Reduce Unconscious Bias in Hiring Process

21 Ways to Reduce Unconscious Bias in the Hiring Process

Unconscious bias is not only unfair but leads to poor results. According to a Deloitte study, 68% of respondents claimed that bias hurt their productivity. 

Reducing unconscious bias in your organization is thus beneficial both for people and profit. So, how do you do it? In this article, we’ll look at 21 efficient ways to reduce unconscious bias in the hiring process. You will leave with action steps to implement for quick improvements. Let’s dive in! 

How to reduce unconscious bias in the hiring process: 21 ways

We have examined different parts of the hiring process and how unconscious bias can influence them. If you’re serious about reducing unconscious bias, read through this list and make a checklist to implement what you’re missing. Let’s get started!

What is unconscious bias? 

Unconscious bias is the tendency to favor certain demographic groups over others. It is not based on merit, but on prejudices we’re unaware of. When hiring, unconscious bias can lead to choosing people based on name, nationality, or gender instead of skills and competencies.

It’s important to notice that no one is entirely free from this judgment. But there’s a lot we can do to make the unconscious conscious and thus reduce its power over hiring decisions, leading to a more fair labor market and world.

Job ads

  1. Beware of gendered words in job ads

Did you know that words like “active”, “confident” and “driven” in a job ad can deter women from applying? Studies have shown that these types of words can make women feel they don’t belong in the work environment. Interestingly, “feminine” words like “interpersonal”, “honest” and “support” had almost no effect on male candidates. 

To reduce the negative impact of gendered words in job ads, you can either remove masculine-coded words, or alter between masculine and feminine words (such as “build” and “create”). 

If you’re unsure what words to keep, a tip is to use A/B testing to see how applicants respond to different expressions. You can also use an AI tool to detect gendered words. 


  1. Use blind applications 

Blind applications are anonymous. The hiring manager can evaluate the candidate based on their skills and experience without making (unconscious) judgments based on their name or physical appearance. You can use a software to blind out applications. 

  1. Create three independent and blind data points: CV scan, skills tests, and interview 

In addition to blind resumes, you can use blind skill tests and interviews. This gives three independent points for evaluation, and thus dramatically reduces the risk of unconscious bias in the hiring process.


  1. Structured interviews

Recruiters often default to a casual interview structure, where topics are addressed as they arise. To reduce unconscious bias, it is recommended to stick to an interview structure where every candidate gets asked the same questions. This ensures you cover all the critical points for each candidate, and stick to questions relevant to the role. 

A classic example of unconscious bias is asking women of child-bearing age if they plan on having kids soon and letting that influence the hiring decision.

  1. Avoid showing peers’ opinions before interviewing

When you have multiple rounds of interviews with different people on your team, it can be tempting to have the first interviewer brief the next one. This inevitably colors the second interviewer’s image of the candidate. A better strategy is to prevent the interviewers from discussing the candidates until all interviews are completed. 

Hiring Decisions

  1. Make data-driven decisions

A rule of thumb is to use data to motivate decisions whenever possible. While it may be more challenging to evaluate soft skills, such as communication, we recommend using data whenever possible.

  1. Modify the environment 

Did you know that your environment influences your decisions? By environment, we mean the conditions around the hiring process. For example, if it’s right before lunchtime and you just can’t stop thinking about the incredible ravioli you’ll order, you may make hasty decisions to get to your lunch break faster. 

To reduce unconscious bias, be in as neutral an environment as possible when making decisions. 

  1. Focus on behavioral needs over skills and experience 

Hiring managers tend to put too much emphasis on skills and experience. It’s easier to train an employee with the right attitude to master a new software, for example, than to train someone who’s an expert at what they’re doing to be motivated. 

  1. Regularly review your hiring process

Your hiring process is not a one-and-done thing. You need to regularly assess it to ensure you’re on top of reducing unconscious bias. Set reminders in your calendar or online review systems. 

  1. Seek different instead of better 

Different is the secret weapon to becoming better! By asking yourself, “How will this candidate make us different?”, you help break the cycle of unconscious bias that’s easy to default to.


  1. Organize awareness training sessions for hiring managers and employees

Training helps make the unconscious conscious. Awareness training helps hiring managers become extra attentive to unconscious bias when hiring. 

  1. Read and learn about underrepresented groups 

It is natural to assume everyone sees the world the way you do. By reading books about underrepresented groups, you gain an increased understanding of how their challenges may differ from yours. This is true even if you are part of an underrepresented group yourself. 

  1. Discuss the value of diverse opinions and backgrounds 

Diverse teams have proven to be more creative and more lucrative. Discuss unconscious bias and the value of diversity, preferably with the entire team. 


  1. Empower leaders to be self-aware 

Empower leaders to develop self-awareness by continuously looking at their beliefs and mindset. This process could be included in regular performance check-ins.

  1. Show vulnerability by telling stories about when you were wrong 

Inspiration is more effective than imposing when it comes to instilling change. Rather than telling people to act a certain way, share a story about when you were wrong and why it was important to correct your thinking (without getting too personal). 


  1. Beware of likability 

We tend to like people who are similar to ourselves. During the hiring process, beware of whether you hire someone because they’re the best fit for the role, or because they’re similar to you.

  1. “First interviewed, first hired” bias 

Did you know that we tend to favor candidates we interview early? Studies show there’s a psychological tendency to prefer the first candidate, even if later candidates are more qualified. A way around this is to state clearly why you see the candidate as a match for the role.

Practical tips

  1. Use planning prompts 

What gets scheduled gets done. A crucial part of reducing unconscious bias is thus to plan the activities, such as trainings and reviewing the hiring process. 

  1. Stop using the word “diverse”

Some people argue it’s wise to stop using the word “diverse” altogether since it cements white men as the norm. An alternative term can be “underrepresented groups”. 

  1. Evaluate who represents your company in interviews

The same goes for promotional material. Does your website and brochures accurately represent your company by showing people of different ages, genders, and ethnical backgrounds? 

  1. Use an automated onboarding software

To ensure everyone gets treated equally when starting, even if the team is going through a busy period, use an automated onboarding software. Similarly, an applicant tracking system can save you headaches and hours when recruiting! 

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