It is natural
It is unintended
It can affect decisions
It can be mitigated
The surgeons dilemma, multiple mentions of man, boy his, all male orientated, and then a surgeon which historically has been a male dominated profession, all of which lead the mind away from the answer of the surgeon being the boy’s mother.
All the above point towards our brain making quick on the spot judgements automatically. Being able to mitigate these unconscious biases will enable us to have a more inclusive workforce / workplace, and therefore a more diverse team, with a better spread of views and characteristics.
Different types of Unconscious Biases in the workplace, taken from original article Unconscious Bias
Also known as similarity bias, is the tendency to connect with others who share similar interests, experiences and backgrounds. When hiring or interviewing someone who you know has similar interests you could be favouring them because you think they will automatically get on with the existing team, rather than add elements to enhance the existing team. Bringing in people who are different to what you already have can add new positive elements to the team, and therefore increase diversity in the workforce.
To avoid this you could make notes of the similarities you share with the candidate so you can differentiate between attributes that could cloud your own judgement and which attributes can be a ‘culture add’ rather than a ‘culture fit’.
The inclination to draw conclusions based on personal desires, beliefs or prejudices rather than on unbiased merit. Initial eros when reading CV’s of individuals info like their name, where they are from, where they were educated. These opinions can follow on to the interview process meaning you ask questions in the interview that lead it in the direction already predetermined.
To avoid this you should ask standardised skill based questions which enable fair chances to each candidate.
Where you try to make sense of or judge based on prior observations or interactions you have had with them. People are quick to make assessments before knowing the full story, maybe determining a candidate unfit for a position because of an occurrence in the interview or on the CV.
To avoid this, rather than assume, ask the question. If they arrive late, dont assume its bad punctuality, it may have a genuine reason which they can explain. People in interviews may be nervous, so diving deeper in the interview can benefit.
Where the people responsible for employing candidates get together and review CV’s before the interviews, conformity bias can cause individuals to sway their opinion to match the opinion of the majority. The problem with this is the opinion of the majority is not always right, and then you could miss out on an excellent candidate because individual opinions become muddled.
To avoid this happening, the hiring team can write down and submit their own opinions on candidates immediately after the interviews, and then have the team as a whole come together and review what they all wrote down, for some impartial opinions.
The Halo Effect
The tendency to place someone on a pedestal after learning something impressive about them. This can come into effect at any stage of the recruitment process. We could see a candidate that has worked for an impressive company previously, or attended highly regarded educational facilities, but we should not judge candidates on the schools attended or previous employers names.
We at CCF currently seem to have this in anyone who works for our main competition SIG PLC. To avoid this when seeing one candidate with the stand out attribute, also consciously consider the others who have relevant attributes but not the one stand out one, and accept that their opportunities may not have been in line with the candidate with the glittery one.
The Horns Effect
The tendency to view someone negatively after learning something negative about them. Hiring teams can try to weed out candidates based on a trait that is averse to a team’s preferences. It could be something trivial like the company they currently work for you dislike. To avoid this, when you do get that gut feeling, examine why, and what is causing the feeling, it may be that it is unreasonable and you should reconsider it.
This is where you compare two or more things you have come into contact with, either simultaneously or one after another, causing you to exaggerate the performance of one in contrast to the other. An exceptional interview may make the next one seem terrible.
To avoid this we should structure interviews and applications where we can compare the answers inline with apples vs apples, rather than apples vs pears.
This is the tendency to prefer one gender over another. Both men and women tend to prefer to employ men.
To avoid this you could set up blind screening, taking out names and gender identifiable info from the candidates submissions and then work on skills and merit. Make sure you set diversity hiring goals.
This is the tendency to have negative feelings towards persons because of their age. This affects older employees for obvious reasons, employers seem to value young talent.
To avoid this we should train our teams on the value of experience and to dispel untruths about ageism. We have to follow the in place guidelines from the group to keep age diversity in our minds when hiring.
The tendency for hiring preference to be given to people with certain types of name, specifically anglo sounding names. People are assuming the name of the person means that person fits into a predetermined group, which can be completely wrong.
Ways to avoid this are to omit the personal information from the candidates application, therefore making decisions on merit and skills not names etc.
Where people who are given preference because of their perceived good looks or beauty. It may be because people who are in this category are generally perceived as socially happy and more successful.
To avoid this you could arrange initial interviews to be over the telephone, therefore no eyes on contact is required.