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Eliminating Unconscious Bias

Addressing Unconscious Bias in Recruitment to Improve Inclusivity in the Workplace

Unconscious bias is a type of bias that occurs without conscious awareness or intention. In the workplace, unconscious bias can affect recruitment and other processes such as access to training or being invited to be part of a project team; leading to decreased diversity and inclusivity and negatively impacting employee morale and retention. In this article, we will explore how unconscious bias affects the workplace and provide practical tips for recognising and overcoming it, particularly during recruitment processes.

Benefits of Inclusivity

Inclusivity in the Workplace: A diverse group of people walking along a pride flag

First of all, it is important to recognise the benefits of improving workplace processes to remove unconscious bias and to become more inclusive. There are numerous benefits that organisations can experience by being more inclusive. Here are some of the key ones, along with research to support them:

Increased innovation and creativity:

When organisations foster a diverse and inclusive environment, employees feel more comfortable sharing their ideas and perspectives. This leads to a broader range of ideas being generated and more creativity and innovation. A study by McKinsey & Company found that companies in the top quartile for gender and ethnic diversity were 21% and 33% more likely to have above-average profitability, respectively.

Higher employee engagement and retention:

Employees who feel included and valued are more engaged and committed to their work. This translates to higher retention rates, lower turnover costs, and increased productivity. A study by Deloitte found that inclusive teams have 80% better business performance and that employees who feel included are 3.5 times more likely to be motivated to do their best work.

Improved decision-making:

When diverse perspectives are considered in decision-making, organisations can make better decisions. A study by Boston Consulting Group found that companies with diverse management teams had a 19% increase in revenue due to innovation.

Increased customer loyalty:

Customers are more loyal to companies that demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion. A study by Accenture found that 41% of consumers would shift their purchases to a more inclusive brand.

These benefits demonstrate that being more inclusive can lead to tangible business outcomes for organisations. Research consistently shows that organisations with diverse and inclusive workplaces are more successful in the long run.

The Impact of Unconscious Bias on Recruitment and Inclusivity

Unconscious bias can have a significant negative impact on the diversity and inclusivity of the workplace, as well as on employee morale and retention. When unconscious bias is present in recruitment and other workplace processes, it can lead to a lack of diversity and hinder the development of a positive workplace culture. Furthermore, it can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the bias reinforces itself and becomes more deeply ingrained in the workplace over time.

Examples of Unconscious Bias in Recruitment and Inclusivity

To better understand how unconscious bias can affect recruitment and other workplace processes, here are a few examples of common biases:

Confirmation bias:

This is the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs and overlook information that contradicts them. For example, an interviewer may ask leading questions or interpret a candidate's responses in a way that confirms their preconceived notions about certain groups of people.

Halo/horns effect:

This is the tendency to form an overall positive or negative impression of a person based on a single trait or characteristic. For example, a hiring manager may view a candidate more favourably because they attended a prestigious university or hold a similar hobby, even if these factors have little to do with the actual job requirements.

Affinity bias:

This is the tendency to favour people who are similar to us in terms of background, personality, or interests. For example, a manager may unconsciously gravitate towards staff who share similar experiences or interests, even if these factors are not relevant to the job or their performance.

Implicit association bias:

This is the tendency to associate certain groups of people with certain characteristics, often based on stereotypes or media portrayals. For example, a hiring manager may unconsciously associate women with nurturing roles and men with leadership roles, leading to a bias towards male candidates for leadership positions.

Anchoring Bias:

This is when we rely too heavily on the first piece of information we receive when making a decision, and then we use that information to anchor our subsequent judgments. For example, deciding that a candidate is a poor fit for a job based on their first impression or a single mistake they made during the interview.

Addressing Unconscious Bias in Recruitment

To address unconscious bias during the recruitment process, it is important to recognise its existence and take steps to overcome it. Here are some suggested ways to manage a fair recruitment process:

Create a job advertisement that is free from biased language:

Avoid using gender-specific pronouns or words that may suggest that the job is suited for a particular gender, race, age, or ethnicity.

Use diverse sources to advertise job vacancies:

Reach out to diverse organisations, community and professional associations to advertise job openings. This can help you reach a wider and more diverse pool of candidates and can even target underrepresented groups.

Implement blind recruitment processes:

Remove all personal identifying information such as names, gender, race, age, and address from the candidate's application materials before reviewing them. This can help reduce unconscious bias.

Use structured interviews:

Use a standardised set of questions and scoring criteria for all candidates to ensure that they are evaluated fairly and consistently.

Train your recruiters:

Provide training to recruiters on unconscious bias and diversity and inclusion. This can help them identify and avoid biased behaviour during the recruitment process.

Evaluate the effectiveness of your recruitment process:

Collect data on the demographics of the candidates who apply for the job and the candidates who are selected for the role. Analyse this data to identify any patterns or biases in your recruitment process and make changes accordingly.

Personal Strategies to Self-Assess and Deal with Unconscious Bias

In addition to the strategies mentioned above, it is important to develop personal strategies to self-assess and deal with unconscious bias. One effective strategy is to regularly examine one's own beliefs and assumptions about certain groups of people and consider how they may be affecting our actions and decisions in the workplace. This can involve asking oneself questions such as:

What stereotypes or assumptions do I hold about certain groups of people?

How do these stereotypes or assumptions affect my interactions with others in the workplace?

Am I giving equal consideration to all candidates in the recruitment process, regardless of their background or characteristics?

An effective personal strategy to help to identify blind spots and areas for improvement in one's own behaviour and decision-making may include:

Educate yourself:

Learn about different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives to broaden your understanding and reduce stereotyping. There are many resources available online, such as books, podcasts, and videos, that can help you learn about different cultures and perspectives.

Identify your own biases:

Reflect on your own biases and assumptions and try to identify where they come from. Recognise that everyone has biases, and being aware of them is the first step in addressing them.

Challenge your assumptions:

Whenever you find yourself making assumptions or stereotypes, challenge them and try to see things from a different perspective. This can help you to recognize and overcome your own biases.

Practice empathy:

Try to put yourself in someone else's shoes and understand their perspective. This can help you to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for different backgrounds and experiences.

Use objective criteria:

Use objective criteria to evaluate people, such as their skills, qualifications, and experience, rather than subjective criteria like cultural fit or personal opinions.

Practice active listening:

Listen to people's perspectives and experiences without judgement or interruption. This can help you to develop a deeper understanding of their background and experiences.

Seek feedback:

Ask for feedback from others to help identify any biases or assumptions you may have. This can help you to learn and grow from your experiences.


In conclusion, addressing unconscious bias in recruitment and other workplace processes is crucial for creating a more diverse, inclusive, and engaged workplace. By increasing self-awareness and taking practical steps to mitigate the impact of unconscious bias, we can work towards building a workplace culture that values diversity, inclusivity, and fairness for all.


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