A Guide on Minimising Unconscious Bias and Hiring Discrimination

minimising unconscious bias hiring discrimination

Whether we intend to or not, we form an impression of a stranger within ten seconds of meeting them. In a recruitment environment, this subconscious impression can make or break a career.

No matter how committed your recruitment team may be to equal opportunities hiring, unconscious bias is a psychological process. This can be challenging to override and lead to inappropriate hiring choices. This affects the productivity and success of your business.

Fortunately, by shining a light on unconscious bias we can become more aware of how it affects recruitment processes within your company. Here’s how to minimise unconscious bias and hiring discrimination in your workplace.

What Is Unconscious Bias?

To tackle unconscious bias head-on and eliminate hiring discrimination, you need to know exactly how it can seep into your business.

Scientists believe 95% of our brain activity is unconscious. So it’s no shock that interview bias is such a common concept, whether we like it or not.

In terms of recruitment, forming snap judgements impairs our ability to be subjective. This can lead us to overlook a candidate’s suitability for a role, leading to poor hiring choices.

Unconscious Bias Types

There are many different types of unconscious bias. Some of them are more likely to impact hiring decisions than others. Here are some of the types of bias to be aware of during recruitment.

Gender Bias

Although this may be one of the better-known types of social bias, it’s still a serious problem in recruitment processes. Research indicates that women are still 30% less likely to be invited to a job interview than male candidates.

The language used in job adverts can impact the ratio of male to non-male applicants. Certain words are more likely to encourage female candidates, such as ‘team’, and ‘collaborate’. Meanwhile, qualities like ‘aggressive’ and ‘leader’ are more likely to bring in male applicants.

Be sure to check your adverts for potentially gender-biased language. This can ensure that you receive a representative ratio of genders in your hiring pool.

Affinity Bias

This is the psychological phenomenon of feeling natural gravitation towards people we believe are more similar to us. This may be someone with the same background, interests, or beliefs. If we feel someone is more likely to empathise with us, we subconsciously feel an affinity.

When we think about people that we consider similar to us, the same neural pathways are activated as when we think about ourselves. The way our brains are wired can put people who are different to us at a disadvantage.

Your recruitment process may be influenced by gut feeling or the sense that someone would fit in. This is likely to be a result of affinity bias.

Favouring those who bear similarities to the recruitment decision-makers is discrimination. This process is less likely to result in a successful hire.

Social Desirability Bias

When we apply for a job, we sell ourselves to potential employers and demonstrate how we are the best candidates for the position. We do our best to convince the hirers that we are someone they would want to work with. As well as factoring in professional experience, employers will also be looking for signs that you are easy to get along with.

When candidates are given questions or exercises of a controversial or sensitive nature, they will want to give the ‘right’ answer. The need to conform to the environment drives our responses. This social desirability bias.

Although the candidate may not intend to mislead, they will not want to jeopardise their success. They will give responses intended to paint themselves favourably. To eliminate this bias, the wording and nature of interview questions need to be carefully considered.

Recruitment Methods

There are other parts of the recruitment process that can be subject to bias. Submitting an application that includes the candidate’s date of birth can lead to age discrimination. Even awareness of the candidate’s name can give indications of their background, which could be unconsciously used against them.

During online or in-person interviews, the sound of someone’s voice can make up to 38% of the overall impression in an interview. Your voice can also indicate other bias factors, such as age, gender, and ethnicity.

Bias Reduction Strategy

Making recruiters in your company aware of how bias may be affecting their decisions is the first step towards bias reduction. As well as providing thorough training, there are other strategies to avoid discrimination and reduce bias in your hiring.

Structured Interviews

It can be tempting to go off the cuff in an interview, to create a more relaxed atmosphere and delve deeper into specific areas of interest. However, research highlights that unstructured interviews are one of the least predictive hiring tools in terms of corresponding to the candidate’s ultimate success in the job.

Make sure that interviews are structured, with set questions in the same order for each candidate. Avoid veering off-topic, stepping into uncharted territory that could result in interview bias.


An alternative to traditional interview questions could be a problem-solving exercise. By completing a task related to the position, applicants are given the opportunity to display competence. This gives an indication of the candidate’s capabilities in the role, instead of focusing on their education or personal background.

Multiple Interviewers

Having a varied interview panel puts the decision-making process in the hands of different team members instead of one person. If each interviewer asks questions or interacts with the candidate, they will each be able to form their own assessment of their suitability.

If possible, bringing in interviewers from different levels and departments within the company will also vary the perspectives in the process. This can reduce bias in the hiring process.


For a more human-centred approach, rather than receiving a list of a candidate’s previous experiences, ask them to submit a different type of application. Depending on the type of position, this could be a video pitch, a creative proposal, or a presentation.

Rather than seeing an applicant as a set of criteria, this approach enables you to focus on the person and what they could bring to the company.

Improving Equality

Equality in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility and should be a core pillar of your company culture. By bringing awareness to types of bias in the recruitment process you’re more likely to build a strong and capable team.

The SeenToHire platform is innovating the recruitment process, making sure the right person joins your team. To find out more about how to avoid unconscious bias and improve your recruitment processes, contact us.

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