fortunately, there are several voice-changing or voice-morphing software options (Voxal Voice Changer) that can change a candidate’s voice in real-time. You must explain why this voice-altering technique is being used (to avoid gender, national origin, age, or race-related voice biases).

Nonverbal questionnaire interviews.

All standard interviews are conducted verbally. A “questionnaire interview” is one way to avoid having the candidate answer questions verbally. Written interview questions are provided to the candidate online. Instead of responding verbally, the candidate writes their responses on an electronic questionnaire package.

Make candidates knowledgeable that voice evaluation may be used during their interviews

Proactively notify candidates in advance, despite our support for speech diversity. Voice-related characteristics such as accent, pronunciation, voice volume, voice inflection, and overall voice aggressiveness may be assessed during an interview for jobs that require a lot of verbal communication with partners and customers.

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Final Thoughts

The biggest issue with launching a blinding effort is that hiring managers and recruiters are extremely resistant to change. They won’t even listen to tried-and-true blinding and masking techniques. Also, be prepared for some drawbacks. For example, removing many soft visual and verbal cues reduces bias. However, you are likely making it much more difficult to evaluate soft factors such as a candidate’s attitude, emotional intelligence, and cultural fit. Where fit is the single assessment element most likely to reduce diversity (while not accurately assessing fit), another disadvantage is that once all of these diversity bias triggering factors are neutralized or removed. It will be much more difficult to accurately determine who among your candidate slate are diverse candidates.

[To share your insights, please write to us at sghosh@martechseries.com]