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Tech employers hold the responsibility — and the ability — to improve diversity by mitigating unconscious bias in the recruiting process. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s also what job seekers want. In fact, 70% of job seekers consider the commitment to diversity when evaluating a potential employer.

In addition, when bias is allowed or enabled in the hiring process, it costs employers money. In a study of gender bias alone, researchers found that a Fortune 500 company hiring 8,000 new employees a year with a 1% gender bias effect can expect 32 additional failed hires as well as many more sub-optimal hiring decisions, which adds up to productivity losses of about $2.8 million per year.

But there are many different types of bias that could negatively impact your hiring decisions. Learning more about the psychology behind common biases in the workplace can help recruiting teams recognize bias in their practices and find ways to mitigate the impact.

The good news is that we don’t have to eliminate bias in technical hiring to create a better world. What we need to do, instead, is learn to recognize explicit and implicit bias and the ways they can hinder a company’s ability to hire fairly and to hire the best talent for their open positions. 

”Until we acknowledge [our unconscious biases] and balance those with privilege and power, we can’t make progress against what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Rocki Howard, Chief Diversity Officer at SmartRecruiters in a Codility webinar this year. “A conversation about unconscious bias is always important if we’re going to stop having good intentions and start having an impact.”

Rooting out bias throughout the hiring process helps employers avoid these costly mistakes by attracting better talent, creating a more inclusive workplace, producing better business results, improving employee engagement and retention, and strengthening the employer brand. 

The strategies and advice in this article will help tech hiring teams assess where they are and outline actions they can take to mitigate bias. 

Mitigating bias throughout the technical hiring funnel

Bias can be problematic at every stage. In tech hiring, in particular, the technical review stage is critical to get right. Employers must take steps to reduce bias and focus on what matters in the tech hiring decision: a candidate’s skills. The tech hiring tools listed below can make a big difference in how bias can affect your hiring process.

Mask personal identifying information (PII)

Data masking of applications and resumes is gaining popularity, and for a good reason. When hiring managers don’t see personal identifying information, they will focus on applicants’ skills and experience. Data masking is a simple and accessible way to reduce bias.

“You don’t need to have a big budget to implement DEI initiatives,” said Modiara Kamps, Employer Branding Manager at Amazon. “Data masking of resumes is a big trend amongst big tech companies, where they mask universities or age or religion or ethnicity. If you don’t have the tool or the authority to change this as a recruiter, you could also do it yourself. You can mask all the personal details from this candidate and let your hiring manager only look at the working experience, especially in tech, that can be helpful.” 

At Codility, we developed our Anti-Bias Workflow for employers who want to make it easier to make skills-based hiring decisions.

Read more like this: Fast Ways to Promote Diversity & Inclusion In Your Remote Tech Hiring

Reduce bias with remote whiteboard interviews 

Video or whiteboard interviews have become more prevalent, but are they appropriate for your organization? Seeing and hearing candidates could give decision-makers more opportunities for bias to interfere with the hiring process, such as visual appearance, accent/communication skills, or even a slow internet connection. 

Codility’s virtual whiteboarding tool, Canvas, helps interviewers focus on skills by bringing the advantages of whiteboard interviews that typically take place in-person into the remote world. 

Mitigating bias in technical recruitment
Making fair hiring decisions begins with understanding how bias impacts technical recruitment at every stage.

Use inclusive language in your job ads

Augmented writing tools can help screen job descriptions/postings for exclusive language such as gender-coded language and jargon. “Augmented writing tools can help you filter gender-coded words or age-related terms,” said Kamps. 

“It’s comparable to Grammarly except for job descriptions. And I think that that’s super cool, but let’s say you don’t have to budget for that. You can browse on the web and figure out how to write bias-free job posts by, for example, using the local language and making sure your ads and job posts are free from jargon. These are small things that we often forget.”

Focus on skills-based hiring

Prioritizing skills-based job descriptions helps support an inclusive recruiting process. In addition to using inclusive language, employers need to ensure that job postings focus on the skills necessary to perform the job and avoid listing requirements that are not necessary. 

Take inventory of your diversity status

Use a diversity hiring toolkit, like this free one by SmartRecruiters, to assess your current capabilities and get actionable advice on the next steps. “The first thing you want to do is take an honest assessment of where you are in terms of your capability of hiring diverse talent,” said Howard. 

“You don’t get on a webinar and expect to get a checklist of things you need to do. They may not be right for your organization. If you’re at stage one, you don’t want to be trying to put in stage four initiatives. That’s how we get that imbalance of seeming authentic.”

In all aspects of the recruiting process, check yourself for authenticity. Ask yourself: 

  1. Are you representing the reality of your organization or an idealized fantasy? 
  2. For example, are you using stock photos of people of color if you do not employ any? 

It’s always better to represent the reality and admit you are working on the problem than to mislead candidates about your company’s diversity status.

Set realistic goals for diversity hiring

Every organization needs diversity goals, but they must be realistic and attainable. “You cannot hire more women in tech than there are out there,” reminds Kamps as an example. To create realistic goals, employers must understand the demographics of their talent pool and, if necessary, look to expand their reach and seek out more diverse candidates

Measure your progress 

Leverage data to benchmark your diversity status and create an action plan. Collect and analyze as much technical recruitment data as possible, and connect to the marketing and workforce data to look for progress and ensure alignment across your organization.

For example, many organizations are asking candidates and employees for voluntary self-identification to collect more data. Using analytics tools to understand your tech hiring can also help reveal valuable insights to drive a better candidate experience.

Data is essential, but it’s vital to “reality check” your data insights against your existing workforce. Ask employees how you’re doing on diversity goals and whether they feel that they belong. To get a complete picture of your impact, it’s crucial to extend these questions to candidates; both those offered a position and those you rejected.

Focus on your results

Mitigating bias in tech hiring is all about focusing on impact, not the intent. Employers can make a lot of progress by thinking critically about the candidate experience throughout the hiring process and using tech tools to reduce opportunities for bias at every stage of your technical recruitment funnel.

Increasing diversity at the sourcing stage and reducing bias throughout the process will result in more diverse hires and, over time, will profoundly impact the tech industry. 

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Cat DiStasio is a freelance content marketing writer for Codility who specializes in human resources, business, marketing, and technology. As a former HR Generalist and technical recruiter, she also consults with small businesses on HR practices. Cat holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Ethnic, Gender, and Labor studies from the University of Washington. Her content marketing clients include SaaS vendors, non-profit organizations, and venture-backed startups.

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