You’re likely already familiar with the benefits of a diverse workforce — from greater profits and innovation to the ability to attract and retain top talent — but what’s less clear is how to actually hire for diversity. How do you translate the rhetoric to action and results? From crafting job descriptions to structuring interviews, lessons from behavioral science can help you design your hiring process to increase the diversity within your organization.
Everyone is biased
Bias is universal and ubiquitous; it can’t be avoided. And it’s not a character flaw, but simply how our brains operate. Despite the feeling that we are good, moral people who treat others with equal dignity and respect, bias inevitably seeps into the hiring process and results in systematic disadvantages for some groups of people. Because of the elusive “bias blind spot” where we are unable to see our own biases, we must take steps to counteract them if we hope to establish a rich and diverse workforce.
Designing more equitable processes requires systems change, which can be achieved through two approaches: weeding out and correcting for bias. Where possible, we can try to reduce bias in organizational procedures, both in how we appeal to applicants and how we evaluate them. And we can implement systems to correct for bias — starting from the assumption that it’s there, and deliberately adjusting for it.
Method 1: Weed out bias
Though we can never fully weed out bias, we can take steps toward minimizing it. Research from behavioral science shows that the most effective ways to weed out bias are by adopting standardized hiring processes, objective hiring criteria, neutral language, avoiding overstuffing, blind evaluations, a diverse set of evaluators, and structured interviews with score cards.
Create standardized processes that apply equally to all job applicants
Because bias is systematically treating groups of people differently, one of the best ways to weed out bias is to ensure that you are systematically treating people equally. By creating rigid procedures that apply to all job applicants, you eliminate the room for improvisation that leads to favoring in-groups at the expense of others.
Establish clear, objective criteria for hiring
Positions should be created with maximum specificity outlining the actual responsibilities of the job, from expected outcomes at specific milestones to the skills the candidate will be expected to teach and learn from others on the job. Hiring criteria should be clear, objective, and established in advance so that positions are not adjusted during the hiring process to fit any particular candidate.
Use neutral language in job descriptions and promotion
The language you use in job descriptions and promotional materials can unintentionally signal bias. Coded language like “energetic” can deter older candidates, just as phrases associated with masculinity can deter women. By removing such coded language, you will strip your hiring process of some bias and receive more applicants to your positions.
Avoid overstuffing job descriptions with “nice to haves”
Limit job descriptions to include only the responsibilities that are truly required of the role. By including “nice to haves,” you restrict the number of people who are comfortable applying. For example, while men routinely apply to jobs where they only meet 60% of the requirements, women tend to only apply if they meet all 100% of the requirements.
Evaluate resumes blind
We unconsciously extract irrelevant information from resumes that influences our impression of candidates. By blocking out the kind of information that signals age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, or other demographically-identifying information (such as the applicant’s name, college, GPA or address), you can eliminate the possibility of unintentionally judging applicants with information that does not predict job performance. Blinding resumes and even in-person auditions is found to decrease bias in hiring.
Involve a diverse set of people in the hiring process
A heterogenous hiring team can help to counteract the biases of a homogenous one. Include multiple people from different backgrounds ( at least three) at each step of the screening and interview process to independently assess candidates. At Intel, the diversity of hires increased from 31% to 45% of hires being women or people of color after the company required interview panels to include at least two women and/or employees from underrepresented groups.
Stick to structured interviews and score cards with objective metrics
Objectivity can be enforced through the standardized structuring of interviewing where all applicants are asked the same predefined questions and scored with a predetermined rubric. (Helpful guides for structuring interviews are available from Google and the US Office of Personnel Management.) By removing the possibility for creative freedom, you remove the wiggle room where bias tends to seep in. Importantly, structured interviews are better at predicting job performance than unstructured interviews.
Method 2: Correct for bias
In addition to weeding out bias where possible, we can also try to correct for bias. This can be done through specific diversity targets, hiring multiple people at once, utilizing targeted job platforms and outreach, and intentionally selecting for diversity.
Create specific diversity targets
To create targets, you first need to understand how your organization is doing. Start by developing metrics to track diversity at each stage of the hiring process, from the pipeline to the final organizational composition. (For comparison, check out the metrics used in the Thompson Reuters Refinitiv D&I Index.) Measure success at each stage of the hiring process to identify and address shortcomings (e.g., percentage of candidates hired with respect to gender, race, ethnicity, age, disability, sexuality and so on).
By keeping track of the hard numbers, you will be able to understand which processes are improving, which still need work, and most importantly where to focus your efforts to reach your goals.
Hire multiple people per role at a time
Hiring one person at a time often leaves underrepresented groups behind, as research shows that isolated one-off choices lead to selection of diverse candidates less often. By hiring multiple people for a role at once, this effect is counteracted.
Post jobs to targeted platforms & targeted outreach
Encourage a diverse pool of candidates to apply to your position by explicitly seeking people out through intentional referrals and communities that value diversity. The danger of reaching out to employee networks can be that these networks tend to be similar to the existing employee base, so outreach should intentionally be directed toward heterogenous groups outside of employee networks. In addition to this targeted outreach, posting to smaller affinity groups and “niche” job boards is generally more successful at attracting women and minorities than posting to large-scale general jobs boards.
Intentionally select for diversity
Finally, you can intentionally select for diversity by giving underrepresented groups a boost throughout the hiring process, consistent with the law. ( What’s legal?)
Whatever combination of weeding out and correcting for bias that you take, this guide should help you by providing some best practices for hiring more equitably.
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com.