We're Unconsciously Hiring the Wrong Candidates

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We're Unconsciously Hiring the Wrong Candidates
Image credit: Tinpixels | Getty Images
Guest Writer
CEO of Tribe Builder Media
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's easy to easily establish unconscious biases about who the "best fit" for a job might be based on our individual experiences. For example, let’s say that you attended a top university like Harvard or Yale, and you receive a slew of applications from candidates, some of whom attended universities ranked lower than the one you attended. You might unknowingly be less inclined to hire those candidates despite them having the qualifications to back up their expertise. 

There’s a science behind what’s happening here, known as the halo effect and horn effect, where we subconsciously allow one belief to overshadow others. I once hired an individual who had far less experience than the position required simply because they reminded me of myself when I first started my career. I subconsciously assumed they possessed the other qualities that I pride myself in, like integrity and accountability, only to find out later on that they lacked these characteristics. 

In that particular case, my perceived image of the job candidate overshadowed their actual ability to perform. I ended up learning the hard and expensive way that just because a candidate is extremely likable and charming, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be successful in the role you’re hiring for. 

Related: What Really Happens When You Hire the Wrong Candidate

In situations like these, artificial intelligence (AI) can help remove some of our human biases and help us to look beyond the polished resumes and glorified recommendations so that we’re hiring the most creative and effective members for our team. Ashkan Rajaee, whose company, TopDevz, develops custom AI-hiring solutions for Fortune 500 companies, explains that if areas of improvement are identified early on during the hiring process through the use of higher-tech methods, constructive feedback and support tools will be given to the candidate. 

“Through AI, companies can implement higher-tech methods that are capable of differentiating technical knowledge from perception into its hiring process," Rajaee elaborates. "We do this by putting our developer candidates through a series of personality-, soft-skills and live-coding skill assessments. We then input those results into an algorithm that determines the candidate’s overall score.

While the above-discussed biases are more subconscious, conscious stereotypes are also very present in the recruiting process. Unfortunately, societal and personal stereotypes are shown to be associated with how recruiters interpret a candidate’s profile. Companies can talk a good game about diversity and inclusion, but according to Harvard Business Review the level of discrimination encountered by African Americans during the hiring process over the past quarter-century has remained unchanged. It’s also a fact that only 6.6 percent of women are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and less than 1 percent are African-American. To put that into perspective, literally only 33 out of 500 CEOs are women and only three are African-American. 

We Have to Do Better

Evaluation processes are difficult to standardize for any business, let alone across large teams of recruiters, but it is these variances that are generally the root causes of hiring bias from the get-go. A client once told me a recruiter suggested she change her name so that it sounded “less ethnic” and for her to choose a “male-sounding” name so she would have a better chance of getting an interview. Hearing this story made me feel sorry for her and sorry for the companies that would miss out on her remarkable skill set and track record of transforming customer experience departments. 

Pre-recorded one-way video interviews are one of the first things experts suggest implementing. Essentially, it’s an interview where the interviewer is not present when the candidate answers the questions. These pre-recorded interviews also give the candidates a more personal way to express their motivation and help them to stand out beyond their résumé. 

However, these one-way video interviews are a relatively new concept that can make candidates feel incredibly uncomfortable. Also, keep in mind that a candidate's on-camera performance is not what you’re there to judge, unless you’re hiring the next news anchor or another broadcast position. Here are some best practices to improve the candidate experience for one-way video interviews.

  • Encourage candidates to familiarize themselves with the software by practicing, so they feel comfortable before recording. 
  • Allow for features like a digital notepad where candidates can write notes about what they’re going to say.
  • Provide candidates with a checklist beforehand with information and resources for testing camera, lighting and sound properly.
  • Let them know it’s OK if they’re not comfortable on camera and maybe don’t have the best place to record.
  • Give tips about where they should focus their attention on the screen.
  • Make sure the candidate has the interview questions far enough in advance that they have adequate time to prepare and ask any clarifying questions.
  • Explain to candidates that they can rehearse until they’re satisfied by recording as many times as they’d like and that you will only be viewing the version they submit.
  • Provide resources on lighting, microphones and tips for the type of background and environment that will be ideal for them to record in.

Related: Here's What Companies Are Doing Wrong When Hiring 

As employers, we need to remember this is a very new process for most people and they’re likely feeling incredibly lost and nervous, so let’s be mindful to do everything we can to make it a positive experience.

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