We all have our biases, unfortunately. As we continue towards a more progressive and understanding society that breaks down barriers, we still tend to prefer those who look and are similar to us. This is unconscious bias and it’s affecting your business more than you might know. You might be doing your best to make your startup the most inclusive, tolerant, accepting company it can be, without realizing that you have unconscious biases that are slanting your hiring practices, sales techniques, and career opportunities. From a personal and business perspective, this is not something that you can ignore.
In a structured interview, use a pre-written script of questions that isn’t slanted towards one type of person. Make certain the document focuses on key aspects of the role your interviewing for and doesn’t stray into areas where unconscious bias will adversely affect the meeting. This person applied for a job, has enough qualifications that they got in the door, and they have made it to the interview on time. That’s all that should matter.
Simple things like addresses and names can be enough to set off unconscious bias. You don’t want them to affect how you see someone, but if you heard bad things about a particular neighbourhood or there’s a name from childhood that doesn’t sit well with you, it could unfairly impact the candidate you were thinking of hiring. If possible, allow for application or resume submissions with certain pieces of information left out. You could even take resumes as normal, but have a secretary or other employee redact sections that could trigger unconscious bias. It may seem odd, but everyone should be given the same chances and if this helps even the playing field, it’s a great option.
Wording is incredibly important in your job postings, not only so people understand what exactly the role is you need filled, but because, if you’re not careful, your word choices could be alienating potential applicants from diverse backgrounds. Be sure to read through your job descriptions as thoroughly as you can before posting them online. Get feedback from around the office, friends and family, and colleagues. Then, even after you’ve posted it, if you keep getting the same type of person coming in for interviews, go back and see what you can change about the posting. Words have power and yours could be sending the wrong message to the right people.
We live in a world that’s breaking boundaries and crushing stereotypes each and every day. It sucks that our brains still cling to certain primitive safety precautions, but being aware of it means we can change. Transform unconscious bias into conscious acceptance and you’ll go far, personally and professionally.