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Experts Weigh In on How to Reduce Biased Hiring in Corporate America

Though biased hiring can’t be fully eliminated, there is plenty that can be done to create a more diverse and inclusive hiring process and work environment.

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Nowadays, more and more companies find themselves addressing important issues in the workplace to make it inclusive for everyone. Society has normalized having what many may consider difficult, yet necessary, conversations in order to create a fair and diverse hiring process and overall work environment. One company making a positive change in regard to unbiased hiring is Indeed.

“Hiring practices are biased if they are based on factors that have nothing to do with the person’s ability to succeed on the job,” explained Ellen J. Hawes Durbin, senior director of global product commercialization and inclusive hiring at Indeed. “These are factors like the job seeker’s race, gender or age but can also be other factors, like whether the person is long-term unemployed, has a gap in their experience or doesn’t have a college degree. Unbiased hiring should be at the forefront of any business. We not only need candidates with the skills necessary to do the job, but we also need people that are motivated, passionate and ready to contribute to your company’s culture.”

Though the goal is to get rid of biased hiring, it’s not fully possible. “Bias is inherent in every process, even when the most diverse interview panels have been created. Bias can never be fully eliminated,” said Misty Gaither, director, global head of DI&B at Indeed.

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However, even being aware of biases in the hiring process can help point us in a more inclusive direction. “Even the most well-intentioned people can only mitigate and interrupt bias in the hiring process. This is accomplished by becoming more self-aware of our conscious and unconscious biases through education, and our failure to often recognize both,” Gaither continued. “A process that has a lower amount of bias is one where candidates have varied backgrounds with visible and nonvisible diversity—there is a consistent candidate experience, interview rubrics are followed and a final hiring decision is made only after a diverse set of candidates have been presented. Ultimately, an objective decision should be made based on the skills, abilities and contributions the candidate will bring to the organization, not a subjective decision based on likability, shared networks or common interests.”

Additionally, making some simple changes to the screening process can contribute to a better outcome. “A blind resume screening method could be a great start to avoid interview biases. I would also recommend reconsidering your job description and resume review processes,” said Durbin. “Give people a chance for their abilities to succeed at a position, not just their prior experience. Go beyond resumes by investing in your employees. Now more than ever, it is important to assemble a diverse hiring team. Show job seekers your efforts towards diversity and inclusivity. Make sure a job seeker can see diversity in the interview panel, so that they can feel as if they could belong in your company.”

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As a Black woman in corporate America, Gaither has a clear understanding of what unfair treatment in the hiring process feels like. “My earliest memory of bias in hiring was when I was considering internships, and I had a hiring manager tell me I would face different challenges because I didn’t fit the typical profile of a sales rep—white, tall and thin,” she said. “I didn’t have the education and language to understand what he was communicating at the time, but he was preparing me for the biases that might show up as I was interviewing.”

Fortunately, though, this experience is what inspired Gaither to help others who face similar issues in the workforce. “I sought out this career because I wanted to provide support, education and awareness to other minorities as well as those in positions of power—hiring managers, TA leaders, executives—about the systemic inequalities and barriers that exist within the hiring process and ultimately, that impacts the lifecycle of the employee,” she said about working in Indeed’s Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging department.

It’s no secret that discrimination against minorities—whether it be about gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or otherwise—has been an ongoing issue for years. For instance, even in 2021, women are still fighting for equal pay. For every dollar a man makes, a woman earns 82 cents. At this rate, it won’t be until 2059 when equal pay will finally be reached, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

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There are several events that took place in 2020, which may have contributed to and raised awareness for this push toward unbiased hiring. For instance, the tragic murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement have both inspired society to become more aware about how unfairly minorities are treated in the U.S. It’s now more crucial than ever for minorities to be seen and heard.

“These are not new problems, and there are a number of companies that have been working hard to promote more inclusive hiring for some time now,” said Abbey Carlton, head of social impact at Indeed. “But we have seen a really significant increase in awareness around these issues in the past year or so.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a part in reducing biased hiring. “In one respect, this is surprising. Typically in an economic downturn when unemployment is high, many employers are less willing to experiment with their hiring practices because they have their pick of candidates,” Carlton added. “What makes this moment different is that we are in the midst of a critical national discussion around racial equity. Employers see an opportunity to do better—to make sure all job seekers are evaluated fairly and the importance of making sure everyone in the communities where they work has access to economic opportunity. They’re also beginning to more deeply understand all of the benefits to their companies from hiring a more diverse workforce.”

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