It’s All About the Bias: How to Uncover and Address Bias in Hiring

It’s All About the Bias: How to Uncover and Address Bias in Hiring


In our last blog post in this series, we shared how, when it comes to hiring, our existing networks are probably holding us back. We explored how authorizers can learn from the innovative strategies used by charter schools to expand their talent pools.  

Today, we dig a layer deeper. Because no matter how well we utilize employee networks, partner with organizations and universities, and leverage online marketing (to name a few of those strategies), there’s another very real barrier: unconscious bias. 

Unconscious biases can seep into any hiring process, leading to a less diverse workforce.  To counteract this, we must actively uncover and address these biases. Here’s how. 

Craft Inclusive Job Descriptions 

While job descriptions play a crucial role in attracting diverse candidates, they are often, unfortunately, outdated or unintentionally biased. Research indicates that gendered language can dissuade women from applying for certain roles. To combat this, we need to seek and use bias-free language. Tools like Textio can help organizations craft job descriptions that appeal to a broader audience by focusing on core job requirements rather than subjective qualifications. 

For instance, instead of insisting on 10+ years of experience, consider if that’s truly necessary for the role. Assessing a candidate’s ability to handle key responsibilities through performance tasks can be more effective. This approach not only broadens the candidate pool but also ensures that you are evaluating applicants on their actual capabilities rather than arbitrary criteria. 

Move Beyond Resumes: Hire for Skills 

Employers typically spend a mere 7.4 seconds scanning a resume. This brevity often leads to biased decisions based on current job titles or educational backgrounds, which are weak predictors of job success. Instead, emphasize cover letters and skills-based screenings. Ask candidates to explain why they want the job and what unique qualities they bring. This can reveal their enthusiasm and suitability more accurately than a resume. 

Moreover, consider giving candidates assignments to complete that mirror actual job tasks. This allows you to directly evaluate their practical skills and work product. If the assignments are time-consuming, compensate candidates for their efforts, to show respect for their time and commitment. 

Rethink the Concept of “Fit” 

The term “fit” can often be a veil for bias. While “fit sometimes refers to a candidate’s alignment with organizational values, it more frequently means the candidate does not share the hiring manager’s background or interests. This approach excludes qualified individuals who bring diverse perspectives. Instead, focus on skills-based screenings and questions related to organizational values to make hiring decisions. 

Build Diverse Interview Teams and Standardize Processes 

Data shows us that diverse interview teams result in higher rates of hiring women and people of color. Interview panels should be diverse in skills, responsibilities, and backgrounds to assess candidates fairly. A panel might include a direct peer, a cross-functional peer, a direct report, and the hiring manager, with at least one member from a historically under-resourced group. This diversity can help candidates feel more comfortable and ensures a broader evaluation perspective.  

A structured hiring approach is also essential. According to Daisy Auger-Dominguez, this involves a clear, objective criteria list, a deliberate process, and a consistent evaluation rubric for all candidates. Start with a kickoff meeting to align on the job description and bias reduction practices. Define a rubric based on essential skills and regularly review it to eliminate embedded biases. Standardize interview questions and discuss bias mitigation strategies beforehand. After interviews, prompt discussions on potential biases. Then, make decisions based on facts rather than impressions. 

Continuous Bias Training 

Ongoing bias training for all interview panelists is critical. This training helps them understand their role, the impact of their decisions, and how to reduce bias. Regular training ensures that the team stays updated on best practices and can continuously improve the hiring process. 

By crafting inclusive job descriptions, moving beyond resumes, hiring for skills, building diverse interview teams, and standardizing decision-making processes, organizations can uncover and address biases in hiring. This creates a more diverse and inclusive workplace and also helps attract the best talent from a wide array of backgrounds. Your office and your authorizing will be the better for it. 


Explore other blogs in this series:
1. The Work is Never Done: NACSA Resources for DEI in Authorizing
2 .Navigating Equity: Watch Out for Traps and Tropes
3. DEI Deconstructed: Using the Power You Have
4. How to Build an Inclusive Workforce Culture: Let the Data Drive You
5. It Takes Effort: Inclusive Hiring to Expand Your Talent Pool

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