When it comes to hiring diverse candidates, good intentions do not necessarily lead to good results. Often well-intentioned hiring managers end up inadvertently weeding out qualified candidates from underestimated backgrounds because of unconscious bias. There are several things managers can do to reduce that bias. First, accept that, like most people, you fall prey to affinity bias — having a more favorable opinion of someone like us. Also, spend time reading and learning about the experience of underrepresented communities at work. Ask yourself: “Where is, or could, bias show up in this decision?” Try to form your own decision about a candidate before talking to your peers so you’re not influenced by the majority view. And use the “flip it to test” approach to catch bias in your reactions to candidates. Ask yourself, if you were to swap out the candidate from an underrepresented background with one of your more typical hires, would you have the same reaction? For example, if a woman of color candidate speaks passionately, and you’re less inclined to hire her because you think of her as “angry,” would you use the same word if a white man spoke the same way?
When it comes to hiring candidates from underestimated backgrounds, good intentions do not necessarily lead to good results. I once met a talent acquisition leader at a large global technology company who had changed the organization’s hiring process in multiple ways to bring in more candidates of color but was frustrated by the lack of progress. Internal analyses showed that even though the company had interviewed a higher number of non-white candidates in preliminary rounds, their final hires were still overwhelmingly white.
I’ve seen this same situation play out in multiple organizations and industries and often it’s because well-intentioned hiring managers end up inadvertently weeding out qualified candidates from underestimated backgrounds because of bias.
Changes in process and diversity initiatives alone are not going to remedy the lack of equal representation in companies. Individual managers who are often making the final hiring decisions need to address their own bias.