The Impact of an Hiring Manager’s Unconscious Bias

The recruitment process plays a crucial role in determining the work culture of a company and its productivity. Hiring decisions that are based on personal biases lead to teams that are less diverse which can ultimately reflect poorly on the company culture and hinder the productivity of the company as well. By favoring one person over another, we are indirectly blocking out diversity and negatively impacting our recruitment, promotion and retention efforts, leading to unsatisfied employees.

Traditionally, the hiring process has always been susceptible to unconscious biases and preferences that creep into the hiring process as managers prefer one candidate over another on the basis of a ‘gut feeling’ or a ‘culture fit’. 

Sometimes, a specific candidate’s resume may be given preference because he/she shares the same alma mater as the interviewer or because they make an excellent first impression.

Even before actually meeting the candidate, just by looking at their resume picture, their name or hometown can result in personal biases creeping in and influencing your opinion, either positively or negatively. According to recent studies, the impression made in the first 10 seconds of an interview can impact the outcome of the interview. Another study states that employers tend to hire people that they like on a personal level. However, it is this bias towards common interests or a natural chemistry that needs to be watched out for.

It is this ‘likeability’ factor that is the most challenging one when it comes to recruitment and one that managers need to be aware of. They need to ask themselves whether it matters if they like the person they hire and if it does, how important it is. A good way to go about it is to rate candidates on their other skills during the interview. By giving likeability also a score, managers can control the likeability fact and prevent it from clouding their judgement.

Below are some of the ways in which to avoid an hiring bias when interviewing potential recruits:

  1. Re-word the job listings

Most companies are unconsciously using gender specific words in their job descriptions that are unconsciously biasing the process by attracting specific genders. Companies need to write inclusive job descriptions, using gender-neutral terminologies and phrases, in order to bring in a diverse range of candidates into the recruitment pool.

  1. Use software programs for making data-driven decisions

Although the recruitment process has traditionally always been a physical process, the recent introduction of software programs into the mix has been a blessing for many companies. Companies can now minimize unconscious bias in the applicant selection process and let intelligent data insights guide their decision-making process. Modern software programs can blind the recruitment process while reviewing applications and resumes and enhance a company’s chances of finding the most relevant candidates in the interview pool.

  1. Do an assignment/case study task during the interview

More and more companies are adopting the practice of giving assignments/case study tasks that mimic the kind of work that the candidate will be required to do in the job. The results have been positive as the performance on the assignments give the clearest indication of future job performance. Furthermore, by evaluating the assignments of various candidates, the company is able to compare the performance of various candidates and come to a more informed decision rather than unconsciously judging them based on their appearance, gender, age, and even personality.

  1. Standardize interviews

According to research, unstructured interviews are often unpredictable and unreliable for predicting job success as they lack defined questions that can lead to a candidate’s experience and expertise. In order to overcome this, it is recommended that hiring managers follow a structured interview format in which each candidate is asked the same set of defined questions. This way, companies can minimize bias and focus on the factors that have a direct impact on performance. Furthermore, by using a scorecard, companies can review how each candidate did in terms of the CV review and assignments/case study tasks, thereby making the interview a reliable and independent data point.

  1. Have an interview panel

It is better to have interview recruits through a panel composed of team members from different departments that can judge the candidates based on diverse viewpoints. This approach can help in overcoming unconscious biases and help companies in considering recruits from a wider perspective.


Ultimately, it is inescapable to avoid unconscious biases in the recruitment process. But companies can equip themselves with the right tools and processes to significantly reduce its impact on the recruitment process.  To sum up, here are some of the points that companies need to keep in mind when recruiting for a position:

  • Re-word the job listing in order to remove adjectives closely associated with a particular gender.
  • Introduce an assignment/task to compare recruits and get a prediction of future job performance.
  • Introduce a likeability score in the interview process to limit personal bias.
  • Standardize the interview process by coming up with a set of defined questions.
  • Employ software programs that limit the effect of surface demographic characteristics to bias the resume review.

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