Biases are unfortunately common both in the workplace and outside of it. In many cases, we’re not even aware of them, yet they can affect hiring and promotion decisions and, in the process, reinforce discriminatory practices. Hiring managers may inadvertently overlook qualified candidates because they don’t have the same background.
One of the best ways to eliminate unconscious biases is to take the matter out of our own hands and utilize technological tools to overcome them.
What Is Unconscious Bias?
An unconscious, or implicit, bias is a belief about a person, typically based on stereotypes, that someone isn’t aware of having. Everyone has them and they aren’t necessarily always negative; some biases may be positive. It’s normal to have biases like these; human brains tend to categorize the world around us and other people are no exception to that.
In the workplace, these biases are problematic when we allow them to affect hiring and succession decisions or to impact how we treat others.
How Can Unconscious Biases Impact Hiring Decisions?
Hiring managers are human, which means that they’ll bring their own implicit biases to every interview that they conduct. If left unchecked, this can result in a rather homogenous workforce. The hiring manager may not intend for this to occur, but stereotypes could result in an otherwise excellent candidate being overlooked through no fault of their own. A company that doesn’t combat this problem may end up with a weaker workforce overall.
Why Is Diversity in the Workplace Important?
Companies that have a more diverse workforce tend to be more successful and make more profits than those that don’t. This is because they have a wide range of perspectives and experiences at their disposal. This can help with everything from avoiding tone-deaf marketing mistakes and creating innovative solutions to problems to staying on top of ever-changing trends in the market and better meeting customer needs.
On top of that, having a diverse workforce helps companies attract top talent and improves the brand’s image.
How Can an ATS Help to Reduce Unconscious Bias?
Using technology is one way to reduce unconscious bias in the hiring process. A software system can help to find candidates based on specific skill sets and requirements. However, it’s important to be careful in how you set up filters on an ATS in order to avoid transferring unconscious bias into the system.
Writing Inclusive Job Descriptions
A job description is a candidate’s first impression of your company and the position they may apply for. It’s essential, then, that these be not only engaging but also use unbiased language. For example, if you use the word “salesman” instead of “salesperson,” you could be driving away female applicants right out of the gate. An ATS may be able to help you craft a job description so that you can avoid such language.
Parsing Resumes Blind
Applicant tracking systems typically include blind resume parsing capabilities. This feature allows you to specify certain requirements that you’re looking for and automatically filter out any resumes that don’t meet those requirements. This feature can eliminate some unconscious bias because personal details like names, gender, race, age, and class are all hidden. However, you do have to be careful when setting up the filters to not inadvertently transfer some bias into the ATS.
Weigh Requirements by Importance
Many ATS systems let you specify which criteria are most important for a given position. That way, you can indicate which qualifications are a must and which would be nice to have. This can help to put the focus only on criteria that are absolutely necessary for the job. An ATS can rank candidates based on how well they meet those criteria. By weighing requirements by importance, you can still see a variety of candidates without inadvertently ruling out too many.
Standardize the Hiring Process
If you don’t have a standard set of questions that you ask in an interview, some applicants may have very different interview experiences than others. Setting up a standardized process will help to ensure that every candidate is treated equally. It will also be easier to compare candidates fairly when the data you’ve collected on each is exactly the same. An ATS may offer features that help you to design a standardized hiring process, including deciding ahead of time what questions to ask in an interview.
One person’s unconscious biases aren’t necessarily the same as someone else’s. One of the benefits of using an ATS is that the software can encourage collaborative hiring. More than one person can be involved in the hiring process, helping to balance out any implicit biases that may occur. The software can keep track of any notes, interview results, and more every step of the way during the interview process.
Analyze Hiring Data
Once you’ve taken steps to reduce the influence of unconscious bias, it’s important to see how well it worked. An ATS platform typically offers reports and analytics that can show you how diverse your staff is. If you’re still struggling to diversify your company, then you can see where in the hiring process you may need to make adjustments. For example, if your pool of applicants isn’t very diverse, then you won’t have diverse candidate options later in the hiring process. In this case, you would need to reconsider where you’re posting the job listing and how you’re describing the position.
How Can You Avoid Implicit Bias With an ATS?
There is a danger with using an ATS, however; if you don’t set up the filters in the right way, you could end up perpetuating or even increasing the effects of unconscious bias. Plus, with an ATS, you may not even see the candidates’ resumes in order to overlook a bias. This could result in an even less diverse workforce than before. But how can you avoid building implicit biases into your ATS?
Create a Diversity Committee
One way to improve your company’s diversity is to create a team dedicated to that task. These team members can audit the hiring process and help spot biases that could impact hiring decisions. This committee could also help to plan how the ATS is used in hiring and identify potential issues with sourcing candidates and parsing resumes.
Filter Only What Is Necessary
If you filter for too much, you risk missing out on excellent, qualified candidates. While narrowing your pool of potential candidates may seem more efficient, it’s really only filtering out qualified candidates who might be the perfect fit. Make sure that you’re only filtering for what is absolutely necessary. For example, an employment gap or an advanced degree are common filters, yet for many positions, it’s not actually necessary.
There are many reasons that someone may have a gap in employment, ranging from illness or parenthood to a bad job market. Some hiring managers may think that an employment gap means that a candidate is lazy when that may not be the case.
Think about whether the position really requires a college degree to perform. Some positions may have specialized educational requirements, in which case this is a necessary filter. But for many positions, it’s not actually essential, and filtering for advanced degrees could also filter out talented, qualified candidates.
Assess ATS Reports
Once you’ve been using your ATS for a while, you’ll have plenty of hiring data to analyze. Look specifically for reports on how diverse your company is now and compare them to data from before. You can also examine data from the hiring process so you can see what kinds of candidates are applying and who is getting hired compared to who is not. Then, adjust your hiring process and any ATS filters as needed.
Find the Right ATS
Not all applicant tracking systems are the same. What works best for another company may not be the ideal system for yours. Using the right software will make hiring easier while using one that doesn’t fully suit your needs could actually make it more difficult, which would, in turn, impact any hiring initiatives you were trying to put into place. An online software match tool can help match you with the right ATS for your needs.