5 ways to reduce bias in recruitment

Bias in recruitment

We all have bias ingrained into us, resulting from our backgrounds and personal experiences – but how do you reduce this bias from influencing the recruitment process?

Unconscious bias is when our minds make snap judgements and decisions without us even realising it.

It doesn’t mean we are all bad people, but it does mean we should be taking action to reduce the possibility of this prejudice.

Whilst our biases effect our everyday thoughts and actions, one of the main places it’s been proven to cause drastic and unfair consequences is bias in recruitment.

Every single one of us goes through this process, usually multiple times throughout our career.

From when you glance at the name at the top of a resume, to when you meet with them in person, your brain is making decisions without you even knowing it.

Therefore, reducing bias in recruitment should be a critical part of your diversity and inclusion strategy.

Diversity has been cited as the number 1 priority for hiring managers in 2018 by LinkedIn Talent Solutions in a recent report.

The report stated that 78% of the 9,000 talent leaders and hiring managers studied indicated they are prioritising diversity to improve culture, and 62% are doing so to boost financial performance.

If you’ve already decided you need to start incorporating diversity and inclusion into your recruitment process, smart move. Your company’s going to suffer if not.

Here are a few small stepping stones, that will make a BIG difference, to get you started reducing bias in recruitment:


  1. Shake up your job listing ad

From the moment you post a job description ad on Seek, you may unknowingly be broadcasting a message about the type of person you want to hire.

I hear senior recruiters say to me all the time “but we didn’t have any women apply for the job.”

They are unbeknown to the fact that subtle word choices can have a huge impact on the types of candidates that apply for the role.

For example, research has shown that words such as “determined” and “competitive” generally attract more male candidates, whereas words such as “collaborative” tend to attract more female candidates.

By really honing in on every word choice used in your job listing, and considering what you could do differently – you will soon find you attract a totally different talent pool.

Another thing to reconsider with your job listing is what you deem as a requirement for someone to do the job.

Can the job be part time? Is regular travel really required? Can the job be done remotely?

These are just a few considerations which could be impacting the types of candidate that apply for the role.


  1. Remove names from resumes

Studies have proven the extra lengths people with “ethnic” sounding names have to go through even to just get called in for an interview

The National Bureau of Economic Research has demonstrated that people with ethnic names needed to send out 50% more resumes before they got a call back compared to job hunters with “white”-sounding names.

It’s not just ethnic names, it’s female names too. Take Erin McKelvey, a female executive who experimented by changing her name to sound male in order get a job!

Blind recruitment is gaining in popularity, it’s a simple way to ensure your decisions can’t be swayed by bias in recruitment.

So give it a try, have names removed from applicant resumes. You might just find that your shortlist differs from the norm – that’s exactly what you are trying to achieve.


  1. Stick to the script

Many recruiters pride themselves on finding common ground with candidates and making them feel at ease, however is this really fair if this doesn’t happen with every candidate?

What if that candidate is just totally different to you and no matter how hard you try, you can’t find a common ground?

The best way to ensure this well-intentioned bias in recruitment doesn’t happen, is to stick to a script.

Include ice breakers and easier questions to start with, and for all questions note down what a typical ‘good’ and ‘bad’ answer would look like.

This way when you’re reviewing your notes, your assessments will be more transparent and free from bias.


  1. Consider a skills test

Whist an interview is an essential part of the recruitment process, bear in mind that it might not be the best indicator of whether that person is the best candidate for the job.

A very effective way to ascertain suitability is a role-specific skills test, or presentation of work samples.

By asking a candidate to solve a problem or complete a short task relevant to the role, you shift the focus from personality to performance and skillset.

This not only provides the most accurate way to test how effectively a candidate will perform the job, but it also removes the bias in recruitment as you are assessing everyone on the same task.


  1. Set quotas

Whilst I am very vocal in telling my clients that setting diversity quotas in isolation will not get them where they want to be, it is still a crucial part of the process.

If you’re not tracking the number and ratios of diverse applicants throughout the entire process, how will you know if you’re making progress?

My suggestion is to track not only the outcome but every step of the way, to enable you to identify areas in the recruitment process that need to be addressed.

Below are a few examples followed by the possible area that needs to be addressed:


“Only 20% of females applied for the role and very few of them were suitable to shortlist.”

This indicates a potential problem with the wording used in the job listing. Try amending the wording to ensure you aren’t using language that is known to be more masculine.


“50% of applicants were female, but only 15% of the shortlist were female.”

This indicates a potential problem with the shortlisting process, try going blind and removing names or any references to gender.


These are just a few quick tips on how you can reduce bias in recruitment and start recruiting for difference, there are many more ways which I’d be very happy to discuss with you, just get in touch.

Remember that attracting and successfully hiring a diverse pool of talent is one thing, but without an inclusive culture, this talent pool won’t stay.

Speak to us at emberin today to find out how to create an inclusive culture in your organisation.

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