Unconscious Bias in Recruiting

Paige Buchanan, Recruitment Specialist

Over the past few months we’ve reviewed several forms of unconscious bias in recruiting: Affinity bias, Ageism, Attribution bias, Confirmation Bias, Conformity Bias, and The Halo Effect. These biases occur when we make snap judgements based on readily available information which can lead to a negative impact on our inclusive recruiting efforts. This month, we will review three more forms of Unconscious Bias: The Horns Effect, Contrast Effect and Gender Bias.   

Horns Effect  

Tendency people have to view another person negatively after learning something unpleasant or negative about them. This is essentially the opposite of the Halo effect. This can cause hiring teams to weed out candidates based on something trivial as the candidate working with a company you personally dislike or the candidate displays a particular quirk or mannerism during the interview you find annoying. Such traits may alter your perception of the candidate entirely even though it’s a small factor and it may not even be relevant.   

Ways to avoid Bias:  

If you have a negative feeling about a candidate, take the time to figure out exactly where that ‘gut feeling’ is coming from. It may be something superficial or insignificant that shouldn’t affect their chance at the role.   

Contrast Effect  

Compare two or more things you have come into contact with causing you to exaggerate the performance of one in contrast to the other. This can be a mind-bender, but it’s also one of the most common types of bias in recruiting. When you’re reviewing a lot of candidates, it can be easy to compare one application to the next in the stack and determine which one is better from the other. Same goes for interviews.  

Ways to avoid bias:  

Create a structured application review and interview process so you team can compare applications and interview answers as apples to apples rather than apples and oranges.   

Gender Bias  

Tendency to prefer one gender over another. One study found that both men and women prefer male job candidates, so much that in general a man is 1.5x more likely to be hired than a woman.   

Ways to Avoid Bias:  

When reviewing resumes and interviews, be aware of your bias and ask yourself why you prefer one candidate over the other. Always compare candidates based on skill and merit rather than traits that can cloud your judgement of them.