Imagine moving to a foreign country, with little notice, and were told that you would have to get a job in three months. What, and more importantly, how would you do? Now imagine you found that perfect job; it is just like job you have now, perfectly fitting your skills and talents. So, you apply.
What would be the bias’s you would encounter?
Will you be judged because of the country you’re from? Will your education be respected or even recognized in this new country? What about how you talk? Even if you can speak the language well enough, your phrasing, terminology, and cultural sayings will be different, which makes communication more challenging and joking near impossible. How many people have you hired that didn’t laugh at your jokes?
What do you think your chances are of getting the job even if you are the best candidate?
Back to reality. When it comes to hiring, biases that lead to mistaken assumptions can seriously damage a great candidate’s chances, leave you open to litigation, and ultimately reduce your ability to hire the best person for the role. What's worse, while many employers have taken steps to eliminate unconscious bias from hiring, there are certain groups that are often overlooked. For them, facing a job search as though they have just moved to a foreign country is not a thought exercise, it is their reality. The traditional way of hiring has put them at more of a disadvantage than you might realize.
The men and women who serve our country deserve a smooth transition back to civilian life, but all too often, they don’t have the standard-looking resumé you expect. If you are scanning resumes for specific content or your applicant tracking system is set up to filter resumés for certain keywords, their talents and skills can easily go unnoticed. And if they do make it to the phone screening or interview stage, how they communicate and the way they present information can sometimes feel totally different from all the other candidates. Without either party realizing why, they may be ruled out because of how they spoke, what terminology they used to describe their skills, or how they presented information (formal vs. informal)—and not anything substantive and merit-based.
Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Candidates with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) also often come across with a style and presence that feels totally differently to all other candidates, and has a profound effect on their ability to find work. In the US alone, the unemployment rate among adults with autism is as high as 86%. This is driven, in part, by the interpersonal experience that interviewers naturally expect from candidates. If an applicant with ASD avoids eye contact, for example, the interviewer may write them off as a poor culture fit or bad communicator—even if these things will have no impact on their ability to do the job.
Not everyone chooses to (or has the opportunity to) take the same path to accumulate professional skills and abilities. Candidates who taught themselves the skills they need to excel in a role, despite having no formal education, too often are unlikely to make the interview pile. History is littered with examples of amazing people who didn’t go to college—from Henry Ford to Anna Wintour and Rachel Ray— do you want to be the one who passed up on hiring Steve Jobs because of a quick glance at his educational background? Judging someone on educational pedigree rather than skills and talent may cost you the next big thing.
Simple steps to create a fair hiring process for all
Bias goes beyond the things you can see. Blind resumés and similar practices might reduce bias against women or individuals of various ethnicities, but there are still many groups like the ones described above who face disproportional challenges in the hiring process. Go ahead and google famous or influential people with ASD or without a college degree, or who served our country and then ask yourself: how many fantastic candidates has your company inadvertently passed on because of these biases lurking in your hiring process?
Here is the good news; with a few simple steps you can start leveling the playing field for disadvantaged groups now, making the process fair and consistent for all candidates.
Avoid industry or company terminology. Stuffing your job descriptions and interview questions with industry-specific jargon puts candidates who do not come from your industry, like veterans, at a disadvantage. It is true that at times knowledge of terminology is important, but if it is not (hint: it is usually not important) terminology loading is just applying a bias that is leading you to disqualify candidates for the irrelevant reasons. Stop it!
Banish the beer test. For some, culture fit is judged based on which candidates you’d like to go have a coffee or beer with. Unfortunately, the only thing the ‘beer test’ measures is how much you will enjoy happy hour after the work day is over and not how successful your work day will be. Such ‘tests’, driven by individual comfort level, commonly puts certain groups at a disadvantage, such as those on the ADS scale or those from very different cultural backgrounds, as they may not get your jokes or fit your formula for social interactions. However, a mix of different personalities and perspectives (i.e. diversity) is good for business; making the workplace more productive, welcoming, and attuned to the customers its serving. So, ditch the culture fit ‘beer test’ and start looking for a culture add instead. Will they strengthen your team? Make your company great? In other words, are you focusing on what is important for success and not focusing on what makes you comfortable?
Qualify based on skill-set, not on where they went to school. Have you ever worked with someone with an excellent educational background, and you couldn’t help but think they must have slept through the important classes, or perhaps that they just forgot… everything? What about the reverse, someone who went to a school you have never heard of, or didn’t go to school at all, and yet, they are inspiring in their skills, drive, and accomplishments? Before disqualifying a candidate based on their educational pedigree, consider what is important for the role. You just may find that what a candidate is capable of and how they approach the challenges of the job are far more important than what school they have gone to.
Removing bias in hiring starts with the process; what you are evaluating and what you are not, what you are asking, and what you are not. With the right process, you can give everyone an equal chance to compete for the same position—giving you the capability to find the best person for the position. At career.place, that’s been our mission from day one. Our software solution helps you bypass bias, be compliant, and narrow down your candidate pool based on the things that truly matter.