The elephant in the room is that while introducing bias is illegal, it also seems inevitable in the hiring process. While you are probably aware that employers are legally not allowed to discriminate based on ethnicity, race, disability, religion, political views, gender, age, sexuality or marital status, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.
Resumes are often an applicant’s first step through the hiring process. Even at this early stage, bias can run amok. Studies have shown that people with ‘white’ or ‘domestic’ names get more interest from employers than those with ‘black’ or ‘foreign’ names. The result? Candidates who are probably acutely aware of the inherent bias are changing their names to sound more ‘Anglo-Saxon’, either by choice or at the insistence of their employer.
Say an applicant makes it through the resume screening, but what about the interview where one can do little to hide or change who he or she is to be more ‘appealing’ to a prospective employer?
Technically, it is illegal to ask about marital status, dependents, religion, or ethnicity if questions are not explicitly being used to discriminate between candidates. But really, it is only up to the employer to word questions correctly can avoid claims of discrimination or bias.
Some biases are legally allowable, such as:
- Companies can refuse to hire because of appearance, weight, unemployment, and bankruptcy or poor credit
- It is legal for potential employers to access social media profiles if they are publicly available
- Some employers are even going as far as to ask for a candidate’s Facebook passwords to access their details, which is in a grey area of legality.
- 37% of employers check candidates’ social network profiles before hiring, and a third of them say this has led to someone being turned down for a post.
Candidates should be selected not based on genetics, history, or personal life, but on their inherent traits, abilities and successes. Online assessments that allow evidence based hiring support will alleviate some of the bias, as employers will be able to learn what intrinsically makes up a candidate, before a resume is even read, but it is just one step in the process.
Moving forward, the hiring process will undergo changes in what bias is legal and illegal, as cases arise and precedents change. However, the underlying problem, the rampant subjectivity that exists in the hiring process, needs to be corrected. As an employer, it is important to stay cognizant of your natural bias towards others. As employers, we are naturally driven to hire people who remind us of ourselves. However, it is commonly accepted and far more important to note that the wisdom of many, in a wide variety, is greater than that of smaller, similar groups.
What are some of the realities of bias in the hiring process that you’ve experienced?