"After a phone interview, a hiring manager invited me to meet with her for a face-to-face interview. When I arrived and introduced myself, she looked perplexed as she scanned my face and hesitated a bit while shaking my hand. She then said in a surprised tone, 'Wow, I'm sorry. It's nice to meet you. You're just so articulate.'"
"In another instance, a hiring manager walked me to the elevator after an interview and asked me, 'So, what are you?' He could not readily identify my race or ethnicity based on my features."
Both of these instances of bias in the hiring process were experienced by Alexis Terry, senior director of diversity and inclusion at ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership.
While they may seem like extreme examples, human resources directors, diversity and inclusion experts, and others often point out that we all hold unconscious beliefs and attitudes called implicit biases - and that these can creep into our words and our actions, including when seeking candidates to work at the bar association.
"You can't control it," says Christine Ford, director of human resources at the Oregon State Bar, "and you can't beat yourself up about it. But be aware of it - and then change your actions, what you do, once you recognize it."
While it's important for everyone to do the sometimes uncomfortable work of recognizing and directly challenging their own biases (the OSB recently held an all-staff training session on this topic), the hiring process is one area of particular concern. How can HR directors, managers, and anyone else who might be involved in hiring make sure they're not screening some candidates out by unconsciously seeking "someone just like me?"
This article contains many practical tips to help eliminate bias throughout the hiring process. For a deeper dive into the research on implicit bias - and links to many helpful resources - please see "Research and reflection: Recommendations from ASAE's senior director of diversity and inclusion," which offers further guidance from Terry.