How to Overcome Unconscious Bias as a Recruiter

Magnus HR
4 min readFeb 20, 2020

Although unconscious bias is a hot topic in recruitment and people cannot but speak about it all the time, once you face it, you understand how hard it can be to overcome. We are all humans. This means that it’s natural for us all to act subjectively and have opinions even in the process of recruiting someone.

Let me draw a picture for you.

A few months ago, we had a pretty weird encounter with a candidate. When on the phone and even when greeting, he did not seem to exhibit nearly ANY manners of behavior. Nonetheless, it was him who scored record-high on the assessment for the position at the Customer care department…

What we did next, was referring him to one of our client companies. Guess what — their first impression of him was not great, too. They have thought of him as someone who lacks interest & motivation. And it was unbelievable how he passed through several hiring stages and was ultimately offered the position.
Now he is a valuable asset to the team. We perceived how the unconscious bias was inhibiting us from seeing the bigger picture.

Overcoming bias is key since as a recruiter, you are the first person to communicate with the candidate, and accordingly, you are the one who gives information about them to the Hiring Manager. The latter’s decisions can be highly impacted by the notes and the feedback you provide about the candidate.

This is the trickiest part — do you want unconscious bias to ruin the whole deal? Of course, not. So, here are 4 ways of avoiding bias in the recruiting process.

1. Be honest with yourself and the person you are communicating with

Before the interview, at the initial phase of CV screening, decide on screening criteria for you, relevant experience, the depth of knowledge and trends of growth, for instance. Constantly remind yourself to evaluate every CV in the same way, based on the same criteria. Be wary not to judge, for example, based on the emotions or feelings that the candidate’s photo evoked in you, or a specific university or company name that made your eyes shine. This is what they call the halo effect or the pitchfork effect. Work on yourself continuously to stay fair, honest, and aim towards treating the candidates equally from the very beginning.

2. Have structured, organized interviews

Prepare a clear interview structure in advance. This will help you to stay within the boundaries of the interview so that you can acquire the relevant data for a fair evaluation. Do not let the candidate dictate the direction of the interview or reverse the roles, but rather manage the flow yourself taking into account also the time limit for the interview. Read and re-read the job description & keep it under your hand during the interview, as it contains the specific requirements and qualities pertaining to the candidate.

3. Apply a mini professional assessment

Whenever the applicant pool is too large, an effective method of filtering out potential interviewees is to conduct mini professional assessments. They can provide you with direct results and will not let your personal first impressions leap in. Once you have conducted the mini-assessment, you can invite to the first interview those candidates who have successfully passed it. Ultimately, this will help to shrink the number of face-to-face interviews. A time-efficient choice both for you and for the candidate, isn’t it?

4. Do not rush with decision-making

Keep in mind that the interview is primarily aimed at collecting data, not at making a yes or no decision. So, evaluate the points and never make hasty decisions! Summarize your notes at least 30 minutes after the interview, when your attitude — either positive or negative — is already cooled down. This will help you to base everything on the mentioned criteria and the analysis of the data collected.

Even if just once you have carelessly given place to subjectivity, it might get deeper and deeper without you even noticing it! Here, at Magnus, we are regularly reminding ourselves of the points above.

Keep an eye on the data, stay well-organized, have your notes with you during the interviews and your hard work will definitely pay off.

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Your Magnus Team 💛



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