You're Biased (but you can't help it)

Imagine it’s fifteen minutes late. Even though your friends said that you were perfect together when arranging this blind date, so far, it’s a no-show.

The door swings open at the same time you consider giving up, and a hurried, and surprisingly attractive looking late-date paces awkwardly toward the table and sits down.

Unconsciously, you will have likely formed your opinion on this person based upon one of the following:

- Their lateness
- What other people have told you about your blind date
- How attractive you perceive them to be
- Their lack of formal introduction or apology

Without explanation and context, I wonder how many of you reading this piece (chapter one of a romantic novel) will have made, or at least began to form, a decision that is either favourable or less so, due to the factors and situation above?

In truth, we as humans are programmed to classify and group things as quickly and as easily as possible. So much so, that subconsciously (unconsciously) we do it all the time. When we’re sat on the train in a reserved seat, we almost immediately know the look of impending eviction from the passenger who will claim your seat so proudly – you don’t know them, nor they you, but you know that they want what is rightfully theirs before they even begin to assert their power trip verbally. You can just see it.

The same applies in a recruitment and assessment setting. As assessors, we are looking for any information that can help to either inform or support our hiring decisions. Here lies the problem.

In order for you to ensure that your decisions, typically at face-to-face or final stage, are robust, fair and objective, you need to challenge yourself and your fellow assessors to ‘battle their bias’. Any preconceived ideas about a candidate that fall short of relating directly to their performance or the outcome of an exercise should not be considered in any ‘wash-up’ session.

As assessors, how can we even begin to predict the likelihood of future success based on:

- The firmness of a handshake
- Whether a suit carries a designer label or not
- How pretty the candidate is
- Where the candidate grew up (ironically the same place as you)
- What university the candidate gained their first at

Moving beyond the assessment, bias has a profound impact on the diversity and inclusivity of a workforce, thinking about things like development opportunities and promotions, and not to mention equality in the workplace. Did you know that, according to a survey by Launchpad, for every 1% rise in a workforce’s gender and cultural diversity, an increase of 3% and 9% of increased sales revenue was observed, respectively? Something to be conscious of.

To end this piece, I challenge you to be self-reflective and honest and identify whether you are human enough to think these things. I challenge you to disregard these thoughts in the context of assessment and focus on what truly matters; what the candidate is doing/saying in response to their exercise or question.

The candidate that is fifteen minutes late could be the best hiring decision that you ever make.