Is Bias in Your Recruiting Costing You Top Talent?


A diverse workforce and inclusive environment creates more committed and motivated employees, attracts top talent, and produces better business performance. Why is it then that so many companies still struggle to achieve the diverse range of talent they need for success?

Prejudices have for the most part been shelved in recent years as the spotlight on diversity in the boardroom has highlighted the many business benefits that a greater mix of people and bigger the pool of experience, skills, knowledge, creativity and views offers.

What Can Different People Bring To The Table?

Young people will bring fresh, new ideas and un-jaded optimism to your team; older executives provide invaluable knowledge based on years of experience; men and women offer different perspectives on business challenges and will approach your business challenges from different directions; and people from different ethnic backgrounds brings cultural understanding and the ability to explore new markets.*

Besides those benefits there are the candidates from different backgrounds and of varying physical abilities all of whom can add considerable depth to your organisation.  It’s clear then that a good mix of people can drive innovation and help your management team to unblock decision-making processes and avoid conflicts.

So why does research show that recruitment in many companies is biased and working against candidates whose profiles fall outside of the expected norm?  Often it’s not because of a conscious effort to discriminate against candidates but down to the phenomenon known as ‘unconscious bias’.

How Can You Stop Unconsciously Recruiting In Your Own Image?

Large corporations such as the BBC have worked hard to addressed unconscious bias in their recruitment processes, putting staff through specially tailored training to help the company achieve its diversity targets.

Research supports the theory of unconscious bias and the results of one US study illustrate it clearly. The research team sent out CVs for fictitious candidates, with either stereotypical ‘black’ or ‘white’ sounding names; the results showed significant discrimination in the form of subtle cognitive biases.  Similarly, constructed deception studies have demonstrated clear gender discrimination against women applying for jobs in traditionally male dominated industries.

Historically, psychologists thought that human decision-making was a very rational and logical process, but increasingly the impact of our unconscious thought patterns is emerging.  It appears that recruitment bias is more common than we might imagine and the thinking that drives it may be subconsciously rooted so that the offenders may not even be aware that they’re responsible. Many hiring decisions are made on ‘gut’ feel – we’ve all heard someone say that they knew straight away one candidate was right for the job, but this can be unconscious bias.

 Three Tips To Cut Out Bias

In your organisation, there may be any number of unconsciously biased people involved in the hiring process. Here are a few suggestions to help you avoid it and the poor decision making associated with it:

  1. Insist on removing all identifying factors including name, age, gender, location, nationality, from CVs before they are reviewed by the hiring manager – this way all candidates can be assessed without discrimination.
  2. Build in ample thinking time to your hiring process and insist that hirers cross-check their decisions against pre-agreed criteria.
  3. Don’t let ‘gut’ decisions take over too soon – when the conscious brain deliberates in partnership with the unconscious brain, we make better, more considered decisions.  Question ‘instinctive’ judgments and try to understand what is behind first impressions. The likelihood is that it’s the decision makers unconscious bias taking over and encouraging them to make decisions based on past ‘safe’ experiences rather than stepping into less charted but potentially equally or even more successful territory.

You may have heard of companies starting to use data analysis to help them achieve an objective and diverse recruitment processes. This involves the automated examination of volumes of candidate data against job criteria in an attempt to remove any unconscious bias and lessen the risk of human error. But, while there has been increasing interest in this strategy, there is also a lot to be said for a relationship based recruitment model, where time is taken to get to know and understand a candidate before a decision is made.

So Which Approach Should You Use?

We have found that a combination of the algorithmic and the human approaches is most effective; using automated processes to narrow down the candidate pool without bias, and then using personal recruitment techniques to make final decisions.

The aim of any business is to have a hiring process that consistently delivers top quality talent while minimising risks. It’s not just unconscious bias we need to be looking out for though, there is also the risk of candidate deception. Harvard research found that 81 percent of people lie about themselves in job interviews, telling a shocking average of 2.19 lies every 15 minutes.  Deception expert, Jenny Radcliffe says: “CVs and Interviews are seen as situations when lies, omissions and exaggeration are commonplace, even normal. It’s like poker or negotiation, absolute truth and full disclosure are rare, there is almost an expectation that people “paint themselves in the best light” but that’s still technically deception!”

Would you like additional advice on improving your hiring processes? Request the “The Complete Managers’ Interview Guide” E-Book, EJC’s comprehensive guide to better recruitment practices.

Considering Retained Search & Exclusive Contingency assignments? Ask about “Prima” – EJC’s proprietary multimedia candidate behavioural assessment and presentation tool. Prima is a secure, globally accessible, mobile client portal, which allows you to access your hiring process at anytime. EJC uploads job descriptions, shortlisted candidates’ CV’s, psychometric test results, benchmark assessments, videoed presentations & interviews. This allows you more insight into a candidate before you meet them, making shortlisting decisions easier.

As a first step request a copy of “Improving Recruitment: Introducing Prima” Presentation at or contact your EJC consultant at +44(0) 1189 291 810 to arrange a demonstration