Unbiased hiring starts at the beginning

Here is our take on unbiased recruitment. Because even though we call ourselves experts on objective hiring, we are also affected by unconscious and predetermined biases. Whether we know it or not. Especially cognitive biases that exist in our day-to-day interactions and for us recruiters, they can be spread out during the hiring process. But there are many things you can do to become more unbiased and counter the things which could negatively impact our decision-making and recruitment process. We wanted to share our approach and some practical tips, so you quickly can assess your own hiring method. 


– What is unbiased recruitment?
– How do you make recruitment unbiased?
– How to create an unbiased process
– Using AI for unbiased recruitment
– Can AI help create a bias-free interview?
– What are cognitive biases?
– 4 common biases to look out for
– What is prejudice?

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What is unbiased recruitment?

Unbiased recruitment is a process focused on identifying and selecting future colleagues based on their skills and competencies. Without taking background or appearance into consideration. When you don’t allow unconscious biases to affect the recruitment process, job-seekers can be assessed in a fair way. When done right, unbiased recruitment can promote openness and belonging which leads to a more inclusive environment.

How do you make recruitment unbiased?

To be able to create measurable data from your process, you need to focus on the right areas for data collection and decide on the right competence for the specific role you’re recruiting for. A common misconception is that competence consists only of theoretical or practical knowledge and this is the most common area of basing your selection decision on, if only looking at a resume for example. The optimal combination for defining competence is not only to look for specific knowledge and experience, but also personality traits, aptitude and motivation. Competence should always be related to a specific task or situation and the different areas might therefore vary in importance depending on what role you’re recruiting for, meaning, one candidate might be very competent for one role, but the opposite for another.

How to create an unbiased process

Screen for competency in the beginning
Integrate a screening step before even looking at a resume. This will assist you with creating objective stats and data for your process.

Keep it structured
Structuring your process and controlling how you measure relevant data is key for you decision-making and analysis. Select your parameters, stick to them throughout the process and make sure you use the same data for all your applicants when reviewing results.

Make sure to exclude pictures
There’s the old expression, a picture says more than a thousand words. And it sure does, it says a lot of the person looking at the picture and what biases they have. In recruitment that does not help us overcome our preconceived opinions

No age
Age is just a number, but knowing someone’s age during a recruitment process might unconsciously trigger our mind to fall into the bias-trap. A common misconception is that we think that someone older or younger should have different energy-levels, or certain personality traits that we falsely connect with age.

Diversity is a process, not a policy
One of the keys for understanding your work around creating a diverse workforce is understanding that diversity needs real commitment, it needs continuous work, and it needs alignment. Just forming a policy around your diversity doesn’t create the deep impact. To get real results you need to be working with awareness, highlight the areas in your organization with high impact, educate your co-workers on benefits, on business value but also pitfalls.

Watch out for unconscious bias in the interview
The first interview is a critical part of the recruitment funnel and a place where unconscious biases play the biggest part. Our first impressions are strong and colors our judgment. Make sure you have a good structure, use skill-based questions, make sure you get all of the answer written down, stick to you questions, don’t improvise. Try not to assume things from the candidates answer, ask instead, bring clarification if something is unclear.

Using AI for unbiased recruitment

AI can gather large amounts of data to assist recruiters in comparing applications. Humans are… human! It is difficult for a human interviewer to assess all candidates without bias or preconceived ideas about whether a candidate will fit into an organization. AI is objective so any analysis will be scientifically factual. It can also deal with volumes of work much more quickly. In an industry where speed is key to hiring the best talent, it makes sense for organizations to become early adopters of the technology as AI can reduce the time to hire by many days.

Here you can read more about how AI creates a fair and exciting interview.

Can AI help create a bias-free interview?

Today, several softwares can help assess blind resumes. In addition to chatbots that can be used to screen applicants. But until now, there haven’t been any HR-tech tools, that could take away bias from the interview. So we developed Tengai, an innovative screening meeting that combines conversational AI and an unbiased recruitment methodology, to change that. To ensure that Tengas’ framework is 100% unbiased, we asked psychometric experts to test the interview and validate the assessment. The results show that Tengai can conduct objective interviews, assess work performance, and contribute to a more unbiased interview process.

Here you can read more about the science behind Tengai. 

Interview screening with a Conversational AI robot

What are cognitive biases?

A cognitive bias is a misstep, a systematic error, in thinking, assessing, collecting, processing, or interpreting information that affects the decision or judgment we make. It’s a pattern of deviation from standards in judgment, whereby inferences may be created unreasonably. People create their own subjective social reality from their own perceptions and their view of the world may dictate their behavior. Cognitive biases are a result of human processing limitations, coming about because of an absence of appropriate mental mechanisms, or just from human limitations in information processing

4 common biases to look out for

1. Similarity bias. One of the most common bias effects in recruiting is that we tend to like people that resemble ourselves over people that are different from us. It’s human nature to want to surround ourselves with people we like and feel we have things in common with. And the work environment is no different. Because you want to be sure that you’ll get on with whoever you’re going to be spending a third of your day working alongside. This bias often happens when a recruiter hires candidates with similar traits or characteristics. Even when those traits aren’t correlated with job performance.

2. Confirmation bias. When we make a judgment about another person, we subconsciously look for evidence to back up our own opinions of that person. Even when we make snap decisions based on perceived truths, we spend the rest of the time, subconsciously or not, trying to justify our bias. We might ask irrelevant questions, trying to elicit answers that support our initial assumption about the candidate. This tends to happen when we want to believe that our instincts are right. Or that our assessment of the candidate is correct.

3. Conformity bias. This bias occurs when our decision-making can be affected by group peer pressure. Conformity bias can cause individuals to sway their opinion of a candidate to match the opinion of the majority. The problem is that the majority is not always right. This may cause your team to miss out on an excellent candidate because individual opinions become muddled in a group setting.

4. Beauty bias. This is the view that beautiful people are more successful. It comes down to how our brains are hard-wired. We tend to think that the most handsome individual will be the most successful. Beauty bias can be linked to the anchoring bias in that it can be common for recruiters to try and fill a role by finding a candidate who has a similar appearance to the person leaving because they subconsciously believe that’s how a person looks, affecting how they will perform in the job.

What is prejudice?

Bias and prejudice are usually considered to be closely related. Prejudice is prejudgement or forming of an opinion before becoming aware of the relevant facts of a case. It’s often used to refer to preconceived, usually unfavorable, judgments towards people or a person because of their gender, political position, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race/ethnicity, language, nationality, or other personal characteristics. Prejudice can also refer to unfounded beliefs and may include any unreasonable attitude that is unusually resistant to rational influence.

Ageism – discrimination due to an individual’s age, whether they are old or young.

Classism – discrimination due to an individual’s social class, “upper-class”, “lower-class” etc.

Lookism – discrimination on the basis of physical appearance and attractiveness.

Racism – consists of ideologies based on a desire to dominate or a belief in the inferiority of another race.

Sexism – discrimination due to a person’s sex or gender.

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