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Lessons From Current Events: 3 Recruiting Rules To Reduce Bias

Adrian Dixon

May 22, 2018

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If you’ve opened a newspaper, scrolled through your newsfeed on social media or turned on the TV lately, you’ve seen stories concerning racism, sexism, ageism and more in the workplace.

Discriminatory behaviors can damage your company’s reputation and possibly land your company in legal trouble. These biased practices are unfortunately found in recruiting. 

Here are three rules to remember when recruiting to protect yourself, your company and the candidates you interact with daily.

Rule 1: Ignore candidate demographic data on resumes

Starbucks recently came under examination for a couple different racial incidents. First, a store manager called police over two African American men citing trespassing as the offense. The men, who were peaceably waiting for someone, were arrested and escorted from the premises. After general public outcry regarding the event, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson apologized and announced a closure of all company-owned stores for a seminar on racial bias.

On the heels of this announcement, another incident took place in which a racial slur was used to identify the drink of a Latino customer. Incidents like this take place in stores, offices and public spaces across the world.

While you might not be able to stop racism worldwide, you can stop racism when it comes to your hiring practices. While you may consider yourself unbiased, you might unknowingly make judgements based on various candidate factors.

For example, various studies have shown that names can indicate race and/or socio-economic status. Seeing a particular name might cue you in on the race or economic background of that candidate. To prevent bias based on names, review all the resumes received without personal information attached. 

An easy way to do this is to use technology that screens resumes using AI that ignores candidate demographics in order to reduce unconscious bias.

Rule 2: Include more than one qualified minority in your shortlist

The New York Times spotlighted Nike for its dubious HR practices that ignored or slighted reports made by women regarding harassment, gender bias and more. The company recently took some corrective action, but only after a group of women covertly collected information from their fellow women employees and got it in the hands of Nike’s chief executive.

What do these things have to do with your role as a recruiter?

Well, there are several things you can do to help. To address harassment, make all candidates aware of your company’s policy regarding harassment in the workplace and if hired, include this information in the onboarding process and empower employees with knowledge on how to respond when harassment does take place.

Taking it further, implement steps to reduce gender bias in hiring. One effective way to do this based on research is the “two in the pool” effect: having more than one qualified woman (or minority) in the final pool of candidates significantly increased their chances of being hired (whereas having one qualified minority candidate in the final pool made their chances of being hired statistically zero).

Rule 3: Use inclusive language in your hiring

Ageism in the workplace might be subtler and therefore harder to detect, but it’s still illegal. Earlier this year, ProPublica and Mother Jones co-published disturbing findings regarding IBM’s suspected ageism. The findings allege that IBM used multiple strategies to rid its U.S. workforce of older employees, while replacing them with younger counterparts at lower wages or sending the positions overseas.

To reduce age bias in recruiting, use inclusive language in places such as your job posting (e.g., avoid phrases such as “recent graduates”). When working with managers, make them aware of age discrimination laws and train all parties involved in the recruitment process on how to recognize when age bias might come into play and steps to take to stop it from happening.

Rachel Stones writes on HR related topics for They offer simple and efficient paid time off tracking: request, approve and report employee leave and vacation days in one easy to use system.