It’s a fact. We all have unconscious biases and without being aware of it, they get to play an integral role in both our personal and professional lives. We see a middle-eastern looking man, sporting a long, dirty beard and wearing a turban and immediately we associate his looks to some terroristic suicide bomber from some place like Syria, and we stay away from him. He may, after all have a ton of explosives strapped to his body. In the same vein we bump into some young man looking like a trendy ivy leaguer, clean-shaven and wearing the latest fashionable suit, and we say. “There’s a decent, educated guy who must be a top manager in a hot-shot company. Wouldn’t it be nice for our daughter Sarah to meet him?” Sure, if a chance came up, Sarah would be glad to meet him – her parents (going by their bias) not having any minor qualms at all, that this person, for all his good appearance could well be a serial killer.
How Our Biases Work.
That’s how it goes with our biases. Our many years of experience, personal attitudes and outlook about certain things, our culture and beliefs – over time, they build a set of instinctive prejudices and preferences which we generally take for granted since we are, for the most part unaware of them. These things can range from the trivial like “It’s silly to have your kids believing in Santa Claus” to prejudices that are damaging as in believing Caucasians and Westerners are smarter, sharper and more superior to Asians.
When we jump into these initial impressions and snap judgments of people without any clear or concrete basis, they’re most likely the result of our biases. As they come up during casual conversations or as you see people on your way to work and perceive them with your bias, they would generally be harmless. But, when it comes to recruitment and selection of people for your management teams or for simply, decision-making when hiring employees, they could cause some real big problems.
How Biases Can Affect Your Hiring Decisions
While it makes sense to consider a job candidate’s actual experience, skills and potential value to your company, you might decide on somebody because he/she has basically an outlook that runs parallel to yours like putting a premium on teamwork and sense of cooperativeness when the need is for somebody who’s strong-willed and is able to make fast decisions. Of course, this can work the other way around – hiring a strong, take-charge person like you when what the company needs is a team player. These biases by affinity (same outlook, same beliefs, etc.) can, in the long run lead to an organisation of clones. As a management guru once said …”If everybody is thinking the same way, a lot of you are not needed here”
So, What Can You Do To Overcome These Biases?
Just about the best thing you could do is to consciously and deliberately build up self-insights. Look deep into yourself and uncover, and then accept your unconscious biases about people looking for a job. And then, more importantly, you should understand how your biases are most likely to impact in your hiring and selection process.