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How Unconscious Biases Can Impact the Recruitment Process

Updated on May 20, 2019
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Sharing tools and strategies to help modern small businesses succeed.

When a company begins the hiring process for any position, the ultimate goal is always to find the right person for the job. However, that task is not always as easy as it might seem. As well as the many external factors that can make hiring tricky, there are also some internal issues that can contribute to making the hiring process more difficult and less effective. While hiring for diversity may be the goal, hiring managers often display some unconscious biases when trying to find the right candidate. These biases can manifest themselves in a number of different ways.

Halo Effect / Horn Effect

The halo and horn effects are both borne out of the importance of first impressions. Put simply, this bias states that if a candidate makes a good first impression a hiring manager is likely to forgive errors or mistakes later in the process. On the other hand, if a candidate does not make a good first impression, they can often find it very difficult to recover from. Even if they prove themselves to be extremely capable and competent throughout the remainder of the interview, the hiring manager often views their candidacy through the lens of that bad first impression. In some instances, this can lead to a company hiring the wrong person simply because the right person was shy at first, gave an awkward handshake, or wore a terrible tie to the interview.

Leniency Effect

A leniency bias occurs when a candidate is given the benefit of the doubt because of the hiring manager's own personal context. Hiring managers often show leniency to candidates who are from their neighborhood, are of the same race, or went to the same college as they did. Though these biases are never explicit, they can have a hugely negative impact on the hiring process. Your company might end up hiring somebody because they grew up a few blocks away from the hiring manager.

Contrast Effect

The contrast bias occurs when a hiring manager compares the candidates to each other rather than to the requirements for the job. For example, if you are hiring for a position that requires a doctorate and you receive resumes from four candidates who never went to college and one who graduated with a bachelor's degree, your first instinct should be to reject them all and keep looking. However, in reality, the hiring manager will often decide to move forward with hiring the college graduate simply because they are better qualified than the other candidates. This bias can result in the company hiring someone who is entirely unqualified for their position.

Though hiring new employees is never an easy task, it doesn't need to be made even tougher by allowing the process to succumb to unconscious biases. By being aware of these issues and actively trying to negate them while implementing a diversity recruiting strategy, companies will soon find themselves hiring better qualified, more experienced candidates for their open positions.

© 2019 msbhq

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