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Do 1st stage interviews lead to unconscious bias?

10 months ago by Nathan Baldwin

Job interview with three people

1st stage interviews are the most common component of hiring processes across the world. Compared to other hiring processes, such as phone interviews or competency tests, they offer employees a chance to understand a candidate on a more enriched personal level. However, a recently conducted body of research has identified a key issue with the 1st stage interview, that is how unconscious bias could be resulting in non-inclusive and biased hiring processes.  

Conscious vs unconscious bias

Part of the problem, according to Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, is that employees and companies in general do not understand what unconscious bias is. Many people make the mistake of grouping unconscious bias with conscious bias, but there are substantial differences that define each one. Conscious bias is typically associated with people being aware of their biased perceptions and actively participate in spreading those perceptions. Unconscious bias however is far more difficult to identify, as it is something that naturally occurs inside all of our brains.

As we create memories from experiences our brains try to simplify the world by effectively categorising everything we learn, this includes experiences with social groups and people. These categories can manifest into stereotypes, as the unconscious mind will make predetermined opinions of a person or persons based on multiple factors that relate to our individual memories and experiences. This can include: gender, race, dress sense, age, size etc. which can all have a “problematic effect” on a person’s judgement, especially in the 1st stage interview process.


The effects of unconscious bias in the workforce

Without the right training and processes in place, unconscious bias can have serious implications on a company’s hiring process, workforce and culture. Below are statistics released from a 2019 report on UK workforce demographics, outlining inequalities that could be associated to unconsciously bias hiring processes:

  • Only 10% of the working population is from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background, and only 6% held management positions.

  • Only 9.7% of executives in FTSE 100 companies are women.

  • The gender pay gap for full time male and female employees currently stands at 8.9%.

  • 13% of the male working population are managers, directors or senior officials, compared to just 8% of women.

  • People aged over 55 are 50% less likely to find work than people aged under 55.


How can we ensure an inclusive and un-bias hiring process?

  1. Knowledge is key

As mentioned earlier, one of the main reasons why unconscious bias still exists in many hiring processes is because employees simply don’t know what it is. Professor Gino suggests that companies should invest heavily in educational resources and training. Allowing employees to consciously identify the unconscious and ensure a more diverse and inclusive hiring process.

  1. Remove the human element

This doesn’t mean immediately make your hiring managers redundant. Instead, review your current hiring processes and identify areas where unconscious bias could affect judgment. A great example of this is reviewing CV’s. People can unconsciously make a predetermined opinion on a candidate based on information given in their CV, i.e. name, gender, where they live, age, nationality etc. There is recruitment technology available that can replace the human factor. The technology can accurately scan CV’s and identify key aspects of it that relate to the role, then make un-biased recommendations based on that information.

  1. Focus on the capabilities rather than the person

This relates to the ‘likability’ of one candidate compared to another. An interviewer could like one candidate based on factors that are unrelated to the role, i.e. similar hobbies. To ensure this doesn’t form a part of the hiring process, employers can standardise their questions to focus on capabilities and skills. Creating role related questions is a great way to discourage unconscious bias.

These are all effective methods, that you as an employer can use to ensure your hiring process is inclusive. But, perhaps what is most important is to set goals within your business that will help ensure an inclusive culture continues and succeeds. Set goals and KPI’s that aim to improve diversity and inclusivity and invest the time and resources into ensuring your employees have the right tools to make the right hiring decisions.

For more information about how the Bridge IT can help strengthen your workforce with talented professionals, get in touch with us today on +44 (0)113 380 1912.