More and more companies have become aware of how important an inclusive culture is to the workplace. But there are still barriers that can get in the way of creating a more diversified workforce. One of these barriers is the presence of unconscious biases. Unconscious biases can be prevalent in different aspects of the workplace but they can be especially prominent during recruitment cycles.

So, how can organisations make the hiring process equal for everyone? Using an ATS, hiring managers can implement systems and use tools to ensure unconscious bias does not impact the hiring process.

What is unconscious bias?

Unconscious biases are any subconscious preferences you may have that could have an effect on your opinion. These biases are known to be a part of human nature, but they can become a real hindrance if you’re trying to recruit the best and brightest applicants.

There are several different types of biases such as ageism, affinity bias, confirmation bias, beauty bias, and more. The common factor in all these different types of biases is that they typically occur without us even realising. As an example, a recruiter may be unconsciously biased towards applicants who are the same gender or attended the same university they did.

Making hiring decisions based on these preferences and biases means recruiters can disregard other applicants who would be more suited for the role, shrinking the potential talent pool. This can occur during both external and internal recruitment. In fact, 79% of HR professionals agree that unconscious biases exist in recruitment. By eliminating unconscious biases from the hiring process, you’re ensuring that not only will your workplace be more diverse but you’ll be making more accurate external and internal hiring decisions.

Here are some ways you can diversify your company’s recruitment process:

Outline internal diversity goals

One of the first steps in diversifying your company culture and hiring strategy is to understand what is missing and set solid goals according to this. This could mean figuring out what diversity means to your company and what groups are currently underrepresented, both internally and externally.

Once you’ve identified specific targets and strategies, it’s crucial that everyone within your company is aware of these goals. In terms of recruitment, it’s especially important that your hiring managers and recruiters are on the same page in terms of diversifying their talent search when filling new roles. It will help to monitor the metrics as well: applicant funnels, interview conversion rates, and acceptances. Implementing regular awareness training for your employees can also be useful in ensuring everyone is constantly reminded of these goals and values.

Use non-gendered language

One of the most common ways unconscious bias manifests is through language, especially gendered language. Many people don’t realise how gendered implications and biases in language can affect the recruitment process. This usually occurs when writing job descriptions. Job descriptions are a crucial part of recruitment and act as a candidate’s first impression of the company and role available.

According to research, women were less likely to apply for jobs that used more masculine coded words (eg. ‘active’, ‘confident’, ‘driven’) yet this gap was less significant in how feminine coded words (eg. ‘honest’, ‘support’) affected male applicants. By limiting the use of gendered language when writing job descriptions, and other types of content your company publishes (eg. blog posts) you’ll increase the number of candidates and ensure you’re receiving applications and hiring candidates from more diverse groups.

Explore new job boards & channels

These days, more and more businesses are exploring new ways to advertise job vacancies. Another way you could diversify your applicant pool is to branch out to new job portals or new methods of advertising vacancies. If you limit your job adverts to a small number of job portals you’ll also be limiting the number and type of potential applicants you’re likely to reach.

Don’t limit yourself to professional job portals, many companies are utilising other social media platforms such as Instagram to advertise their vacancies. This means using more than just job descriptions and using more visual aids such as videos and infographics to advertise the role. By using more non-traditional methods, you’ll be reaching a wider and more diverse audience.

Our ATS (applicant tracking system) software is able to help you create your very own custom careers site and candidate portal, which not only helps compile all applications but creates a platform to tell your company story and convey its values and culture.

Keep your talent pool focused

As previously mentioned, one of the ways unconscious biases affect hiring is when hiring managers recruit candidates with which they share similarities. An experiment in the US also revealed that CV’s with African American, Asian, and Hispanic names were less likely to be invited for interviews.

One way employers can minimise the impact of these biases is to keep your talent search focused on the skills necessary to succeed in the role. By having recruiters view the applications blind, or partially blind, employers will be reducing the impact of these biases on recruitment.

You’ll be able to do this with software such as our ATS system, using the talent search feature. With talent search, employers can quickly identify which candidates would be best suited for the role by highlighting specific skill sets, which our automated system presents in a readable format. By focusing on necessary industry skills, you minimise the risk of unconscious biases affecting who you’re hiring.

Offer video interviews

Online video interviews are slowly becoming a recruitment norm, especially in this post COVID-19 world. But video interviews are not just important during a pandemic, they can greatly help a company in establishing a more diverse workplace.

Through offering video interviews early on in the interview process, typically as the first interview, you’ll be making the process more accessible for applicants. This is especially true for applicants who may not be able to travel to the office space during these initial stages, typically due to health and financial reasons. With more accessible video interviews, you’ll then be able to even out the playing field early on in the hiring process.

Implement skills testing

Blind skills testing is one of the most effective ways to reduce the chances of unconscious bias affecting your hiring decisions. Traditionally, recruiters would solely rely on a candidate’s CV and cover letter to aid in their decision-making. This method is flawed in that recruiters are not truly able to see how strong their skills are in practice.

Through using blind skills tests early on in the application process, hiring managers won’t be able to see any information regarding the candidate apart from their test results. They’ll then be able to see the candidate’s experience in practice, which will result in more accurate and less biassed hiring decisions. You’ll also be streamlining your recruitment process as you’ll be filtering out those candidates who fail to practically prove their suitability for the role. These tests can often also be used for internal recruitment, onboarding, and to upskill existing employees.

With our recruitment management system, you can take advantage of our ATS’s candidate screening feature. This allows you to easily implement pre-screening ‘killer questions’, which help filter through large volumes of applications, which assess a candidates suitability for the role in question. This feature is extremely useful to streamline hiring and reduce the effects of unconscious biases.

Don’t let biases get in the way of your perfect hire

Biases are a part of human nature, and it’s almost impossible to completely eliminate them. But it is important for any company today to be aware of the implicit and unconscious biases that may be present and affecting their company culture. In diversifying your workplace, you’ll not only be helping to diversify the wider industry but you’ll also establish a more dynamic team with varying, and arguably more creative, perspectives.

To find out more about how our ATS and recruitment software can help diversify your workplace, feel free to contact us and we’ll help you find the best solutions for your organisation.

About the author

Tristan Potter

Tristan has a decade's worth of experience writing content and copy for organisations across Bristol and the Southwest of England. He has written on a diverse range of topics, including technology, philosophy, politics, and recruitment. His writing has appeared in The Drum, HR Grapevine, and The Guardian, among other publications. He joined Hireserve in March 2022.