How Small Businesses Can Reduce Bias While Hiring

  • Recruitment/HR
How Small Businesses Can Reduce Bias While Hiring
Kiran Virk

Kiran Virk, Head of Talent Acquisition

(Last updated )

Studies have found that visible minorities in Canada are more likely than those in the US to face discrimination in the recruitment process.

Despite your best intentions, unconscious biases can creep into your hiring decisions. You may disapprove of a candidate because of a tattoo or a hairstyle. Or you may find yourself favouring another because of the university they went to or because you have similar interests. Gender bias plays a role too. You may unintentionally favour your own gender or act upon stereotypes, such as believing that a male candidate would be better equipped to deal with a job requiring heavy lifting, or that a female candidate would be more skilled in roles such as interior decorating.

If you want to attract the best talent to your company it is important that you  avoid biases in your hiring process. When biases influence your recruiting process, you are prone to discriminating, making unfair decisions, and overlooking a candidate’s full potential.

How can bias affect a job interview?

Unconscious bias, even at the recruitment level, can negatively impact an organization’s attempt to achieve diversity.

Interviewer bias is when the expectations or opinions of the interviewer impact their judgement of the interviewee. It can play a significant role in both the interview and the outcoming selection.

For example, an interviewer may overlook a candidate with a weak handshake or poor eye contact. An interviewer may also take a preference for a candidate because they share a common interest in a football team or grew up in the same town.

How to avoid bias in hiring

There are many types of bias that can occur in the recruitment process. Removing bias from the interview is crucial for employers to correctly identify the best candidates and be objective. We recommend the following strategies to avoid bias in the recruitment process.

Write an objective job description

How you describe the role will determine the kind of applicants you’ll attract. It is important that you check your job description for bias. Overuse of masculine language or “bro-speak” may discourage female applicants. You can also use software programs to weed out stereotypically gendered words from your post.

Employers should also make it clear that they are an equal opportunities employer and encourage diverse candidates to apply.

Also, avoid putting down a long and unrealistic list of job requirements. It discourages talented candidates who may not meet 100% of your listed criteria. Instead, you could mention which job qualifications are a must-have and which would be nice to have.

Opt for blind resume reviews

A blind review of resumes means that you hide characteristics, such as age, ethnicity, gender, to prevent unintentional biases from slipping in. Doing so helps you focus on skills and qualifications, and not on preconceived notions you may form about applicants based on their name or age. You could either use a software or a staffing agency for the blind resume review process.

Include a skills test

Another effective way to gauge a candidate’s competency for the job is to give them a skills test or work exercise. The tasks in the test should be similar to what the candidate will do on the job. This will help you compare, and shortlist candidates based on the quality of their work and not personal traits.

Conduct structured interviews

In a casual interview, the interviewer’s questions are spontaneous and based, perhaps, on a quick perusal of the candidate’s resume.

In a structured interview, however, the interviewer prepares a set of questions in advance. All candidates are asked the same questions in the same order. Though a structured interview may require more work on your part, it helps you assess candidates in a fair and objective manner. It reduces bias as you can simply compare different answers and pick the best person for the job.

Besides standardizing interviews, you should put together a diverse hiring panel. Involving different perspectives in the hiring process would help keep unconscious biases in check.

Job requirements

Although employers should always strive to avoid bias in their hiring process, in certain circumstances, it’s necessary to exclude candidates from roles if they are unable to fulfil the skills needed to complete the job.

An example is a bus driver in Montreal who was unable to operate bus pedals due to a back injury. The worker filed a discrimination complaint for being rejected for the role, however, the employer prevailed when the Quebec Court of Appeal found that the exclusion of the worker was due to a specific skill or quality required for the job.

Need support avoiding recruitment bias in your workplace?

Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety, or employment advice you may need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call an expert today at 1 (833) 247-3652

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