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Inclusive Hiring: Reducing Bias & Building Equity in the Hiring Process

Diverse employees in a meeting include two men and two women

Unconscious bias in the hiring process often means candidates from underrepresented groups are screened out. As a result, organizations miss out on stellar talent, and candidates miss out on job opportunities.

In this webinar, industry experts explain how to recognize unconscious bias, how it impacts talent pipelines, and strategies to reduce bias and create equity in your hiring process.

Unconscious bias in the hiring process often results in candidates from underrepresented groups being screened out. As a result, organizations are missing out on stellar talent that could otherwise bring fresh perspectives and ideas to their teams. 

In our recent webinar, Reduce Hiring Bias to Build a More Diverse Workforce, we learned how to recognize unconscious bias, how it impacts talent pipelines, and strategies to eliminate it. Industry experts Joelle Allen, Chief Inclusion Strategist at Interaction Traction, Jaci Sanchez, People Operations Manager at Fountain, and Elizabeth McLean, General Counsel at GoodHire, shared powerful insights around inclusive hiring practices. 

Joelle defines inclusive hiring as “hiring based on merit, with special care taken to ensure procedures are free from biases related to a candidate’s age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and other personal characteristics that are unrelated to their job performance.”

With that in mind, here are some of our panel’s best practices around reducing bias and building equity in the hiring process.

Sourcing a Diverse Candidate Pool

If you want to get serious about inclusive hiring, it’s imperative that you be intentional and proactive about building a diverse talent pool. Joelle kicked us off with five steps to a successful diversity search.

1. Use data to determine where you are, and where you need diversity 

Dig into your people data to learn where you have diversity gaps. For example, do you have employees with different physical abilities, military statuses, and degree programs? Are they represented at every stage of leadership? Use this data as a baseline to understand your progress as you put new efforts in place.

2. Define your search process objectives

Take the data you collected and create objectives to inform your search. Decide how you’ll measure success, and devise a timeline to reach that goal. For example, if you want to hire more veterans, make a goal to source 100 veterans across all roles this year.

3. Create your job description

Make sure you’re not missing out on great talent because of the way you’re wording job descriptions. Get a diverse team together to define the core competencies needed for a given role, and what can be learned on the job. Then run them through tools like Textio, tapRecruit, and Gender Decoder to eliminate biased language.

4. Create candidate personas

Envision the type of candidate you’d like to find. What’s their background? Where do they spend their time? What are their skills, goals, and interests? Then create three to five personas that broaden your view of that candidate, considering things like different cultural characteristics, abilities, orientation, and backgrounds.

5. Create your sourcing strategy and tactics

Put all of this together to understand who you’re trying to reach, where you’re going to find them, and how you will reach them. Match your personas with different sourcing channels, like Historically Black Colleges, professional organizations for cultural groups, and sororities and fraternities. Then drive engagement though diverse media and social channels.

Building an Equitable Interview Process

Once you have a diverse talent pool, you will need to eliminate barriers to diversity and inclusion in the interview process. Joelle and Jaci shared some best practices around checking biases during the interview process.

  • Use a consistent questions and rating system: Use a structured interview process, where you ask each candidate the same set of questions, so you can compare the answers apples-to-apples.
  • Involve a diverse committee: Be intentional about building a diverse interview panel; some people are going to pick up on cultural cues that others don’t. 
  • Schedule a discussion on bias: Simply being aware of implicit bias helps to keep it in check. Hold a discussion around bias as part of your interview debrief. 
  • Challenge biases: As your hiring panel discusses the pros and cons of each candidate, challenge stereotypes and biases you might hear in their feedback. 
  • Replace culture fit with culture add: Be careful that “culture fit” is not creating a barrier to inclusion for candidates that think, act, or look different. Instead, focus on “culture add,” or the qualities someone will bring, while also sharing core values.

Upholding Fair Screening Practices

There are inherent biases in policing and the criminal justice system in the United States. Background checks must be used appropriately and responsibly, and in compliance with the law to ensure that your screening practices are fair. In addition to following EEOC guidance, Elizabeth suggests you talk to your background check provider about what they can do to help you support fair hiring and to build fair hiring practices. This may include:

  • Automated adjudication: This feature allows customers to build rules for grading background check results. Then, it makes sure that those rules are consistently applied, regardless of who’s viewing the results.
  • Record filtering: This feature allows you to tell your provider what kinds of records to include on reports, based on how old they are, the severity of the offense, and the type of charge. You can also tell them which offenses you don’t care about and to omit from the report, so they’re not visible while making a decision. This mitigates the risk of viewing information that’s not applicable, old, or that the EEOC discourages employers from using.
  • Demographic filtering: This feature removes race data points from background checks, which is required by law in New York City, but optional elsewhere. 

Final Thoughts on Inclusive Hiring

As Elizabeth said, “Business owners, HR professionals, and employers have an opportunity and a duty to improve the diversity of our workforces. That starts with reducing and eliminating bias in hiring, implementing equitable hiring practices, and designing inclusive systems.” With all the social injustice in the world, organizations can make a positive impact on the world around them, one inclusive hire at a time. 

Watch the webinar to learn more from our expert panel. Access the on-demand recording here.

Ready to try GoodHire? Learn more about our background check platform.

About the Author

As GoodHire’s managing editor, Sara Korolevich produces educational resources for employers on a variety of employment screening topics, including compliance and screening best practices, and writes about GoodHire’s company and product news. Sara’s experience stems from 20+ years working as a B2C and B2B PR and communications professional.

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