written by
Jenni Murto

Unconscious bias in recruiting + practical tools to avoid it

3 min read

Much of the UK’s high potential business and tech talent is held back by traditional talent attraction. The hiring process is still often unfair and full of bias. 96% of recruiters thought unconscious bias was a problem in 2019.

Most likely unconscious bias affects everyone’s approach to hiring, whether they like it or not; the types of questions they ask, the resumes they prefer and all other decisions made when comparing candidates. A candidate's name alone has shown to immediately cause bias. Candidates from minority ethnic backgrounds have to send 80% more applications to get the same results as a White-British person. Candidates may also get asked different questions to justify biases.

It’s important to seek to understand what hiring prejudices are and how they operate. Awareness training is a first step to unravel unconscious bias. It allows people to recognise that everyone possesses them and identify their own. Awareness training will support learning how to manage one’s own biases and changed behaviour. This should lead to open conversation about the steps the organisation can take going forward.

Many different types of unconscious bias can sway one’s opinion of a candidate, though most common is typically affinity bias.

Types of unconscious bias

Infographic common types of unconscious bias

It’s clear that stereotyping is having a notable impact on recruitment – but how exactly can we avoid it?

It comes down to unlearning bias. Unconscious bias in hiring may be hard to root out and take time. There are some strategies and practical software that will help to get started. More tools for unbiased recruiting are being created every day. Below you’ll find a few great examples.

Tools to support unbiased hiring

Unconscious bias awareness training

Harvard University’s free Implicit Association Tests (IATs) help to identify levels of implicit bias. This can be a good place to start awareness training, conversation and understanding the topic among teams and employees, or just any individual interested in learning about their own biases. Project Implicit focuses on racial bias and a variety of other biases found in a multicultural workplace.

Project Include, founded by tech leaders from Slack and Pinterest, gives chief executives recommendations and tools to improve diversity and create more inclusive work environments in tech.

Sourcing & career pages

Unbiasify Chrome Extension is a free Google Chrome extension that enables users to hide names and photos and source candidates from sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, to mitigate any unconscious bias and help focus on what actually matters.

Gender Decoder is a free site that screens job descriptions to find any subtle linguistic gender-coding that research has shown to have a discouraging effect on women applying for jobs.

Textio is an augmented writing platform that brings advanced language insights into hiring and employer brand content and helps companies create more inclusive job descriptions.

Blind hiring platforms

Equalture is an exciting platform that replaces the traditional resume with a set of neuroscientific games, and then provides a data-backed assessment of the skills and behaviours of a candidate. The aim is to help organisations to get unbiased, data-backed first impression and scientific insights while improving the candidate experience.

Applied is purpose-built platform on a mission to remove unconscious bias, enable organisational accountability and fuel an enjoyable, fair experience for everyone in the talent ecosystem, from candidate to hiring manager. They also have a variety of free resources from guides to templates available on their website.

Toggl Hire is a smart skills tests software which helps organisations to screen and hire the candidates fairer and faster with automation. They offer a freemium and inexpensive plans for smaller teams.

Pinpoint is a modern applicant tracking system that promises to help you with everything from attracting, hiring and retaining top talent, but they also have some free downloadable resources and templates that can be a helpful step towards an improved, structured hiring process.