Recruitment insights

hiring bias

4 Unconscious Hiring Biases and How to Tackle them

5760 3840 Mita Mandawker

Recruiting is one of the most difficult and yet most fulfilling career paths. Recruiters play the role of the first gatekeeper in building the culture of the company. They are primarily responsible for finding the hidden gems, the unicorns, the purple squirrels that will elevate the team, add incremental value to the culture, and will take the company to new heights.

However, one of the biggest roadblocks towards achieving the ideal outcome are the unknown and unacknowledged biases that exist in the hiring processes (both conscious and unconscious). These biases affect the quality of the talent pipeline and consequently become a barrier towards building a diverse and innovative team. Recruiters can overlook the most qualified and best-suited candidates for the job because of biases.

Even Google has not been exempt from unconscious biases. To tackle the problem, they developed a workshop, Unconscious Bias at Work, where they explored four bias busting techniques that can help mitigate the potentially negative influence of unconscious bias.

Harvard University researcher Mahzarin Banaji in the Harvard Business Review best explained the biases as, “Most of us believe that we are ethical and unbiased. We imagine we’re good decision-makers, able to objectively size up a job candidate or a venture deal and reach a fair and rational conclusion that’s in our, and our organization’s, best interests. But more than two decades of research confirms that, in reality, most of us fall woefully short of our inflated self-perception.”

So how do you overcome these biases?

The first step is by identifying which biases you will encounter and then taking active steps to ensure you are challenging them.

Here are some common unconscious biases that recruiters face, and here’s how we recommend you tackle them:

Affinity bias

Affinity bias is when the recruiter or hiring manager gravitates towards those (candidates) who are like them, some examples could be someone who has attended the same college as them or maybe grew up in the same town.

How does this play out in the hiring or interviewing context, and why is it essential that we be mindful of this bias?

For example, if the founder were to select the team members similar to him, who in turn selected people who were similar to them, and so on, ultimately, it would hurt the diversity and inclusion of the company.

While affinity bias is crucial for culture fit that companies yearn for. However, one needs to be mindful that this is not the only merit when hiring; after all, no one wants a team of robots.

💡What can organizations do?
Start from the top – be intentional about having a diverse leadership team; it will trickle down the bottom. After all, a diverse management team serves as a model for the rest of the organization. Use technology for receiving and reviewing applications to remove biases from the hiring and interview process.

Ensure diversity even in your hiring panel to reduce the affinity bias. Multiple rounds of interviews with different panels, each evaluating a different set of skills needed for the role, will help you keep the affinity bias in check.

Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is when people tend to seek information that confirms pre-existing beliefs or assumptions.

In the hiring context, confirmation biases occur when the recruiter forms an opinion on the candidate after going through their CV and application and then uses the interview to confirm that opinion, instead of interviewing that candidate objectively.

This can lead to poor hiring decisions, and the recruiter may even end up ignoring obvious red flags in a candidate in an attempt to confirm their initial impression.

💡What can organizations do?

Standardize the interview process – to the extent possible, create structured interview guides that are relevant to the job position, train the interviewers to be disciplined about using these guides; this will ensure all candidates are evaluated against the same rubric leaving no room for confirmation bias.

Use hiring assessments like case studies, psychometric tests, technical assessments, and more to evaluate the candidates for their ability by simulating the real-world problems they would solve in that role.

Halo effect

Halo effect bias is when the person thinks everything about a person is good because they like them. For instance, a recruiter assumes that just because this candidate is good at communicating, he/she will be good at everything else that needs to be done on the job description is a halo effect.

In essence, letting one positive trait or characteristic influence the judgment about the person’s overall capability for other unrelated factors.

💡 What can organizations do?

Conduct multiple rounds of interviews with different stakeholders to assess the candidates on different parameters, and having multiple stakeholders, would help curb all forms of biases. Try anonymization, where all identifying information is removed from applications to ensure objectivity.

Use rigorous screening and testing processes, particularly for key performance indicators (KPIs) for the position being filled, so that you can make the best decision.

Contrast bias

Contrast bias occurs when two things are judged in comparison to one another instead of being assessed individually. In the context of recruitment, it occurs when the recruiter judges the candidate’s performance against the other candidate(s) that came before them and not the hiring criteria or on their ability.

Some other instances of contrast biases recruiters face are:
– Looking more favorably on someone’s CV if it’s reviewed directly after a poor one
– Scoring a candidate higher at interview if the preceding candidate scored poorly

💡 What can organizations do?

Evaluate candidates based on their work samples and not just CVs; it gives the candidates a chance to show their ability and for you to see if they can problem-solve the issues they would tackle if they were to join your team.

Train your recruitment team about these biases and actively find ways to minimize or eliminate them from your hiring process.

A diverse talent pipeline is the first step to a long way in ensuring you build a company with great talent, which is heterogeneous, innovative, and more productive. We always recommend our clients to hire for skills and potential and then for any certain traits. We all have our unconscious biases, so it’s good to have a second opinion regarding a candidate you want to hire or dismiss. Holding each other accountable is also a good practice to adopt, as you may all uncover some subconscious associations and patterns of thinking you weren’t previously aware of. Conduct training workshops for your hiring teams to help them identify these biases and keep them in check.

Finally, accept the fact that we all have biases but we can always strive to be better.

Check out our latest research on Hiring for equity, which contains findings – after 12 months of research and provides practical (and largely zero cost) ways that employers can use language, marketing, and behaviors to attract and retain more women into digital roles.



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Challenging gendered language in job descriptions to build more inclusive teams

Choose to challenge -gendered language in job descriptions

800 533 Brenda Akinyi

Job descriptions are the first point of contact between the company and the larger applicant pool. In the recruitment process, gendered language in job descriptions has the ability to significantly affect the candidates you attract to your application and eventually hire. It also has the tendency to make the role and organization less appealing to a certain gender. While organizations are not allowed to explicitly advertise for men or women, we find that gender preferences come out in subtle cues. This also hinders an organization’s efforts towards being more inclusive.

Additionally, when it comes to interviews, according to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) study, if you have only one female candidate in your candidate pool, the likelihood of them being hired is slim to none. On the other hand, having at least two women in the pipeline raises the likelihood of one of them being hired to 50%. Over and above this, with competition for the best talent being at an all-time high, companies must identify the biases in their recruitment processes and work to eliminate them.

In this blog, we tackle the different ways gendered language is presented in job descriptions. We also suggest ways in which hiring managers can avoid using them unknowingly to be more inclusive.

Job ads with gender charged language affect an applicant’s perceived sense of belongingness

Gendered wording creates perceptions about the workplace and often decreases the level of interest, especially in female candidates.  Women tend to shy away from applying to jobs whose descriptions contain heavily gendered wording. This is not because they aren’t qualified for the jobs, but because the gendered wording implies the workplace is not gender diverse and that women wouldn’t belong there.

The opposite however does not affect application numbers from male candidates. Words such as ninja, guru, rockstar or hacker are often used to spruce up a job description. However, keep in mind that they are inherently associated with the male gender.

💡 Use gender-neutral descriptive words. Examples include project manager, consultant, developer to avoid putting off awesome candidates who might slip away.

Having too many requirements in a job description affects your pool

Research shows that female candidates are less likely to apply for a job if they do not meet 100% of the requirements listed, while male candidates only 60% of the same. With this in mind, in order to build a more gender-diverse and robust pipeline, it is important to ensure you have only the most critical requirements stated in your job descriptions.

💡 Keep your must-haves to a minimum where possible. Consider having a “nice to have” section that shows a clear difference between your must-haves to encourage more candidates to apply. Concise, easy to read job descriptions are known to attract a greater number of applications.

Mind your use of pronouns and adjectives to be more inclusive

When describing the tasks an ideal candidate is expected to take on, mind the pronouns and adjectives you use. By removing limiting pronouns and adjectives, you appear to be more inclusive. You also have an opportunity to choose from a broader applicant pool and increase your chances of hiring the best candidate.  Alternatively, instead of describing an ideal candidate for a specific role, try listing the success metrics for the role. This way you have more people applying because they know they can achieve the goals set out for them rather than fitting into an ideal description.

💡 Lean towards the use of “You”, or “they”. For example, “ As the project manager, you will be expected to oversee the work of Analysts to meet client expectations.” Aim for more inclusive language.

Show your commitment to diversity and equality

Diversity & equality are even more important now as it has been proven to have a direct correlation to an organization’s bottom line. Reiterating your commitment to promoting an inclusive culture increases the appeal to your job openings. This helps to promote a more diverse applicant pool. You may also showcase your team on your career pages. Share some statistics on the composition of your team. You could also include a statement to let potential candidates know your organization promotes diversity.  Make sure your equality statement is genuine and unique to your organization rather than a cut-and-paste or superficial one.

💡 Don’t miss an opportunity to showcase the benefits of working in your organization to potential candidates. Mention all the inclusive benefits that will appeal to a diverse group of people. Examples include parental leave or child care facilities etc.

Ultimately gender-inclusive language empowers everyone and should be practised internally before it translates outside of the organization. Keeping this in mind will help organizations bring great people on board and make the workplaces more inclusive.


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tech hiring

Outlook for tech hiring in 2021 in a post-pandemic world

7952 5304 Mita Mandawker

COVID-19 impacted the job market in 2020, however one section of this market that did continued to do well was – tech hiring. The positive sentiment and demand for tech jobs continues in 2021, with vaccine drives in sight, a ready shift towards remote work, and general positivity among employers.

Software and technology jobs make up for the highest number of total remote jobs posted online with 29.2% of the total remote jobs posted from the IT industry.

Here’s our take on tech hiring in the post-pandemic world.

Tech hiring will stay remote

The computer/information technology industry ranks 2nd in embracing the remote work culture. Companies have become more open to working from home and are fine with hiring more employees who will work remotely. They are also keen on reaching out to candidates beyond their immediate location in a bid to find top talent, who will be based remotely. A lot of top tech companies like Facebook, Twitter have already announced that they will be staying remote for a foreseeable part of 2021 and in near future will be making some part of their workforce entirely remote.

All this roughly translates as remote hiring is here to stay and will be a big part of recruitment in general.

Some tech roles will remain in high demand

As the world moved to remote work en masse, demand for certain tech jobs increased. Companies had to hire network engineers and system engineers in 2020 to build, maintain and secure the remote working networks for their teams.

These roles are set to grow and evolve in the next few years as remote work becomes more common-place. With the rise in remote tech jobs, and companies moving to a hybrid work model, we will see a rise in location-agnostic salaries. (employees in the same role make the same amount regardless of where they live)

Companies will rethink their recruiting technology

Studies show that around 47% of recruiters have started using virtual assessment tools after the pandemic, showing a distinct shift in using and adopting technology for candidate assessment. We will see a definite spike in skill-based assessments, over pedigree.

With all candidate interactions going remote, recruiters will be on the lookout for technology that helps them assess candidates whilst eliminating biases in their hiring processes.

Diversity will take center stage

Gender diversity in tech has been a long-standing issue. While it’s changing slowly, the picture is still far from ideal. Tech recruiting is set to beat biases towards women in tech hiring this year (e.g. higher proportion of women in software testing jobs vis-à-vis coding jobs, as they are often assigned low complexity projects).

A recent study said that 16.75% called out unconscious bias as a key issue during sourcing, which shows that they are aware of the problem and are actively working towards tackling it. Recruiters will turn towards technology to help eliminate these unconscious biases and become gender-neutral in their hiring outlook. Companies will start dabbling in the use of AI (Artificial intelligence) in boosting diverse hires, as machines can be programmed to focus solely on skills and experience and be inherently unbiased.

Soft skills will become important

The past year has emphasized the need for soft skills given that we worked in remote, distributed teams, thanks to the pandemic. Soft skills have proven to be important when it comes to building teams, motivating employees and co-workers especially when we can’t be together in the same room.

Companies are looking for communicators who can get the message across clearly while conveying thoughts to clients, and internal teams.

Recruiters will be keen on evaluating tech candidates for soft skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication, in particular. They will be using behavioral interview questions to probe and evaluate these soft skills.

We hope this gives you some insights into how tech hiring will look like this year.


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choose to challenge

Choose to challenge – Workplace problems that women face and how to tackle them

4256 2832 Mita Mandawker

2020 ushered conversation around diversity and inclusion, following the Black Lives Matter movement. Diversity, inclusion, representation of women and minorities in the workplace, and their rights have never been more critical.

Research says that companies with a higher number of women in their workforce have gained high financial profits and productivity compared to the companies with fewer women employees.

Despite such benefits of having more women on the team, women still face many workplace problems and struggle with the proverbial glass ceiling in corporates.

Here are some challenges women face at the workplace and how companies can choose to challenge these roadblocks and help make their workplaces more inclusive and gender-neutral.

1. Gender pay gap

Simply put, the gender wage gap is a measure of what women are paid relative to men. Research shows that women are paid 34% less than men for performing the same job with the same qualifications. Women are hired into entry-level positions at lower pay rates, and the pay gap gets bigger the higher up women go.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 says men and women will have pay equality in 257 years. Of the 153 countries studied for the report, India ranks 112th on the overall Global Gender Gap Index.

What can you do?

As an employer, you should conduct a pay audit to determine if a pay gap exists. Explore different ways of mitigating the pay gap, for example, to prevent a pay gap from developing, prohibit negotiations over pay, stop asking for salary history, instead make the compensation as per the market value for the skills and the experience of the person in question.

2. Representation of women

Female employees continue to be under-represented at every level, especially at senior levels and leadership teams. Women’s ability to lead is often undermined by gender stereotypes, of which leaders need to be more mindful.

Nearly 60% of working women in India face discrimination at work, and over one-third of women believe they are not considered for top management roles. In a telling statistic, only 37 of the Fortune 500 companies are headed by a woman currently. Though this number has been increasing slowly and steadily since 2018, it is also proof that companies have work cut for them to ensure gender diversity in the C-suite.

A study by McKinsey revealed that only 1 in 5 c-suite leaders are women, and only 1 in 25 C-suite leaders is a woman of colour.

What can you do?

Be intentional about appointing highly qualified women to your executive team, corporate board, C-suite, and/or CEO position and choose to challenge the representation issues. As an employer, proactively source for a gender-diverse pipeline at all levels across your organization. Many sourcing platforms provide options to source women; use these platforms to give your diversity efforts a boost, starting with your hiring.

3. Maternity/pregnancy discrimination

Pregnancy discrimination is when an employer discriminates on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. Pregnancy discrimination may include denial of time off or reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, firing or demoting a pregnant employee, forced time off or restrictions on work, and any other negative employment action taken because of an employee’s pregnancy or related medical condition.

Over 50,000 women lose their jobs over maternity discrimination. Around 54,000 mothers a year are either dismissed, made redundant where others in their workplace were not, or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave.

While hiring women, many companies ask them openly about their marriage and further family planning as they cannot afford the maternity leaves and other flexibility perks.

What can you do?

To ensure that new mothers are not dropping off the workforce entirely during and after pregnancy, many companies have now included flexibility policies for women who resume their career post-maternity breaks. They provide flexible schedules to accommodate prenatal appointments and/or a medical condition related to the pregnancy.

Employers should choose to challenge maternity discrimination by keeping the dialogue open with an employee about the kind of support she might need during her pregnancy. Companies should train managers to be more supportive and less biased towards expectant/new mothers.

4. Microaggressions
Microaggressions are the everyday, subtle, and often unintentional interactions or behaviors that communicate bias. They signal disrespect and reflect inequality.

They negatively impact a person’s ability to do their job, sense of safety, and overall happiness. Unfortunately, 64% of women experience microaggressions at work, with women having to prove their competence and provide evidence more than their male counterparts.

Microaggressions may seem small when dealt with one by one, but they significantly impact when they add up. Women who experience microaggressions view their workplaces as less fair and are three times more likely to regularly think about leaving their job than women who don’t.

What can you do?

For companies truly invested in diversity, it is essential to build an environment of tolerance and respect. And microaggressions can play a significant role in hampering that kind of environment, apart from affecting employee’s productivity.

Train your staff to identify and not indulge in inadvertent microaggression in their behavior with colleagues. Train them how to respond to these kinds of behavior, keep an open-door policy so that people can come and share their experiences, and know that they are heard. It is important that companies choose to challenge these problems so their workplaces are more inclusive, gender-neutral, and inclusive.


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hiring remote

The How-tos of Remote Hiring

6000 4000 Mita Mandawker

2020 really opened up new avenues of working, living and hiring (esp. hiring remotely) for all of us.

The year has been a revelation for talent professionals in particular, as they had to suddenly transition from in-person hiring and onboarding processes to being suddenly remote. We have come to realize that a lot of processes that we came to adopt over the last year, work better and are far more cost-effective, remote hiring in particular.

A month into 2021, with vaccination drives picking up worldwide, it seems we will continue working and hiring remotely for a foreseeable future. So how do you do remote hiring effectively, to stay in the race for quality talent, when your candidates can’t experience your workplace and culture in person?

As a global talent technology company, we work with clients across the globe and help them build teams. These are a few things, we recommend to our client partners –

Be ready with your remote hiring plan

Most companies have hiring standard operating procedures (SOPs) with them. With remote hiring, however, you may have to tweak your existing SOPs to better fit the new processes. A few tips that can help you with this include:

  • Make sure you have your list of job boards you will be posting your job openings on. You will need this even for your in-person hiring but if you are hiring for a completely remote position, there are different job boards for that, so be sure to include them in your hiring plan.
  • Ensure the job description is clear and concise, stating all the requirements and expectations for the role. Be especially clear if the position you are hiring for is remote in some capacity or fully, if the person will be expected to work out of the office with the team or if it’s a hybrid arrangement. Make it a point to include all these details in the job descriptions along with the actual requirements of the role.  This will influence your candidate pool, if the position is fully remote, you can look at talent from other countries and need not be restricted by local talent.
  • Decide who in your team is going to own what part of the hiring process, the technology that will be used and test out the tech in advance and keep experimenting to find better options.

Be creative – rethink full-time positions, substitute with project-based remote hiring

As recovery looms and businesses start picking up activity and growing their operations again, manpower has become very important.

As a company, it is time to get creative and rethink the way you hire. Agility has proven to be the key to surviving business troubles over the past year. Agile teams tend to be built around project or business requirements and dismantled as soon as the objective is met. It would be useful to first plan out what key projects you would be working on in the short and long term and what kind of staff and skill set you would need for these projects. Then one should consider hiring staff on a project basis, this way the company can stay lean, keep their costs low, and if you are open to hiring in a remote capacity, you have access to global talent.

Create a thoughtful remote interviewing plan
While you are working on drafting a remote hiring and interviewing plan to ensure that it best allows you to evaluate the candidate, their potential and the culture fitment, it is important to keep in mind that the process is well-put and conducive even for candidates.

For instance, with multiple rounds of interviews being done remotely, it is important to document the questions asked to candidates and digital notes of the interview (questions asked, impressions on candidates, their responses, etc.) are shared with every interviewer who will be speaking with the candidate. This way, the candidate won’t have to answer repetitive questions, the interviewers can utilize that time to delve into other aspects of candidates’ profile and work experience. So this is a win-win situation for both – hiring managers and candidates, where the seamless candidate is also ensured. This level of thoughtfulness will definitely leave a good impression on the candidate about your organization.

Prioritize your candidate experience
Candidate experience has always been important, but more so now with the increase in remote hiring and interviewing, where the candidates cannot experience your workplace and culture in person. Small details matter – being sensitive to the candidates’ responsibilities (it is possible that video might malfunction, kids might barge in during interviews); maintaining good video etiquette (eye contact, test out your tech in advance).

During video interviews, ensure that you are focused on the candidate while speaking and don’t look spaced out. Make sure you have allotted time to answer any questions that candidates may have, and be sure to follow-up after the video interview on emails.

Fast turnaround time
A lot of people lost their jobs during the pandemic and they are looking to start working soon. As companies pick up their hiring processes again (to an almost pre-pandemic speed), it is vital to make your hiring processes more efficient. Streamline your processes to make sure you are not keeping candidates waiting for long, embrace digital screening to tackle high candidate volumes (we helped a leading video-on-demand service in India cut down their screening time by 75%, more here).

Keep the candidates engaged during the process with updates on their application, share materials about your company to help them understand your company and culture better.

Over the course of 2020, we have learnt that we can embrace new ways of working and hiring and they can be really beneficial for us. As we start getting back to business as usual in the new normal, remote hiring and remote working will be key to business success.


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