We all have our own unique preferences. That is not necessarily a bad thing. But where our own preconceived ideas hinder us from seeing reality—or exploring new possibilities—bias holds us back, particularly in the world of business. It is important to acknowledge and address the issue of unconscious bias and stereotyping in order to expand our horizons, opening us up to new, potentially better opportunities and outcomes.
Unconscious bias impairs decision-making
In the world of recruitment, unconscious bias can cost deserving candidates to miss out on job opportunities. Take for example the candidate with a flawless resume who on paper is by far the most qualified person for the job. He succeeds in the interview, providing all of the right answers and exhibiting impeccable social skills. Nevertheless, something does not sit right with the interviewer. In this scenario, most executives admit that they would trust their gut instinct, sending the candidate on their way. But how do you know that your intuition can be trusted if you never find out what happens if you ignore it?
From birth, we are bombarded with billions of messages. Unconscious bias stems from a variety of different sources: our parents, teachers, and the education system as a whole; TV advertising, magazines, movies, media; and society at large. Whether we care to admit it or not, our thought processes and decisions are molded by unconscious bias, with many prejudices deeply intrenched, unintentionally influencing how we interact with each other.
Unconscious bias comes in many different forms
Some of the most common are:
- Beauty bias: For a job applicant arriving at an interview, first impressions are important. A big part of that is appearance. However, where the interviewer slips into the trap of making assumptions about a candidate’s skills and personally due to the way they are dressed or their physical attributes, this can lead to flawed decision-making.
- Affinity bias: This occurs when an individual harbors a preference for a particular person because they find them more familiar and relatable due to certain shared qualities. As human beings, we typically seek out and feel most comfortable with people we can relate to, for example individuals who attended the same college or share the same hobbies as us.
- Conformity bias: Common in recruitment, conformity bias occurs where an individual goes along with the group opinion rather than voicing a contrary view because they want to be accepted.
- Gender bias: Gender bias can overlap with affinity bias, manifesting itself where recruiters feel a greater affinity with candidates of the same gender. The truth is that gender bias costs candidates, businesses, and society dearly. With a widening skills gap in many sectors today, recruiters effectively reduce their chances of reaching the right candidate if they effectively write off half of the talent pool.
- Confirmation bias: Confirmation bias occurs where an individual seeks out snippets of information that back up their opinions rather than taking an objective stance, with the result that they become even more entrenched in their views rather than seeing the whole picture.
- Halo effect: This occurs where we hone in on one particularly impressive fact about a person, allowing it to blind us to other potential shortcomings, for example, the mention of an Ivy League College on a resume blinding the recruiter to a lack of experience.
- Horns effect: Conversely, the horns effect arises when an individual focuses on one negative element about a person, allowing it to cloud their view of other positive facets.
It is important to acknowledge and address unconscious biases
The Implicit Associations Test is a good place to start in terms of identifying individual unconscious biases, enabling us all to become more aware of our own particular biases and how they could potentially inhibit our thought processes and decision-making.
Unconscious bias impacts the way we interact with others, which could potentially rub off on them, too. A classic example is the age-old misconception that boys are born hardwired to be more proficient in science and math. Research proves that this notion has absolutely no basis in fact. Nevertheless, with women representing just 23% of the STEM workforce today, this misconception has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, one which is incredibly damaging to society.
Only once we learn to recognize our own unique biases can we start to address them. It is important to understand that unconscious bias can be extremely damaging, particularly in the business world, with one Gallup survey suggesting that active disengagement costs the US economy up to $550 billion annually.
Censia Talent Intelligence eliminates bias from the recruitment process
Harnessing the power of deep system intelligence, Censia helps companies to identify, reach, and retain a diverse, high-quality workforce. Censia typically increases applicant diversity by more than three times, returning 70% more qualified candidates per role, achieving a 28% reduction in staff turnover, and reducing time to hire. Censia helps businesses to connect with highly qualified, capable candidates in seconds, helping companies fill open roles with the most promising person irrespective of their gender, physical disabilities, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, or race.