Some Biases to Consider When Hiring and Promoting

How can we tackle unconscious bias?

5 min readApr 11, 2022

Each individual has a unique mix of qualities and characteristics that come together to create their overall personality. Each part of our personality affects the whole, and our experiences are shaped by the things we value, how we take care of ourselves, and the way we think about life.

For example, a person’s self-worth may be reflected in their career choices and the way they interact with others at work while a sense of humor may be reflected in the way a person responds to difficult situations or in the way they tell jokes. Further, interests may be reflected in the hobbies a person pursues or the type of entertainment they enjoy. One can observe biases in the way a person perceives and interprets information. Passions may be reflected in the causes a person supports or the type of work they are drawn to. And a person’s general outlook on life may be reflected in their daily routine or how they approach challenges, and so on. In short, each element of an individual psyche contributes to shaping that individual’s overall life experience.

What is unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias is social prejudice or stereotyping that occurs outside of our conscious awareness. We all have biases that are shaped by our personal experiences, cultural background, and exposure to media. Biases can lead us to make snap judgments about people or groups of people without fully understanding them. And when we act on these biases in the workplace, we can create an environment that’s exclusive and unfair.

Gender bias

Although we like to think that gender equality is improving, there is still a long way to go. Women are often paid less than men for doing the same job, and they are also less likely to be promoted. There is a gender pay gap in nearly every country in the world. For example, women working full time in the U.S. are still paid just 83 cents to every dollar earned by men, even though women have been working steadily increasing numbers of hours over the past few decades (according to Pew Research Center data). This gap has serious consequences for women throughout their lives, including earning less money than men and having fewer opportunities for advancement or compensation equal to what male counterparts receive. Overall, women have about seventy percent of the retirement income that men do. The gender pay gap is even larger for women of color. Black women earn about 64 percent of what white men earn, and Hispanic women earn about 54 percent.

Beauty bias

The beauty bias is when we base our opinion of someone on their looks. We are told not to judge a book by its cover, but we may unconsciously favour attractive people for a job — even though this has no bearing on their ability to carry out the role well. This shows that we often let our first impressions of someone — based on their looks — influence our opinion of them. Psychological research reveals that the first impressions we form of someone go on to shape the way we continue to see them. This bias can have a negative impact on people who are not considered traditionally “attractive”. They may be less likely to get hired for a job, or be seen as competent and capable. This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, where people who are not considered attractive are less successful because they are not given the same opportunities as those who are considered attractive. There is some evidence that the beauty bias is decreasing over time, as society becomes more accepting of different types of appearance. However, it is still something that exists in many workplaces and can impact people’s lives in a negative way.

Affinity bias

Can refer to any kind of preference we have for people who are similar to us in some way. For example, we might show a preference for people from our own social class or ethnicity, or people with similar interests or hobbies. This can happen at work, where we might not feel as confident about someone because we don’t share their same skills or experiences. The affinity bias can be problematic when it leads us to overlook or undervalue someone because we don’t share the same experiences or characteristics. This can be harmful, as it can mean that we miss out on opportunities or fail to give someone a fair chance.

“The chickens on the farm gave us plenty of eggs to eat. They spend their days foraging for food around the different homes in the village. When we run out of them, we’ll simply call up a neighbor or two and they’ll gather a fresh dozen or so for us to eat.”
Erol Ahmed — Unsplash

Age bias

Ageism is unfortunately still a large issue in the workplace, with older workers often being discriminated against in favour of younger employees. This may be because employers think that they are ‘past it’, or because they are more expensive to insure.

“Senior caucasian man holding blank empty banner covering mouth with hand, shocked and afraid for mistake. surprised expression”
krakenimages — Unsplash

Confirmation bias

It is the tendency to search for evidence that confirms your initial opinion of someone while disregarding information that contradicts your view. Although first impressions matter, when it comes to hiring or promotion decisions, it’s important to base decisions only on relevant, factual information. Our beliefs are often based on paying attention to the information that upholds them — while at the same time tending to ignore the information that challenges them.

Halo effect

The halo effect is a type of confirmation bias that occurs when our overall impression of someone influences how we view their individual qualities. For example, if we think an employee is a great leader, we may be more likely to overlook their poor time management skills. The opposite can also be true: if we have a negative opinion of someone, we may see all their actions as negative.

How can we tackle unconscious bias?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the how-to tackle unconscious bias question. The best way to tackle unconscious bias will vary depending on the specific context and situation.

  • Work with a more diverse range of people and get to know them individually. This will help to improve your cultural competence and lead to a better understanding of others. Avoid making assumptions or judgments about others based on your own cultural values. Show respect for the customs, traditions, and beliefs of others.
  • Biases are mental shortcuts that help us make decisions quickly. However, they can often lead to inaccurate decisions because they simplify complex situations and ignore important information. So slow the process down and provide yourself more time to arrive at conclusions.
  • Blind recruitment and recruitment software solutions can be beneficial. You may want to hide the candidate’s information like name, age, location, and school name from your managers. Plus, write gender-neutral job adverts.
  • The main point of this article is to encourage you to look at your unconscious biases and the ways that they can influence your decisions. This will help you to become more aware of them and learn how to deal with them in order to make better decisions. Strive to be more aware of unconscious bias in yourself.

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