Bias: What Is It Exactly?

Prejudice in recruitment is still very common today, and whether you realize it or not, it can have an influence on your hiring process. 

Prejudice is when someone has negative opinions or attitudes towards a person or a group of people based on assumptions or stereotypes, rather than on individual characteristics or actual experiences. It involves making judgments about others without getting to know them as individuals. 

In recruitment, our brain processes vast amounts of information, often taking shortcuts, retaining some details, and forgetting others. Prejudices are often unconscious and lead recruiters to making mistakes in perception, interpretation, or evaluation of candidates. 

Our senses receive an enormous amount of information every second. Faced with the limited ability of our brain to analyze this mass of data, our automatic brain creates labels so that we can make decisions. These labels are the unconscious biases. In certain situations, these labels can be practical, but in many cases, they lead us to making decisions that lack objectivity and impartiality.

Upon seeing someone, we subconsciously form associations with certain characteristics, even with limited information. These unconscious biases are influenced by factors like physical appearance, age, ethnicity, gender, abilities, and religion, leading to attitudes towards or against individuals, groups, or ideas.

Since a recruiter needs to sort, process, and analyze lots of information, some unconscious mechanisms can be set in motion.

Why does memory play tricks with recruiters?

Recruiters can be affected by memory biases, which can distort their judgment. These biases are caused by memory effects and typically occur after reading a resume or interacting with a candidate. As some elements are more likely to be remembered, memories might be altered, and generalizations can be formed based on information. 

Biases can significantly impact the recruitment process, leading to unfair and less effective hiring decisions. Here are some common biases and their influence on the recruitment process:

  • Confirmation Bias: This bias occurs when recruiters favor information that confirms their preexisting beliefs about a candidate. They may focus on aspects that align with their assumptions and overlook contradictory evidence, leading to biased evaluations.
  • Halo Effect: The halo effect is when a positive impression of a candidate in one aspect (e.g., appearance, communication skills) influences the perception of their overall suitability, leading to a biased assessment of their abilities and fit for the role.
  • Similarity Bias: Recruiters may have a tendency to prefer candidates who share similar characteristics or backgrounds with them or the existing team. This can lead to a lack of diversity in the hiring process.
  • Affinity Bias: This bias occurs when recruiters are more likely to favor candidates with whom they share a personal connection or have similarities, leading to overlooking other qualified candidates.
  • Contrast Effect: Recruiters might evaluate candidates based on the comparison to the previous candidate they interviewed rather than on objective criteria, leading to an unfair assessment.
  • Stereotyping: Stereotyping involves making assumptions about candidates based on characteristics like age, gender, ethnicity, or religion. These assumptions can lead to discriminatory decisions and the exclusion of talented candidates.
  • Availability Bias: Recruiters may be influenced by the most recent or readily available information, overlooking other relevant aspects of a candidate’s profile, which can lead to incomplete evaluations.
  • Anchoring Bias: This bias occurs when recruiters fixate on initial information about a candidate, like salary expectations, and use it as a reference point, potentially influencing subsequent judgments about the candidate’s value.

Why is it important to think about unconscious biases?

Unconscious biases can cause recruiters to make “automatic” decisions without realizing, intending, or controlling them. It’s essential to be mindful of their impact and take steps to limit their influence, especially when assessing qualities, relevance, or competence of candidates. Unconscious bias can hinder equal access to professional opportunities and negatively affect individuals and organizations as a whole.

The good place to start dealing with unconscious bias is implementing video interviews. This way, each candidate will be assessed using the same standardized questions and criteria. Recruiters can share the video interviews with other stakeholders, encouraging collaboration and ensuring a more objective and inclusive evaluation.

We can help you find top IT specialists

    Let us know what you need to schedule a call