Celebrate International Women’s Day by breaking bias in your hiring processes

International womens day

7 mins, 12 secs read time

Every year, International Women’s Day is a reminder to celebrate women’s achievements and promote equality. This year, the theme is #BreakTheBias, which feels especially meaningful for anyone in talent acquisition or HR. The decisions we make and processes we put in place – whether it’s how we write our job descriptions, conduct job interviews or choose who gets promoted – all have a major impact on the candidate and employee experience. And they’re all susceptible to bias.

We caught up with several members of the Greenhouse talent acquisition team to hear their tips on breaking bias in your hiring process.

Put inclusion front and center

“As a Talent Acquisition Manager, I want to make sure that I am running our recruitment process with a DE&I lens. It is all about setting expectations with the hiring manager and team up front on the goals and how we will achieve them together. Representation means everything to me. As a woman, it is important that I see myself in roles and fields that we typically have difficulty obtaining. But through data, I am able to develop a plan with my team on how we can create a job description with inclusive language, engage with certain networks to attract more talent and make sure our interviewing team has a good level of representation. I am truly grateful to be in the position I am today because it allows me to educate others on how we can break biases in our hiring process to create a more equitable workplace for all intersectionalities.” –Pamely Gomez, Talent Acquisition Manager

Be open to getting feedback on your process

“When talking about inclusivity, you need to do just that – include people. Ask them questions, pick their brain, get their perspectives. During a female software engineer retrospective, I sat down with four women who had been recently hired at Greenhouse and asked them questions about their interview process. What went well, what could have been better, etc. Their insights were so valuable when thinking about candidate experience. One simple thing that came out of it was telling candidates to practice coding and talking at the same time. It's something you don't think about telling candidates, but it makes sense. Interviewers want to see how well you code, but also how you problem-solve.

When it comes to breaking bias, Greenhouse makes it so simple. During our roundups, we concentrate only on evaluating candidates on the scorecard attributes and nothing else. If someone steers the conversation in another direction, the interviewers will step in and say, ‘That is not an attribute or skill on the scorecard.’ It can be easy to judge tone or perceived motives but the reality is, we're hiring the best person for the job now and it's impossible to know what they will do in the future or what we think they meant with their tone.” Liz Velatini, Technical Talent Acquisition Manager

Consider intersectional identities

“Breaking bias in the hiring process really begins with creating intentionality and a shared understanding as a hiring and management team – for example, you may already know that acknowledging identity-based blind spots is a crucial step for any diverse and equitable hiring practice. From kickoff, create the space to be adaptive to the candidates moving through the process – especially when they may have intersectional identities.

There are several ways you can commit to breaking bias for women with intersectional identities. By generalizing, hiring teams may be limiting their success, especially given that women who are underrepresented in multiple ways may have additional barriers to account for compared with their peers. For example, the experience that caregivers, chronically ill and BIPOC women have in the hiring process can be markedly different. When it comes to overall strategy, I also encourage hiring teams to creatively leverage the resources available to them. Other strategies that can help improve the experience overall while addressing bias include inviting ERG members to help source/recommend qualified candidates and allowing ‘low-stakes’ opportunities (coffee chats, videos like this one from our Senior Director of Sales Development, etc.) for employees of similar backgrounds to connect with candidates to tell them about their experience.” –Dominique Prieto, Talent Planning Operations Specialist

Try to limit the influence of linguistic bias

“I feel like the world we live in today still has perceptions on what a person should sound like and, if they don’t speak the English language perfectly or if their accent is different, judgments can be made quicker. Linguistic bias exists and it’s important for companies to tackle it head on.

When conducting interviews with non-native speakers, remind your hiring panel to slow down, adjust their tone and avoid using colloquialisms or slang even though they may seem natural to them. Demonstrating empathy and patience and focusing on the content of what is said, rather than the way the candidate says it, will create a standout candidate experience where they are comfortable being their true selves.” –Melissa Shannon, Talent Acquisition Manager

Expand your definition of “qualified” candidates

“While many companies strive to reduce bias in their hiring processes, I find they often lack keeping an open mind and not pre-judging candidates pursuing new career paths.

After seven years in the communications field, I realized it was time for me to make a change. While the decision was scary for several reasons, one big fear I had was that companies would simply look at my application and write me off immediately as not having the ‘traditional’ experience needed for the role. This turned out to be true for all of the places I applied, except Greenhouse, where the TA team took the time to speak with me. I was able to dive into my background, explain why I wanted to pursue talent acquisition and discuss all the transferable skills that I could bring to the position.

I know so many people, especially women, who share that same sense of hesitation and fear I had. I believe that if companies consider the value of having employees with different perspectives and experiences and take the time to have conversations, they would discover some incredibly qualified candidates and help ensure a more equitable hiring process and workplace.” –Bronté Barbarito, Senior Candidate Experience Specialist

Be crystal clear in your list of desired attributes

“Hiring managers and TA teams are at the forefront of providing equitable opportunities for women of all intersectionalities through an inclusive and structured interview process. It's very easy for hiring managers to default to hiring based on a resume without taking into consideration what's actually a qualification for the role vs. a nice-to-have. For example, do you need someone who has worked with customers in the SaaS industry, or are you really looking for someone who's able to build relationships with stakeholders, regardless of industry? When hiring teams take the time to dig deeper into what skills will make a candidate successful in the role, you can be more open-minded to a variety of valuable life experiences and perspectives.” –Generi Talens, Talent Acquisition Program Manager

Back your decisions up with data

“I think an important step in mitigating bias in the hiring process is using data-driven decisions. A best practice I try to utilize is always justifying my thinking in writing when I'm evaluating candidates. This practice can help ensure we're not making decisions based on that gut feeling or reaction to someone and instead see that our decision is rooted in the key skills and attributes we've already outlined as tied to success in a given role. For example, if I were evaluating a candidate for their attention to detail, and they shared an example of a tedious and in-depth project they led, I might highlight evidence from their response and write, ‘Candidate demonstrated strong evidence here. They took a thoughtful approach to planning ahead of starting a project to ensure they've considered all details, enabling them to complete the project effectively, and took the added step of having a peer review for quality assurance.’ Synthesizing the evidence shared by a candidate allows you to make a more thoughtful and informed decision about their candidacy when the time comes.” –Caroline Angell, Talent Acquisition Manager

Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Ready to become great at hiring?