Cognitive bias is rooted in thought processing errors often arising from problems with memory, attention, attribution, and other mental mistakes.
We all want an equal, diverse and productive workforce. When it comes to recruitment, many businesses have structures and policies in place to stop any known forms of discrimination.
But what about cognitive bias? While not always discriminatory, cognitive bias can be a huge problem and is not always easily recognised. Don’t let unconscious bias affect your recruitment – here are some examples to think about:
- Anchoring bias: the tendency to over-rely on the first bit of information we receive.
- Affinity bias: the tendency to like people who are similar to us or remind us of someone we like.
- Primacy and recency effects: remembering the first and last candidates better than others.
- Confirmation bias: tendency to seek information that supports our existing beliefs.
- Halo effect: the tendency for one positive impression created in an area to influence our opinion in another area.
- Horn-effect: the tendency for one negative impression created in an area to influence our opinion in another area.
- Misinformation effect: the tendency for post-interview information to interfere with our original memory of the interview.
Although cognitive biases are automatic and difficult to pinpoint, it is important that businesses take steps to eliminate or minimise the effect on recruitment decision-making. Some examples of strategies we use are:
Open the conversation about cognitive bias
Ensuring that all employees are aware of unconscious biases and their effects on business decisions and strategies. Talking about biases and how to avoid them will result in employees feeling more comfortable admitting to biases they didn’t realise they had.
Implement “interrupters” into your recruitment process. These are pauses or planned reflections throughout your decision process that force the recruiter to step back and assess the situation for any unconscious biases.
Re-evaluate your application process
Start with the way you write your job ads all the way to signing the contract!
- Write ad content and interview questions that are role-specific essentials and not written in a way to sway towards a certain type of person. For example, “masculine words” will lead to more males applying than woman and vice versa.
- Remove all demographic information from applications! This will allow recruiters to look purely on relevant qualifications, skills and experience minimising the risk of stereotyping.
- Interviews are understandably the most susceptible to unconscious biases. For this reason, the overall hiring decisions should be based on a variety of different assessments. You should ensure that all interview conditions are the same for each applicant.
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