December 6, 2017

5 Ways to Minimize Hiring Bias and Appeal to More Diverse Talent Pools


Diversity is more than a buzzword, more than a trend. It’s simply the right thing to do – and it’s good for business, improving the bottom line both directly (through access to a larger pool of top talent) and indirectly (through a better public reputation).

Diversity starts with recruitment. Unfortunately, diversity hiring efforts are often held back by the explicit and/or implicit biases of those who make the hiring decisions.

For years, companies have experimented with different ways to minimize the biases of hiring managers – often with limited success. One of the most common methods of addressing those biases, mandatory diversity training, rarely ever produces results. In fact, it often backfires completely, promoting instead of quashing resentment and hostility.

So, how do you achieve a diverse workforce when bias is so hard to eradicate that even the biggest tech companies in the world – with access to all the resources they need – struggle to meet their diversity goals?

There’s no magical solution that will work for every company, but there are some small steps companies can take both to appeal to diverse pools of applicants and to minimize bias in the hiring process.

Appealing to Diverse Talent Pools

1. Write Your Job Descriptions Carefully

Even the subtlest of language choices in a job description can have a big impact on who applies to a job. Studies show that job descriptions with more “masculine” terms – such as “dominant” or “ninja” – tend to repel women candidates from applying.

Similarly, long lists of qualifications can also deter women from applying. This is because women tend to only apply for roles when they meet 100 percent of the qualifications, whereas men will apply as long as they meet at least 60 percent of the qualifications. In many cases, these lengthy lists of qualifications are unnecessary overkill anyway!

By sticking only to the truly relevant core qualifications and keeping your language gender neutral, you can create a job ad that applies to a wider pool of candidates from more diverse backgrounds.

2. What Image Does Your Company Present Online?

SwingsWhen job seekers are considering applying for a job, they will often peruse the company’s website to get a sense of the culture. The images and language you use on your website and your company’s social media profiles can send subtle messages about diversity – or lack thereof – at your organization. It pays to be mindful of the image you’re portraying online.

3. Make Use of New Tech

In the Digital Age, job seekers have new ways to connect with employers based on merit and potential. For example, gamification provides a user-friendly way for applicants to demonstrate their abilities before resumes or in-person interviews are even considered. This ensures judgment strictly on candidates’ abilities rather than their demographic backgrounds.

Minimizing Bias in the Hiring Process

Receiving applications from a wider talent pool is only the first step. After that, employers must strive to remove as much bias as possible from the interview and selection process.

1. Blind Hiring

Blind hiring involves stripping away any identifiers – such as names and email addresses – that could signal the candidate’s gender, age, or race. For example, a company might remove all identifying information from a candidate’s resume before passing it to the hiring manager, who would judge each resume based solely on the work experience contained therein.

More extreme versions of blind hiring may even strip information like a candidate’s hobbies or professional associations. The goal is for hiring managers to have access only to information that is strictly relevant to the role at hand, thereby ensuring that all hiring decisions are made purely based on a candidate’s quality of work and amount of potential.

2. Structured Interviews

As face-to-face meetings, interviews are especially conducive to unconscious bias. Hiring managers often unintentionally use interviews to assess how much they like applicants based on how much they have in common with those applicants. For obvious reasons, this frequently works against diversity hiring initiatives.

You can work around the natural biases that occur with face-to-face interaction by implementing structured interviews: interviews that follow a set list of questions and discussion points for each candidate.

Research indicates that structured interviews are much more predictive of actual on-the-job performance than unstructured interviews, and the repeatability of structured interviews ensures that all candidates are judged according to the same criteria.

Diversity initiatives tend to be well-meaning but ill-planned. The best way to get it right is to simply follow the above advice. Start now, and in a few years, these tactics will be so integrated into your process that maintaining a diverse workforce will become second nature to your recruiters, HR pros, and hiring managers.

Josh Millet is founder and CEO of Criteria Corp. and JobFlare.

Read more in Diversity

Josh Millet is the founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Criteria Corp, a preemployment assessment company with a simple goal: to help organizations make better hires. With more than 20 million assessments administered globally, the company has helped organizations make objective, data-driven hiring decisions that lead to better business outcomes with its SaaS product, HireSelect. Prior to launching Criteria, Josh cofounded an online test preparation company,, which was acquired by XAP Corporation in 2002. After the acquisition, Josh served as president of XAP's test prep division. He has coauthored testing-related articles published in the "Journal of Educational Computing" and the "American Psychological Society Observer." Josh holds a PhD in history from Harvard University, where he was a Fulbright Scholar and a Mellon Fellow.