How to truly remove unconscious bias from the recruitment process
Bias in the engineering sector is a problem. It’s strong, it’s causing a lack of diversity, and it’s affecting the overall performance of the industry. It’s not that companies set out to be biased, but, rather, that unconscious prejudices are seeping into recruitment processes and nothing is being done about it. So, what can we do to overcome this problem and truly remove bias from engineering recruitment?
What is unconscious bias?
“Bias, noun - Inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair.”
Unconscious bias is a prejudice that you’re not aware of, and that leads you to make an automatic judgment or decision. It’s such a big problem that it can take one of nine different forms:
- Affinity bias - preference for people who share similar qualities to you.
- Attribution bias - how you perceive people’s actions.
- Beauty bias - preference for physically attractive people.
- Conformity bias - preference based on the views of others.
- Confirmation bias - preference for evidence which supports your opinions.
- Contrast bias - comparison of candidates against one another.
- Gender bias - preference for a gender.
- Halo bias - focusing on a positive aspect of a candidate.
- Horn bias - focusing on a negative aspect of a candidate.
No one likes to think of themselves as biased or prejudice, but, statistically, you are - preferring people who talk, look, think and act like you. It could be as indiscreet as favouring someone because they went to the same university as you, but just because you can’t see or feel it, doesn’t make it right; especially not when it can result in hiring a candidate who wasn’t your best option.
Ways to eliminate unconscious bias - a checklist
How do you go about removing bias that you’re not even aware of? It’s not always easy, but by putting the following processes in place you can drastically limit the opportunities for unconscious bias to occur.
Appeal to a wider audience
Have you ever struggled to decide between candidates because, well, they’re all the same? If so, this may be down to how and where you advertise your vacancy. Add variety to your candidate selection by using neutral language, advertising in a variety of different places (including female and ethnic minority engineering groups), and referencing your equal opportunity policies and benefits.
Train your recruiters
The more you are aware of your unconscious biases, the more you can do to overcome (or ignore) them - yet a third of managers haven’t received the appropriate training. Ensure that anyone involved in the recruitment process (from job description drafting right through to the final interview panel) receives up-to-date training on equal opportunities and unconscious bias.
Re-think your sifting process
The initial sift through interested engineering candidates is a pivotal point in the fairness of your recruitment campaign. You could eliminate the possibility of bias by de-identifying CVs (removing character-identifying information) and having a two-step sifting process that involves a diverse range of employees.
Update your interview process
Perhaps the hardest unconscious bias to overcome is that which arises during an interview - where you’re seeing, listening to and judging candidates. Make biases easier to identify and harder to occur by appointing a diverse interview panel and implementing a structured interview process that makes it easy to compare candidates based on their ability, rather than their characteristics.
You’re working in one of the most innovative, fast-paced and futuristic industries out there - why shouldn’t your recruitment process be the same? Look into the use of AI and technology in identifying the best candidates for the role, while removing all possibilities of discrimination.
Involve someone external
One of the best ways to ensure that your engineering recruitment process is bias-free is to involve someone completely external. At RTRS, we are not only highly trained in sourcing and matching the best engineering candidates out there, but our external involvement means that we overcome any internal biases that may affect your recruitment campaign. You receive a diverse range of candidates to choose from, who are all perfect for your position and company.