Battling the Unconscious Bias: How to Objectively Evaluate Candidates When Hiring
Unconscious bias in the recruiting process hurts everyone. Employers miss out on qualified talent, productivity is hampered, and company cultures remain stagnant. Not to mention these types of hiring practices are illegal. Learn how smart packaging firms are addressing these biases and improving talent acquisition.
It’s human nature to have natural biases towards others. We look for people like ourselves that share the same backgrounds, values, beliefs, etc. That’s why creating an “ideal” candidate for a job opening (or relying too heavily on employee referrals) is so problematic.
You’re effectively introducing more of the same kind of workers you already have.
Needless to say, this mentality does nothing to promote diversity or strengthen your company culture. Just the opposite. Yet, by recognizing and addressing areas where such biases exist, organizations can work to reduce them. Here are a few strategies top brands use to add depth to their talent pool.
Clearly Define Your Packaging Job Requirements
The war on bias reduction begins in the early stages of the hiring process. Long before the first packaging professional visits your website or applies for an open position. It starts with creating great job descriptions that are both accurate and inviting to potential candidates.
A smart approach is to use gender-neutral language and avoid strong adjectives in your job descriptions. For sometimes a single misconstrued word is all it takes to provoke a negative response in applicants.
For example, descriptors like competitive, fearless, or dominant tend to attract male candidates. While words such as committed, cooperative, and collaborative often resonate more with female job seekers. As a best practice, limit emotionally-charged words and focus on the actual job requirements instead.
Doing so prevents alienating good candidates and helps to increase applicant diversity.
As far as the job requirements themselves, get input from existing team members and those already familiar with the role. These experts know what skills and knowledge are needed better than anyone else. Have the team come up with a half-dozen critical job functions and use these as the focal point to evaluate your applicants.
Be sure to include these requirements in your job descriptions, ATS resources, and interview questions as well. Because a consistent message and established standards promote fairness in the hiring process.
Focusing On Experience Decreases Recruiting Bias
Let’s face it - using resumes to shortlist packaging executives and conduct interviews doesn’t always work. Because no matter how good someone looks on paper, it’s no guarantee of future success. Instead of worrying about previous job titles or positions, hone in on experience and accomplishments instead.
These are far better indicators of a candidate’s potential and probable fit within your corporate culture. A great way to gauge their prowess is to conduct a focused skills test.
Skills assessments bring a more informed and holistic approach to the decision-making process. Because these tests reveal if a candidate has the necessary skills, abilities, behaviors, and personality traits to excel within a given role.
They also provide an objective “yardstick” to measure candidates against one another.
It’s important to note that skills tests should involve the exact same work employees will be expected to perform. For this is the only true way to ensure an accurate assessment. Properly-designed skills tests minimize judgements on appearances, awards, personal intuition or any other non-objective evaluation metrics.
Standardize The Interview Process To Remain Objective
Another bygone recruiting technique is to let candidate interviews “flow” and just see where the discussion takes them. This method inherently leads to an unconscious recruiting bias as “likable” candidates tend to get more attention than others (whether they deserve it or not). Needless to say, there are better strategies to find the right talent including:
- Conducting structured interviews - as the name implies, structured interviews have an agenda and are more organized than their traditional counterparts. Every candidate is asked the exact same set of questions and given equal time to respond. This provides a more accurate (and less biased) way to rank your talent pool.
- Using an interview scorecard - to evaluate candidate answers against a set of predefined grading criteria. Standards that all interviewers have agreed upon ahead of time and understand how to apply uniformly across the board. It’s also a good idea to assign individual questions to specific interviewers (to prevent strong personalities from dominating the conversation).
- Implementing panel interviews - that include members from both sexes, multiple age groups, and offer cultural diversity. Doing so reduces unconscious biases by moving away from assumptions and feelings towards facts and measurable data.
- Limiting external influences - like scouring for web references, checking social media accounts, or other preliminary research prior to interviewing. While it seems harmless enough, this type of “snooping” can negatively impact your perception of candidates long before you ever meet them.
Some packaging companies take it a step further and include “blind interviews” as part of the hiring process. This technique involves removing names, ages, genders, and ethnicities during the screening phase. Once again to minimize unconscious bias and instead focus on each candidate’s specific skills and experience.
In addition to rating applicants during this time, take note of any personality or character traits that stand out during interviews. When combined with the objective data you gather, these clues may reveal the fit with your existing company culture.
In the end, completely eliminating recruiting bias is nearly impossible. Most packaging organizations don’t even realize these problems exist until others point them out. Yet, there’s no excuse to condone them and the law says they must be addressed.
Acknowledging the issue is the first step. Taking action to correct it is the second.
Begin by creating inclusive job descriptions focused more on requirements than titles or positions. Conduct structured, panel interviews with standardized questions and dissimilar group members. Utilize skills tests and interview scorecards to grade each applicant objectively.
In other words, emphasize the importance of creating a diverse workforce. If not, your competitors will gladly do it for you.
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