Removing Implicit Bias from the Hiring Process

Vol. 17 No. 7

By

Leslie Richards-Yellen is the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in Chicago, Illinois. She may be reached at LRY@hinshawlaw.com.


Hiring is a critical process for every enterprise, the legal field included. Whether an employer is seeking to attract and retain clients, or an in-house department servicing the company’s needs, it is essential to identify prospective new hires who have great skills and will fit into the culture of your business.

With so much at stake, there should be a great incentive to ensure that the process is engineered to be as efficient as possible with the goal of breaking down any barrier to an honest appraisal of each potential candidate. However, based on a vast amount of data derived from the Implicit Association Test (IAT) (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/takeatest.html), it is clear that ingrained, unconscious biases may cause us to perceive others based on stereotypes rather than on individual merit.

The IAT can measure your implicit attitude toward many different groups. For example, there are tests to measure your implicit bias based on race/ethnicity, skin tone, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, weight, and other factors. Data from the IAT shows that the advancement of women is hampered by stereotypes linking women to home and family. A study shows that when evaluating identical resumes, participants were more likely to interview an attorney with a name more often identified with Caucasian-Americans rather than a name identified with African-Americans. Mock jurors were more likely to associate Caucasian-American males than Asian-American males with traits identified with being a litigator.

So, how do employers ensure that it is more likely that optimal hiring decisions are made consistently?

  • Have members of the interview team measure their biases by taking the IAT. Once you are aware of your personal biases, you can be motivated to change your reaction based on personal values. Remain alert to your implicit preferences and recognize that they may intrude into your judgment about candidates.
  • Define the traits and skills required to do the job before the interview process begins and stay focused on them.
  • Utilize behavioral interviewing techniques. These techniques help to remove bias/subjectivity from the interviewing process, as the interviewers are probing for how the candidate reacted in various situations to help gauge whether the candidate will fit the culture of your business. For example, ask candidates to describe a situation in which they received feedback that they did not agree with and how they incorporated that feedback into their behavior.
  • Have a deliberative hiring process. Remember that decisions made quickly without time for reflection are more prone to correlate to your stereotypes about people.

Through conscious awareness and use of these techniques, you can maximize the likelihood that hiring decisions will be based on merit, not bias.



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