How to reduce unconscious bias in tech recruiting?
September 13, 2021
min read

How to reduce unconscious bias in tech recruiting?

Gerry Schneider
Gerry Schneider

We all have it in ourselves, and it’s hard to control. 

Various pre-judgments that people don’t even realize they are making based on someone’s gender, race, or even the name, we colloquially call unconscious bias.

Knowing how hard it is to attract and hire software developers at the moment, this problem adds up to the deep gap between tech companies and potential candidates. 

Fighting against unconscious bias demands a long-term effort, especially as many tech recruiters still wander or are incapable of understanding what is wrong with their recruiting process. 

In this blog, we want to emphasize how widespread unconscious bias is in an ever-sensitive tech recruiting industry.

Unconscious bias shrinks the sensitive tech talent pool

While unconscious information processing is a critical part of human functioning, all the shortcuts and the appearing bias often introduce errors. 

We’re well aware that recruiters, usually under a lot of pressure, take shortcuts to feed the recruiting funnel, unconsciously shrinking the talent pool with every step they make. One of the steps to avoid being driven by a biased tech recruiting process is to train and constantly remind your employees of its hiring effect. 

Recognizing and understanding the bias’ impact on interviewing and hiring reminds recruiters to question their assumptions, generally slow down, and seek additional information before making a decision. 

unconscious bias in tech

One of the possible approaches demands additional processing time and more considerable workforce involvement when using the ‘Second Look Rule.’ When taking this approach, recruiters can re-think and re-consider applications and ask colleagues for a second opinion.

Unconscious bias manifestations in tech recruiting

Since tech recruiting is very specific, especially when conducted in a virtual environment, the lack of proper 1-to-1 contact deepens the potential to grow unconscious bias. 

According to our practice and deep insights into the devs market, it manifests the most and how tech recruiters could reduce it.

Career websites

Problem: Career websites are usually dominated by biased images depicting homogenous culture, traditionally dominated by young people and open-spaced offices. Potential candidates (often coming from underrepresented groups) are having difficulties identifying with career websites.

Solution: Companies should review and update their career websites to depict an inclusive and welcoming culture for all employees. Recently during our TechRecruiting Lounge, a four-day event dedicated to HR leaders and recruiters, we have provided tips from recruiting experts on efficiently depicting company culture.

Job description

Problem: A couple of years ago, companies used extensively wrong language to create a narrative that the tech community doesn’t receive well. Words like ’ninja’ and ‘hero’ brought a biased and gender-insensitive approach. Luckily it’s been less and less dominant recently.

Solution: HR and marketing departments must continuously educate their employees to avoid stereotypes and focus on job titles based on role functions. Further improvements could be generated by a structured approach defined by writing guidelines.

Tech Sourcing

Problem: One of the well-known unconscious bias manifestations can be seen during the sourcing process. It’s not a coincidence to hear tech recruiters complaining about narrow tech talent pools when candidates are being sourced from only top-tier formal education backgrounds (i.e., prestigious schools).

Solution: Referral-based sourcing and brand ambassador network build-up provide stronger sourcing effects and role fit candidates when adequately introduced to the company project scope and culture based on mutual trust.

unconscious bias in tech

Tech Interviews

Problem: Bias is usually the most notably visible during interviews. Studies have revealed that interviewers have an unconscious tendency to favor people similar to them. ‘Confirmation’ and ‘similar to me’ bias are two very common types. They appear when the interviewer develops the first impression within a few minutes or even must have seconds after meeting them. 

Solution: Empowering employees to notice and call out unconscious bias. Companies should create and maintain a company culture attractive to a wide range of candidates that brings equal employee engagement.

Culture fitness

Problem: Unclear vision of company culture can cloud judgment on candidates’ culture fitness. 

Solution: We’ve recently assembled a guide to the most important culture fit questions when tech recruiting. Careful design of culture fit interviews will lead to less biased conclusions and, in correlation with trained and bias aware personnel, will keep it under existing minimums.

Less bias, bigger talent pools

Awareness of unconscious bias and its prevention can be developed further by thoughtful workspace planning - for example, removing office posters that could be offensive to colleagues or planning enjoyable events for all team members. 

Managing a biased approach yields more objective decision-making and widens up tech talent pools. Giving more opportunities to tech recruiting personnel to achieve recruiting plans. 

When the bias is close or completely being defeated, it leads to innovation and cultivates a more diverse, inclusive, and effective workforce.


Unconscious bias: The first steps towards its reduction

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Unconscious bias: The first steps towards its reduction

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