How To Avoid Unfair Hiring Practices
Unfair hiring practices are often the result of the unconscious bias of hiring managers. This can lead to hiring a less diverse workforce, which is likely to hurt the company and decrease its competitiveness. We now know that organizations where diversity is a priority are up to 35 percent more likely to perform better than the industry median levels in the US. In addition to that, as a BCG study from 2018 suggests, a diverse leadership boosts innovation: people from different backgrounds have different points of view and can bring a fresh perspective to tough problems.
Because of that, ensuring a fair hiring process is not only the morally right thing to do—it will also make your company more competitive and help you attract top talent.
Not all unfair hiring practices are illegal—many are simply that, unfair, and reduce your chances to hire the best candidates. Discrimination, however, is. In the US, as well as in most other countries, the law prohibits employers from making hiring decisions based on age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, disability, or other similar characteristics. If your hiring practices result in a disproportionately negative effect on applicants of a given category, candidates can file a discrimination claim.
Even though it’s illegal, discrimination during the hiring process is, unfortunately, still a huge problem, together with other kinds of unfair hiring practices.
Why do unfair hiring practices still exist—and how can they harm your company?
Unfair hiring practices are directly related to interviewer bias. Hiring managers can fall prey to bias and sometimes have unconscious preferences for one candidate over another, based on criteria that are unrelated to the applicant’s skills, knowledge, and performance.
How to ensure fair hiring practices at your company?
So, what can you do to make sure your hiring process is 100% fair and gives everyone an equal opportunity to showcase their talent and skills? Let’s look into that.
- Write clear, detailed, and inclusive job ads
Make sure your job ads aren’t discriminatory in any way. Make them inclusive. Don’t write them with a specific person in mind—keep an open mind about who the ideal candidate might be. Reduce the use of words that have strong gender associations tied to them, such as “leader” or “dominate”, for example. Make your ads precise and clear, and have realistic expectations. Don’t ask for 5 years of experience for a junior role: that’s another form of unfairness. Good job ads project a positive company image to prospective applicants.
- Anonymize resumés when reviewing them
To anonymize resumés and make your pre-selection process fairer, you can hide names and demographic data. This will force you to only review applicants’ experience, education, and certifications—without letting unconscious biases creep in. If you’re using software to screen resumés, you need to keep in mind that algorithms aren’t always completely neutral. In fact, they can exacerbate biases present in the initial datasets they were exposed to. Ask your software provider for more information on that—they’ll be able to explain to you the steps they have taken to ensure the neutrality of their algorithm.
- Automate a part of the hiring process and test candidates’ skills
Skills tests, on the other hand, help you be neutral when assessing your candidates’ skills and expertise. You can use tests to evaluate many different skills: from technical, such as debugging in Java, entry-level algorithms in C#, or DevOps knowledge, to language proficiency—for French, Portuguese, or Mandarin, for example—to business judgment and leadership and people management. They give each candidate an equal opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities and give you bias-free data that is easy to analyze. You can also anonymize test results to further prevent bias.
- Establish clear hiring criteria and communicate clearly with candidates
Be as clear about your hiring criteria as possible, both within the company and to applicants. Explain your hiring process to prospective candidates, and be specific about your expectations, hiring criteria, and the different steps. Make prompt, efficient communication a priority, and inform disqualified candidates of your decision in a timely manner. All of those steps are crucial if you wish to project a positive employer image to current and future applicants.
- Do structured interviews and screening calls
To ensure fair hiring practices, implement a structured interviewing process. Ask all candidates the same questions and make scorecards to document your observations. In addition to that, it’s important to find good ways to assess candidates’ skills during the interview. You can do this by giving them a small practical task, or by asking them to analyze a hypothetical situation and provide a solution. Of course, you shouldn’t be asking candidates to solve any of the actual challenges your company faces: this would amount to free work and is unfair to applicants.
- Document your hiring decisions
Document each step of the hiring process and the motivations behind your hiring decisions. This helps you be self-aware of any potential unfairness or unconscious biases and helps you organize the hiring process better. Additionally, by documenting your hiring decisions, you’ll be able to continuously analyze your hiring decisions for fairness and inclusiveness, and improve your process with time.
- Do not make the hiring process overly complicated
There’s a difference between being thorough and trying to find a reason to not hire someone. Do not make your candidates jump through countless hoops to disqualify them—that’s unfair and wastes both their time and your resources. Make sure that your hiring process is streamlined and efficient—and identical for everyone.
- Educate your hiring team on the importance of having fair hiring practices
Educate your team on hiring biases and make sure everyone understands the need for having a fair and unbiased recruitment process. Everyone who is involved in the hiring process should be aware of the questions they shouldn’t be asking, such as candidates’ age, marital status, where they were born, and so on. Explain the importance of structured interviews and objective skills assessments. Get diverse hiring panels whenever possible, as they significantly improve workplace diversity.
- Ask your employees for feedback
Ask your employees for feedback on whether your company is inclusive and treats everyone fairly, both during the recruitment process and afterward. Be open and acknowledge mistakes and shortcomings: employees’ feedback can give you unique insights into your hiring process and the working environment.
- Monitor your hiring practices continuously to ensure fairness
Making sure that your hiring process is fair, unbiased, and non-discriminatory takes effort and dedication—and the direct involvement of your company’s leadership, as well. It also requires continuous monitoring and optimization. For this, you need to collect sufficient data and review it often, in order to analyze the hiring and promotion patterns at your organization. A fair hiring process helps you make better hiring decisions, provide equal opportunities to your candidates, and hire diverse talent—which is why you need to make it a priority.