Unconscious Bias in Recruiting

Paige Buchanan, Recruitment Specialist

We may not be consciously bias, aware and intentional about our biases, but we are all unconsciously bias. Unconscious bias is social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Unconscious bias happens any time we make snap judgments based on readily available criteria rather than objective information.

In the recruiting process, there are 11 common forms of unconscious bias. Over the next few months, we will discuss these biases and how to avoid them during your recruiting process. 

Most Common Forms of Unconscious Bias:

1. Affinity Bias 

This bias is our tendency to gravitate toward people like ourselves. That might mean hiring or promoting someone who shares the same race, gender, age or educational background. We tend to hire for “culture fit” when we really should be looking for a “culture add”. We meet someone we like, and we think they’ll get along well with the team, but it’s not helping the team ultimately grow and diversify. Similarities shouldn’t automatically disqualify a candidate, but they shouldn’t be the deciding factor. 

How to avoid affinity bias:

Actively take note of the similarities you share with the candidate so you can differentiate between attributes that may cloud your judgement versus the concrete skills, experiences and unique qualities that would contribute to your team as a “culture add” rather than “culture fit”. 

2. Ageism 

Discriminating against someone based on their age. Ageism tends to affect women more than men and starts at younger ages. 

How to avoid ageism: 

Train your department to understand the issue of ageism and debunk the myths about workers of different ages. Age diversity is an essential piece to diversity recruiting efforts. 

3. Attribution Bias 

People have a cognitive bias to assume that a person’s actions depend on what “kind” of person that person is rather than the social and environmental forces that influence that person. 

How to avoid attribution bias:

Rather than assume a candidate is unfit for the job because they were late to the interview, seemed distracted, etc. just ask the candidate what happened. It could be totally innocent and unprecedented. If there is something on their resume or they said something during the interview that caused you to draw conclusions about the candidate, ask them further clarifying questions. Don’t forget that interviewees are often nervous and may misspeak or stumble. Give them a chance to share their full story with you before you judge.