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How to Reduce Bias in Your Remote Hiring Process

Reducing bias in the remote hiring process takes practice and an identification of your own biases in order to hire the perfect job candidate.

Bias is something that many people deal with at some point in their life, whether on one end or the other. While it’s exhibited in social situations, businesses aren’t exempt from bias—especially in the hiring process. Preconceived notions and subconscious thoughts can overwhelm the senses of hiring managers, convoluting an already difficult process. Nevertheless, reducing bias in remote hiring is something that’s not only important; it’s a sign of changing times. If you’re a hiring manager or an employee who’s faced bias in the hiring process, here are some ways to combat or reduce it.

How Bias Permeates the Mind and the Hiring Process

Biases are unconscious thoughts that can impact the way people view others.

While some may say that bias is a subconscious product of environment, many experts believe that it’s unconscious or implicit bias that truly affects every individual. Conscious bias or explicit bias is an antiquated notion to some effect; it’s been ostracized in societal norms and most social circles.

Still, bias can work its way into the mind of many people without knowing; it’s a product of being human. Very simply, unconscious bias can be defined as the following according to this definition from Dr. Renee Navarro, Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Outreach at the University of California at San Francisco:

“Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.

Unconscious bias is far more prevalent than conscious prejudice and often incompatible with one’s conscious values. Certain scenarios can activate unconscious attitudes and beliefs. For example, biases may be more prevalent when multi-tasking or working under time pressure.”

Keep in mind that biases aren’t always based on gender, race, or ethnicity. They may manifest themselves in a number of different ways. Thus, identifying your own biases is helpful, notably in the hiring process.

Find Your Own Formula to Reduce Bias in Remote Hiring

Like many aspects of business, no one-size-fits-all solution works for every company. As a hiring manager or employer, you may have to experiment with several methods to find one that’s efficient and effective. However, breaking down the hiring process into pre-interview and interview/post-interview divisions can help curb bias and encourage the hiring of the best candidate.

Tips and Suggestions on How to Reduce Bias in Remote Hiring and Instill Impartiality in an Interview

Being impartial in an interview doesn't come naturally, so hiring managers must employ certain tips and steps to reduce bias.

While experimentation is vital to reducing bias in hiring, these suggestions serve as a basic prospectus for how to implement policies or changes in your company. By mixing and matching these principles, you should find a more diverse and talented workforce in your future.

Panel Interviews or Interview by Committee

Everyone has different views, even in the most tight-knit company, so use this to your advantage. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need a round table for each interview. In fact, one person conducting an interview is far less intimidating for the applicant. Instead, you can have others listen in to a phone or video interview to gauge the applicant.

Simon Steponaitis, marketing manager at Hostingwiki.org, a web hosting and WordPress resource site, uses panel interviews to assess new hires:

“Instead of relying on the thoughts and processes of one person, the interview team can help us make better and fairer decisions. Make sure the panel represents a diverse group of colleagues, including different races, nationalities, and ages.”

Even if your team is more homogenized with respect to ethnicity, people still have different views, feelings, and intuition about other people. You might be wowed by a candidate while others are lukewarm. It’s a subjective process that isn’t always straightforward. Thus, a committee weighing the pros and cons of each candidate acts as a hedge against bets and a better way to reduce bias in remote hiring.

Furthermore, Reuben Yonatan, founder and CEO of GetVoIP, a cloud communication provider, conducts interviews in a similar committee fashion:

“To reduce bias in the remote hiring process, I have made hiring a collaborative effort. I have built a hiring team consisting of people with diverse backgrounds. The hiring decision is not up to me or my HR manager. I gather input from several key stakeholders. It is difficult to have a bias when hiring is a collaborative effort. Someone else’s input will negate your bias.”

Social Media Considerations

Social media has reshaped the way companies hire. According to Small Business Trends, 90% of employers check applicants’ social media profiles in a process now known as “cybervetting.” This is done to assess the character of candidates, and if they’re likely to become a liability as an employee. That said, 57% of employers who check social media said they’ve dismissed an applicant from candidacy after finding objectionable material, according to a CNBC survey. The content most likely to turn off an employer?

  • Provocative or inappropriate content
  • Drug and/or alcohol (to excess) use
  • Discriminatory comments

While these are obvious grounds for dismissal, even looking at someone’s posts or pictures can create unconscious bias in hiring. To combat this, Steponaitis relies almost exclusively on LinkedIn:

“We’re mostly dependent on LinkedIn because it’s a mine of information about candidates. Not only check the candidate’s profile but also check their blogs, publications, professional networks, and any important updates on their pages.

Still, all social media platforms can provide insight into a candidate, but also elicit bias. Careful measures must be made to ensure this doesn’t result in bias.

Assessment Testing of Core Qualities

In recent years, companies and job boards have added tests and assessments as part of their hiring process. The reason for such tests varies from candidates misrepresenting their skills to finding the right person for more complex roles. Which bodes another question: Is the resume dead?

With tests, however, employers can not only get an accurate assessment of a candidate’s skills, they can also remove bias based on resume features such as whether the applicant is an alum of the same school or whether the hiring manager was in the same fraternity/sorority.

Steponaitis uses assessments in his hiring process to reduces fundamental bias and get a better scope of the applicant’s abilities:

“We believe the assessment is a great way to challenge a candidate and
assess their skills. We always make sure that the assessments are impartial and that the test can be completed within a reasonable time frame (maximum one or two hours).

Once a candidate is passed through assessment, they are going for the next round called F2F (face-to-face) interview. To stay impartial during the interview, our HR team removes contact information and address information so the interviewer can focus on qualifications or skills instead of personal information.”

Featured in publications such as Reader’s Digest Jay Scott, a veterinarian, lover of pugs, and owner of Pugsquest.com, builds on this idea:

“I assess the results of the sample test I gave them to see whether their practical skills match their theoretical ones. Once I am satisfied, I call back the ones I believe would adequately fit the vacant position.”

Create an Interview Rubric

Major corporations often have hiring managers read from a script. Little variance exists, and it’s more of a cookie-cutter type approach to hiring. But many small-to-medium-sized remote businesses have the ability to tweak interviews as they see fit. Small businesses often suffer from a lack of direction in an interview; hiring managers don’t have a specific set of questions at their disposal, at least to some degree.

Therefore, creating a standard interview is the best method to reduce bias in remote hiring, level the playing field, make the interview fair, and discover only the most desirable candidates. Dennis Bell, CEO and founder of Byblos Coffee shares his views on the matter:

“Interviews should be a conversation and not a lecture. Asking the same questions for all the applicants is my way of being fair to all. I take notes on every response that will serve as a reference in making a final decision on who to hire.”

Ignore the Stereotype

You may not realize it, but you have an unconscious bias in the type of job you’re hiring for. Visualize an accountant. Are they a straight-laced person with glasses and a tie? Or how about an IT person? Do they have a nerdy persona in your mind’s eye?

Stereotypes aren’t all that accepted in societal norms. But in the business world and hiring process, they certainly have no place. As Anif Muz, strategic programs development manager at Jooble.org—a job search engine in 71 countries—states:

“Mythical ideas often become the reason that the vacant position is occupied not by the most worthy candidate, but by the one who is more consistent with the image of a typical representative of a particular profession.

Pragmatic employers dream of him —an unselfish savior, inspirer, and
performer of all desires, ready to work in any conditions for a small
salary. Unfortunately, however, both are disappointed. The manager-talker tires clients, the secretary of the model appearance types with one finger, and the graduate turns out to be an ordinary imposture.”

Few people consciously produce a bias toward other individuals. But advertising, news media, and other aspects of your daily life can seep into your thought process. As a hiring manager, this ordeal only becomes heightened. But by following these tips, reducing bias in remote hiring not only becomes an afterthought; it becomes a standard business practice. The result? You’ll tap into new talent and improve your diversity—two critical facets of running a successful business in the 21st century.

Do you have any tips to reduce bias in the remote hiring process? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and YouTube to share your advice. We’d love to hear from you!

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