Our recruitment systems are riddled with hiring biases
They always have been. But we need to manage them more urgently than ever post COVID19.
If anyone had said on January 1, 2020, that within four months most of those who could, would be working from home, would you have believed them? If they went on to say we would have no open shops, cinemas, public sports, events, concerts, restaurants or conference centres – how would that have sounded? That we couldn’t touch each other and would have to stand 1.5m apart. Surreal? Dystopian? Could we have anticipated there would be millions unemployed facing a global depression?
We can’t solve new problems with old mindsets and solutions. I see every day people clinging onto the old way of doing things, when it’s clear that we have to totally disrupt our approach. Never has this been more apparent than in the recruitment process, when hiring biases, which were always out of place, stand out like nuns in a whore house, as the saying goes.
Which hiring biases do we need to manage now?
This is of course on top of the other embedded biases. These additional biases are so self-evident that we almost accept them as being OK. Career coaches openly offer work-arounds to manage them. But this places the stress on the job seeker and not on the systems they are forced to use and people who they interact with.
In times of mass unemployment and economic and social upheaval these biases, cut top talent from consideration. It started out as a joke but has more than a grain of truth. Many organisational changes have been brought about by COVID19. Remote working, digital, flex, results focused cultures. Maybe the pandemic will help us examine our biases.
Starting in March 2020 — @gwesterman pic.twitter.com/DKAgj8n9Qd
— MIT Sloan Management Review (@mitsmr) September 3, 2020
1. Unemployment bias
I have written about unemployment bias before and the extraordinary way people are being encouraged and coached to disguise the fact that they have lost their jobs, or their company has folded. Job seekers displaying the green LinkedIn circle or showing the #ONO hashtag are being publicly shamed as being “desperate,” as if they didn’t have enough to deal with. This bias is very prevalent in the US, but less so in other areas and can be misleading for non-American job seekers. Ideally it shouldn’t happen, but at least we need to see more nuanced advice around this.
2. Continuous employment bias
It is highly likely that job seekers will have gaps in their employment history in 2020. This does not mean they are work-shy, but they have been impacted by COVID19. Instead of penalizing them, ask what went on for them. I have found it incredible the challenges people have overcome.
3. Non-linear career bias
Some job seekers are taking any job to support themselves or their families. If someone has taken a lower level role as an interim measure, don’t hold that against them. Rather see it as an indication of work ethic and integrity. Holding out for your “dream job” is a luxury now that many can’t afford.
4. Non-related experience bias
We also frequently penalise job seekers for having non-related experience in their previous role. In today’s climate this is going to be a more common occurrence. It’s important to factor circumstances in.
5. Job-hopper bias
If a candidate has multiple jobs in quick succession, this isn’t a sign of being unreliable or feckless. This is how our economies are right now.
6. Goal bias
Our cultures like goals of all kinds. We admire people who achieve their goals, especially in record time. We consider anyone without goals to be unfocused or even sloppy. But never has the interview question “where do you see yourself in five years time?” been more redundant and inappropriate. Do interviewers think people have crystal balls?
That question needs serious reframing, almost to a coaching question around ideal life or “what do you hope for?” Nine months they were making plans for their futures. Now they can’t leave the house without taking health and safety precautions or even plan a vacation.
The geo-political situations in some areas look like potential scenes from a doomsday movie. It is hard for many to think long-term right now.
7. Happy and confident bias
There is no doubt that the interview process favours certain characteristics. Positive mental attitude, confidence and extraversion are at the top of the list. Today, it is totally OK for any candidate to express uncertainty or concern and to show signs of reflection. Individuals are losing their jobs, or worse family members.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t have the competencies to do a job. Don’t forget that over-confidence has been blamed for some of the worst crises in history. It’s time for measured and managed realism. Interviewers should be looking for it.
Find your humanity
We have always needed to reframe and mange our hiring biases and COVID19 has accelerated that need. Instead interviewers should show empathy and find out what is going on for candidates.
When people talk about bringing humanity to the workplace post pandemic, the hiring process is a good place to start.
If your organisation needs to review your hiring process – get in touch NOW.