The case for hiring diversity in the workplace is clear. Diversity increases innovation, improves decision making, grows talent pools and establishes a broader customer base.
Yet businesses still fail to hire diverse candidates.
In the typical hiring process, bias and cognitive errors can result in discrimination. Even when there is no ill intent, common organizational dysfunctions interrupt the process. Things like rushing, overloaded hiring managers, lack of process structure, accountability and lack of continuous improvement methodology lead to poor hiring decisions.
These failures often go undetected. Instead, employers buy into the widely-held excuse that the minority talent pool is just too small.
Beyond losing out on the best candidate, these talent acquisition failures reinforce stereotypes, increase litigation risk, damage the organization’s employment brand and increase missed opportunity costs.
Ultimately hiring process (see Figure 1) bias and the resulting cognitive errors are the failure of justice.
Figure 1: Typical Hiring Process Stages
Hiring Process Discrimination
According to Bendick and Nunes (2012), “discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, age, disability, gender orientation, and other characteristics” continues to negatively impact employment opportunities for minority groups.
In American federal and state laws, highly-structured interview processes and training are used to control the impacts of biases. However, serious issues still exist in hiring, including pay inequity and other acts of discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received claims that totaled over 72,000 in 2019 (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Number of charges per 10,000 population by State for FY2019.
What is bias?
Simply put, a bias is an evaluation of one group and its members relative to another.
We all have explicit and implicit bias. Explicit bias is visible or expressed directly, and implicit bias is indirectly expressed or sub-conscious.
Bias in the hiring process leads to ingroup favoritism and results in a lack of equity for candidates.
If you want to learn more about your own implicit bias, you can use the free Harvard Project Implicit assessments form to increase personal awareness.
Here are common examples of bias in the hiring process:
- A generalized belief about a particular category of people (stereotyping)
- Only acknowledging information that confirms a desired assumption (confirmation bias)
- Shifting standards for a particular category of people
- Perceptions of culture fit with organizational values
Understanding Cognitive Error
Cognitive error is a thinking process that influences our judgment and results in decision making failure.
Unchecked our bias, whether explicit or implicit, can lead to cognitive errors.
Here are some examples of how cognitive error shows up in hiring:
- Focusing on the first impression made by the candidate over presented facts
- Positive or negative assumptions based on shared experiences with the candidate
- The ability to understand something about a candidate immediately (intuition), without the need for reasoning
- Forming an opinion so that the interview is a self-fulfilling prophecy
- Groupthink hiring decisions that discourage individual responsibility
- Assigning superiority to a candidate based on an elite school or association without reasoning
5 Tips for Hiring Diverse Talent
While it is a challenge, there are several steps proven to help you limit cognitive errors in the hiring process.
Here are five tips to help you hire diverse talent:
- Increase Awareness – Provide training on the hiring process, bias and cognitive errors for all employees involved in hiring. This helps individuals and teams avoid mistakes and create equity for all candidates.
- Selection Team – Utilize a diverse interview team to make hiring decisions. Agree on the selection criteria in advance of conducting interviews. Give thought to the decision-making process, be consistent and require evidence and not feelings in making hiring decisions.
- Technology – Many talent acquisition platforms can level the playing field for applicants during the application process by focusing on specific talents and qualifications versus demographic information.
- Structured Interviews and Assessments – Identify the three to five competencies you need within the role to be hired before you start sourcing and screening talent. Use a behaviorally anchored rating scale to measure candidates objectively against each competency. Use assessments validated within your organization based on the tasks of the role to calibrate hiring decisions. Be advised that assessments, if not handled properly, can lead to further discrimination and increase legal risk.
- Data Analytics – Utilize predictive analytics and big data to help identify where bias in the hiring process exists within the organization and to inform the ideal candidate attributes.
Looking for more help with hiring and managing your team? Organizational Talent Consulting provides trusted consulting, coaching and training delivered virtually or in-person on talent management processes.
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