Skip to content

DEI Blog Series: How Bias Impacts Recruitment and What You Can Do About It

This is the fifth of 10 installations of Envol’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Series! 

Our goal is to support organization leaders in taking real action to advance DEI within their teams, throughout their business, and in their communities.  

Today, we’re talking about unconscious bias, why it’s important, how unconscious bias impacts recruitment practices, and 3 tips to help mitigate unconscious bias within your organization’s recruitment process. 

What is conscious and unconscious bias? 

The Nonprofit Association of Oregon describes bias in the Equity & Inclusion Lens Guide (2018) as “showing prejudice in favor of or against a person or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. We all have both conscious and unconscious biases that shade our thinking and interactions” (p. 6). 

Conscious bias is when we have prejudicial views that we are aware of. You can expect conscious bias to show up as explicit thoughts in your mind.  

Unconscious bias is just that – unconscious. We’re not aware of it because it doesn’t appear explicitly in our thoughts; however, it is connected with our worldview and manifests in the real world through our behaviours and actions. The consequences of bias are inextricably linked with privilege. 

Why does bias matter? 

Unchallenged bias matters because it shows up as prejudicial views towards certain groups of people based on characteristics of their identity. For historically marginalized groups, this creates inequity in accessing opportunities, putting them at an unfair and greater disadvantage. 

The only way we can effectively manage the biases we have and prevent the harm they cause is by becoming aware of them and acknowledging their presence. 

Once we are aware of our biases and are curious about how they came to be, we can actively work towards positive change and improvement. 


How does unconscious bias impact recruitment? 

Unconscious bias has a significant and negative impact in the recruitment process if left unaddressed. 

Interviewers and hiring managers are people and people have biases. This is the reality in which we live in. From shortlisting resumes to assessing candidates’ skills and self-presentation in interviews to making final hiring decisions – all of these activities can be (and often are) corrupted by unconscious bias. 

Despite the fact that homogenous teams underperform in comparison to their more diverse counterparts, exceptional candidates are overlooked and discriminated against in recruitment processes every day due to unconscious (and conscious) bias.  

Recruitment is the most accessible leverage point in your business to diversify your team – use it to make positive improvements to your team and business! 


3 tips to help mitigate the impact of unconscious bias in your recruitment process and throughout your business: 
  1. Every team member who has a role in your hiring process should attend unconscious bias training. This will help them become aware of their biases and know how to identify them when they inevitably crop up. Better yet, if every person on your team is able to attend unconscious bias training, all the better!  
  2. Ensure hiring panels are diverse so that assessments of candidates incorporate varied perspectives. Panellists can engage in internal discussions on the candidate post-interview to voice their assessment and hear others’ perspectives. Hearing multiple opinions and perspectives can help bring to light our own unconscious biases, and we can actively work to mitigate their effects. 
  3. Use rubrics to support fairness in assessment and require interviewers to give thorough rationale for their scoring. Ensure that your rubric criteria do not inherently support bias that leads to favourable assessments of non-marginalized persons. It should be neutral and purely based on aspects of candidates that influence their ability to do the job well. For example, “the candidate has experience doing x, y, z” or “the candidate possesses skill x and demonstrates the ability to do y”. 


Feeling stuck? Reach out to our team of HR experts – we’re here to help! 

Check out the other articles in our DEI Blog Series here!