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Fortunately, for serious minds, a bias recognized, is a bias sterilized.
- Benjamin Haydon
On January 17th, 2018, Scout and Greenhouse joined forces to gather over 150 founders and HR executives for a deep-dive discussion on how we can combat unconscious bias to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces.
This was the third event in our #ScoutingTalent event series, and our first in the Bay Area. Our objective was to help arm the audience with tactical tools and best practices to bring back to their organizations. Following a delightful dinner at Airbnb, we hosted a panel of subject matter experts and practitioners. Our panelists shared their war stories, best practices, lessons learned, and tactical tips for an audience that hails from the largest and fastest-growing companies in the region.
Definition of unconscious bias: the accumulation of mental shortcuts both hardwired and developed, that lead us to form judgements, often unfair in nature.
We are all biased - and our biases color the decisions we make in the workplace, whether we’re interviewing, or assessing performance, or determining if someone deserves a raise or promotion. We learned there is no way to “untrain” the instinctive impulses that lead to our biases. It’s part of the human condition (and one of the ways our brain handles an otherwise overwhelming cognitive load). That being said, awareness of bias and how it manifests is one of the keys to creating a diverse and inclusive environment. Only when we’re aware of our hard-wired biases can we actually address them.
1. Say goodbye to culture fit and hello to culture add
The term “Culture Fit” can often be a mask for bias. If your company is employing the “beer test” line of thinking for determining culture fit (e.g., would you want to have a beer with the candidate?), you might be missing out on some incredible talent. Unless the candidate’s job description actually entails drinking beers, why bother posing this question to interviewers? This question is often investigating “is this candidate like me”, a form of homophily bias. Instead, consider asking yourself these questions:
a) Do you feel the candidates values align with ours?
b) Do you feel the candidate would add to the existing culture?
2. Use inclusive language in job descriptions
Tools like Textio can help you re-work your job descriptions to be more enticing for all applicants. Avoid aggressive language like “ninja,” “disrupt,” or “ruthless,” and also shy away from “fixed mindset” attributes which speak to innate traits like intelligence. Studies show that women will apply to a job when they have 80% of the job qualifications. That figure is just 50% for men. Knowing this gap exists, avoid “fixed mindset” language patterns that deter female applicants and replace them with “growth mindset” attributes (e.g., creative, adaptable, collaborative).
3. “Too experienced” and “overqualified” can be signals of ageism
When we say someone is “too experienced,” “overqualified,” or make assumptions about their salary expectations, we may be inadvertently and unfairly ruling out candidates who are older. Instead of making assumptions on salary expectations, just make the offer. Don’t rule out a candidate because you believe their salary expectations will be too high. It’s not fair to the candidate and this line of thinking perpetuates ageism.
For those interested in learning more, you can watch the video from the event. We explored how bias presents itself in candidate sourcing, interviewing, evaluation, promotion, compensation, team dynamics and employee development. We also discussed ways to effectively and efficiently combat these biases.
A warm thank you to our generous and thoughtful event co-host, Greenhouse, and to Airbnb for providing the beautiful venue. We are also grateful and hopeful that so many influencers decided to spend an evening with us brainstorming how we can all address bias. These conversations, these best practice sharing sessions, will allow us to accelerate to a world that is move diverse and inclusive of everyone