Bias, whether conscious or unconscious, is unfortunately rife in recruitment. Particularly so in the interview room. 

Employers need to work on inclusive recruitment, including interviews. Only then can every applicant be given the same fair chance to succeed. At the moment, this isn’t happening across the country.

Bias in recruitment is common and it is affecting many people. It is stopping employers from creating an equal and diverse workplace, as they should be doing. It is also stopping great applicants from getting the jobs they want and deserve.

For a starting example, “white-sounding names” on resumes were found to have a 50% higher chance of being offered an interview than identical resumes with “black-sounding names”. They were 75% more likely to get an interview than “Asian-sounding names”, too. We cannot ignore the role of interview bias in these figures. We also cannot ignore the effect that these practices have on the diversity, or lack thereof, that exists in our workforce.

Unconscious bias can be one of the biggest problems in a fair and diverse interview process. Especially so for companies that are trying to increase their levels of EDI but are still struggling to see the numbers rise. One of the first steps in becoming a Diversity-Positive employer openly reflecting on the unconscious biases that may exist in your workplace, working on them, and rooting them out. Once we are honest about what is going on, we can work on change. If we don’t acknowledge the problems, we will never work to fix them.

If you want to know how to actively reduce bias in your interview process, this page aims to help you with accessible, practical advice. 

Being a fair employer makes the world better for everyone. At Aspiring to Include we want to do everything we can to see that change happen. And we want you to be a part of that change too.

Here’s how you can start:

Blind Applications

There are lots of ways in which people are discriminated against and excluded in the interview process. Often before they have even entered the room. Factors such as names, locations and postcodes, educational backgrounds, age, and ethnicity can, unfortunately, have negative impacts on whether someone reaches the next stage of an application process or not. This is where we can easily see bias at work. 

The most important thing in an application process is how the potential candidates will be suitable for the job at hand and all of its related tasks. Not any of their personal characteristics. In diverse, accessible, and inclusive recruitment, it is best for the recruiters to look first at each person based on their skills and what they can bring to the job. For as long as possible in the recruitment process, it is important to try and have those in decision-making roles as blind as possible. Blind to information that has the potential to cause bias and as open as possible to the information that is relevant simply to the job and nothing else. 

Once you feel like you have a handful of applicants of similar standing, you can reintroduce these bits of personal information or direct contact. If at this point the candidates are still not diverse, you should consider how you might be putting off diverse candidates in the advertisement stage of the process. It is key to be inclusive at every single stage of recruitment. 

For more information on this specific issue, you can read our guides on attracting diverse candidates and writing inclusive job adverts

Uniform Interview Format 

Unconscious biases can easily sneak into interviews when the interviews have an ad hoc approach to questioning and interview tactics. If an interview is based on whether there is a good rapport between potential candidate and interviewee, this can particularly lead to decisions being made on the wrong foundations. It shouldn’t be about personal like or dislike, it should be about the job.

To avoid too much personal opinion which in turn allows unconscious bias to creep in, interviews should keep to uniform, consistent questioning. Questioning that solely focuses on relevant information to fill the job role. If interviews are kept uniform across the board, it is more likely that fair, merit-based decisions are being made rather than any made from bias. 

Another method interviewers can introduce is the use of skills challenges in which the candidate is assessed on an objective result. This way, you can see that they have the aptitude for the role without having to consider personal beliefs and whether you “get on” with the person or not. It brings everything back to the job role and what it requires. That is what the process should be about, after all.

Recruiter Training and Diversity

To tackle recruiter bias head-on, appropriate and relevant training for your recruitment team is essential. Sometimes we might feel uncomfortable even discussing these issues and members of staff might not even realize that they have the biases that they do.

Providing training for your recruitment team will ensure that everyone is on the same page. It can ensure an even playing field for all the potential candidates who enter your interviewing room.

It is also important to have diversity within your own team. Despite all the efforts made in the name of diversity over the years, it is still the case that about 85% of board members and executives of companies are white men. This isn’t good enough, but it can change. Through inclusive and diverse recruiting, you will be able to increase your own company’s levels of diversity and, in turn, be able to hold more diverse recruiting. It’s a lovely cycle!

Having more diverse recruiters will make it easier for unconscious biases to be challenged and rooted out. It also shows potential candidates that your company is inclusive and diverse, and this will attract the right kind of candidates.

Improving Company Culture

On that note, it is always important to work on diversity from the inside out. If you want your recruitment to be inclusive, your company culture needs to be inclusive too. The recruitment process is very often indicative of how things are throughout the entirety of the company. 

You can work on company culture by:

  • Appointing a designated team to improve and cultivate diversity
  • Having an open and safe dialogue about diversity and issues surrounding it
  • Instigating training opportunities
  • Actively including and promoting different cultures within the workplace, and
  • Improving your recruitment so you have more diverse members of staff in the first place!

The best work starts at home.

If you want to learn even more about being a Diversity-Positive employer, you can do so with our specialized content on Aspiring to Include

You can also work with us to actively make your recruitment processes more diverse, starting by creating more inclusive job postings and posting them to an accessible and inclusive job board.