Unconscious bias is often spoken about under the Diversity and Inclusion umbrella, but there are many misconceptions as to how complex and multifaceted unconscious bias is.
We wanted to spend some time unpicking different biases in this piece, which we’ve been incredibly excited to share. This piece focuses on agency recruiters and how they can implement change internally as well as for their own clients and candidates.
We also had some insight from Malcolm Silander, who has an extensive background in recruitment, and now works as a Management Consultant for the industry.
He’s previously co-written papers on gender bias, and this piece aims to unpack how agencies can combat bias in their recruitment methods.
When you hear strong, powerful and assertive – what do you think of?
When you hear emotional, caring and considered – what do you think of?
That’s your unconscious (or conscious) bias talking. The reason why unconscious bias is spoken about so heavily within recruitment and HR is that these biases can affect how diverse and inclusive a business is.
With D&I sitting at the forefront of many companies minds, it’s important that agency recruiters also focus on learning about unconscious bias so they can service their clients better.
Biases can come in many shapes and forms: your social class, your skin colour, your gender, your sexual orientation, the university you went to, your age – all the way through to how you dress and speak.
This is because societal norms and stereotypes influence how we think about people based off a first impression. Unfortunately, we automatically judge – so removing biases in the recruitment process is the first step to giving all candidates equal opportunity.
Malcolm highlighted an example that he experienced early into his career as a recruiter. Taking a brief for a functional Head role with a GM and Head of HR, it was stated that they specifically wanted a man, as the role was ‘too important’ to be done by someone who had competing priorities, such as the mother of children.
This blatant bias is now thankfully rare, however, all forms of bias are often still prevalent in unconscious form, where unless a deliberate effort is made to understand and then remove ingrained prejudices they will influence the outcome of a recruitment process.
Within agencies, one of the difficulties is inherent bias within the agency themselves. It’s hard to educate your clients on unconscious bias when internally you don’t practice what you preach. If you have no policies or initiatives in your agency, it then becomes lip service when you try to talk to clients about it.
How you approach unconscious bias has to be a never-ending education tool, and it must filter through every layer of your business. Start off with your own internal recruitment, and once you feel confident with the processes and training that you’ve got in place – you can then start to educate your clients on it.
Although learning about unconscious bias is an excellent first step, it can be easy to slip up and not hold yourself accountable – especially when rolling out training to other recruiters within your agency. Engaging with a third party external trainer or consultancy can keep you laser-focused, as well as being held accountable.
If you truly believe in Diversity & Inclusion, as well as educating people on unconscious bias – it should be a shared education, rather than only focusing on a top-level down approach. Educating brand new employees on how you tackle unconscious bias will equip them with the knowledge they need to have difficult conversations, rather than teaching them when they reach a certain level of seniority.
We still have a long way to go with gender bias, but we’re confident as a platform that more and more businesses are becoming aware of their biases – and can work to combat them effectively.
For Malcolm, talking about gender bias is key. Keeping the conversation alive will bring changes. If you’re at the start of your journey (either as a recruiter or a recruitment business owner) there are a ton of free resources so you can support your clients and candidates better.
Want to learn more about how CloudRPO can help you to reduce bias in your recruitment process? Book a demo today.