It’s no secret that diversity is advantageous to business development. Large corporations invest millions of dollars to address a lack of diversity in the form of training programs, diversity goals, and recruiting incentives. Even with all of these resources at their disposal, these companies fall short of their own initiatives. How is it possible to eliminate such a persistent problem?

Removing implicit bias, the unconscious connotations we assign to certain groups, from the process rather than the people of an organization may be the answer.

Here are five ways to address hiring bias that can help your company hire the most qualified candidate:

1. Evaluate the job description

Word choice is essential when communicating with potential candidates. You can search for implicit biases in the subtle choice of words in your own ad copy. Using words such as “competitive,” for example, may seem innocuous, but they may be geared toward stereotypically positive male attributes (that may, conversely, be stereotypically negative when applied to women). Swapping out words and phrases that suggest a certain age range, race or age could help lessen misunderstanding and widen the pool attracted to your job posting.

2. Remove unnecessary information from resumes

The National Bureau of Economic Research found that white job seekers received 50% more callbacks than black candidates with identical resumes. In the field experiment, the researchers simply changed the name on the resume header -- a name that suggested the applicant’s race -- and nothing else.

This isn’t the only research that has shown a hiring preference for names that sound both white and male. Blind evaluation procedures, procedures that disallow a decision maker from evaluating any other than a candidate’s performance, have been shown to improve hiring rates for minorities. Removing names, photos and other non-essential information from resumes before reviewing can, therefore, help reduce needless prejudice from hampering your hiring process in the early going.

3. Set clear standards from the beginning

Evaluating candidates is difficult, especially when the rules for rating candidates are unclear. Without clear guidelines (and, perhaps, scoring systems) it can be easy to fall into hiring a candidate that fits a particular mold.

Setting your standards before you begin interviewing can help you track unconscious bias because you’ll be able to see when you may be given preferential treatment due to factors other than the standards themselves. This makes it harder to rationalize choices that aren’t explicitly tied to the credentials of the candidate. If you wish to hire a CFO with an Ivy League education, for example, you should be careful to notice if your candidates only come from local Ivy League schools, and make certain you are open to other top tier schools in other regions.

4. Structure the interview

Ideally, a structured interview will lead to new insights, instead of merely supporting a manager’s initial assumptions based on the candidate’s resume. While connecting with a potential employee on an interpersonal level is often important, it’s not always the best gauge of how an employee will perform. Sticking to a script enables the interviewer to ask the same questions, standardizing the process. So, while there is certainly still a human element to the interview, the chances of ending an interview too abruptly or straying from pertinent information is reduced significantly.

5. Look at the numbers

The best way to reduce bias in the future is to spot bias in the present. Being honest about your hiring practices, where you can improve and optimize certain aspects of it, will set you on the path of self-correction.

Assess your current practices by looking at the numbers. Out of a large pool of applicants, what percentage of qualified non-white non-male candidates were called back? How many made it through several rounds of interviews? Posing questions like this can help you allow you to address bottlenecks quickly and efficiently.

Conclusion

Implicit biases are extremely hard to extricate from how we hire, as these biases are largely unconscious, and rarely meant to be purposefully inimical. Restructuring a flawed hiring process, rather than retraining and re-educating recruiters and managers, may be one way to improve diversity in organizations looking to boost collaboration and drive innovation. Tweaking the language present in your job descriptions, taking a merit-based approach to reading through resumes, and setting clear standards can help reduce implicit bias. Standardizing interviews and administering can serve to level the playing field. Reviewing the process, by objectively looking at the data, can assist you as you as you reassess and adjust your own hiring practices.

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