Are There Biases in Your Recruiting Practices?

May 12, 2016

I know that none of us want to believe we are in any way prejudiced—but let’s be honest: As human beings, we all have our biases, our opinions, our perceptions. As much as we might resist, these things can all cloud our judgment and impact our decision-making. That includes the decisions we make about hiring, firing, and recruitment.


As a leadership speaker, I talk to a lot of business owners and HR managers, and I’ve become familiar with some of the most common hiring and recruitment biases. Before you defend yourself as being totally impartial, I invite you to give yourself a check-up… consult this quick list of common recruiting biases:


Unfair extrapolations and assumptions. This is sometimes called the “halo/horn” bias—in other words, you just get a vibe that the applicant is either a really good or bad person, based on criteria that may be shaky at best. For example, you might subconsciously assume that the applicant who is well-dressed and physically attractive is a good worker; that the one with the annoying nail-biting habit isn’t; or that the applicant with strong sales experience would also make a good sales manager, even though there’s really nothing to back this up.


Biases based on recent hiring trends. This can come in many forms. One of the most common: “The last three people we hired were great, so let’s just hire some more!” Or: “The last person I hired with a degree from this school was horrible, so let’s ignore people with a similar background.”


Biases relative to your current employees. If you go into a hiring process to replace your sales director, Marion, and begin with the attitude that nobody could ever replace Marion, you’re going to turn up your nose at applicants who might actually be great. Or, vice versa, if you say well anyone would do better than the last guy, you may not be as critical as you ought to be!


Confirmation bias. This is a well-known form of human bias—the idea that we like things that prove us right! Here’s how it often plays out in hiring: “Sheryl’s resume says she has done marketing work in the past… I’ll bet she’ll be great at marketing for our brand!” And just like that, a perception is set, without much evidence to back it up.


So what’s my point? For starters, it’s important to take a minute to reflect on your own biases—because you’ve probably got some; we all do! Also make sure you have multiple people involved with recruitment, if possible, and that you’re there to cover for each other’s blind spots.

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