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Fighting Bias in Campus Recruiting: 10 Candidate Screening Mistakes To Avoid

Nobody thinks they’re biased but we’re all swayed by unconscious forces. Here are 10 biases that can derail campus recruitment.

Shortlisting candidates is hard. What do you do when you have hundreds of great applications for just one role? As the deadline for decision making grows closer, we typically start processing applications faster.

The faster we try to process information, the more we rely on our gut instincts. This opens the door to unconscious bias.

Your Bias Blind Spot

The truth is, we’re all biased. The fact we don’t see it is down to a specific bias known as the bias blind spot – meaning you recognize the impact of biases in others, but not your own. That’s pretty meta.

The term was created by a social psychologist from Princeton University. In a sample of more than 600 US residents, over 85% believed they were less biased than average.

In fact, just one, lonely participant believed they were more biased than average.

When it comes to hiring, this near-universal unconscious bias has far-reaching effects. Unsurprisingly, several studies indicate how candidates’ gender and race impact their chances of being hired.

One study found applicants from minoritized groups conceal racial cues to counter racial bias. Another, discovered that managers of both sexes are twice as likely to hire a man as a woman.

Implicit bias can affect, among other things, a diversity of cultures, religions, age, sexuality, and physical and cognitive abilities in the workplace.

10 biases to avoid in campus recruitment

Altogether, 10 types of bias lead to the majority of screening mistakes:

Below, you can find out more about how they work, what to look out for and a simple way to fix biased campus recruitment processes.

Similarity Attraction Bias

Similarity attraction bias means you are more inclined to hire candidates you share traits or interests with. This often applies to extracurricular interests which don’t correlate with job performance.

Suddenly you’re veering towards ‘culture fit’. Of course, culture fit doesn’t have to mean bad news for diversity. But in practice, similarity attraction is the number one reason teams end up lacking diversity.

A lack of diversity and inclusion is an ethical problem. But it’s also bad for business. When teams are composed of a single in-group identity, group-think creeps in. That leads to a lack of creativity in problem solving. It also opens the door to unanimously bad decisions.

Conformity Bias

Conformity bias is based on the Asch Experiment. The study demonstrated how our decision is affected by peer pressure.

Imagine you’re on a panel and think a particular candidate did well. Would you say so if it meant going against the rest of the interviewers? Or would you allow yourself to be swept along by the majority? Too often, conformity bias is to blame for great candidates slipping through the net.

Overconfidence Bias

The overconfidence bias occurs when the recruiter is too confident in their own ability to predict job performance. In fact, the predictive validity of unstructured interviews is so low, that they not only fail to help personnel selection decisions, but often harm them.

Confirmation Bias

We all make snap decisions. Sometimes these are based on perceived truths after which, we ask irrelevant questions, trying to elicit answers that support our initial assumption about the candidate.

We want to believe our instincts, and our assessment of the candidate, are correct.

In fact, 60% of interviewers will make a decision about a candidate’s suitability within 15 minutes of meeting them. Some will have done so before the interview even happens.

Again, that’s bad news for good decisions.

Affect Heuristics

The affect heuristic plays out when you take a mental shortcut to reach a conclusion. There’s clear danger in judging someone’s suitability for a position based on superficial factors. As with confirmation bias, if you don’t examine all of the evidence, you’re open to accusations of prejudice.

Research by evolutionary psychologists has revealed that our tendency to rely on heuristics was a survival mechanism that benefited early humans. But we aren’t early humans anymore and this bias can get in the way of success for a candidate who doesn’t quite fit the mold.

Expectation Anchor Bias

Expectation anchor bias is when we allow ourselves to anchor onto one certain piece of information about a candidate and use it to help us make further decisions.

One example is when a recruiter believes an incumbent’s success in a role was due to one specific trait. Focusing on that trait may discount the majority of viable candidates. It also creates misalignment between role requirements and recruitment decisions.

Halo and Horns Effect

This hiring bias is similar to the expectation anchor. Typically, you focus too heavily on one positive attribute, like where a candidate went to school or what sports they play.

This knowledge can blinker the recruiter throughout the process. We can place a high expectation on the candidate, disregarding any red flags on their resume that clearly highlight they aren’t right for the role.

The horn effect is the opposite. A negative signal grabs our attention and we can’t quite move beyond it.

Illusory Correlation

The illusory correlation is when you believe a relationship exists between two variables when it doesn’t. This happens when recruiters think a question provides insight into a candidate’s behavior, but bears no relevance to their ability to perform the job role.

Beauty Bias

Our brains are hardwired to unconsciously believe the most attractive individual will be the most successful. As a result, they tend to be. Of course, looks don’t affect how candidates will perform in the job, but this problematic bias persists.

Contrast Effect Bias

Screening grad applicants means long hours sifting through resumes. Rather than allowing each resume to stand on its own merit, it’s easy to compare each resume to the one that went before.

Instead of judging whether a candidate is suitable for a role based on their skills and attributes, we are comparing them to other candidates.

Fighting Bias in Campus Recruiting

Getting D&I right should be a priority for everyone. Even blinkered CFOs should be swayed by the fact that companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams are 33 percent more likely to outperform their peers on profitability.

But how do you fight the millions of years of evolution that have hardwired our brains? The answer is to turn to AI.

Of course, poorly thought-through applications of AI can amplify D&I in recruitment. But when AI recruiting software is well designed, it can help companies foster diversity and inclusion.

By identifying candidates with a track record of high performance, rather than focusing on factors such as grades, education, gender, and race, AI can help campus recruiters sidestep their own unconscious bias.

In fact, a large proportion of recruiters have started this journey already. 69% of those working in talent acquisition say AI has helped them hire stronger employees. That’s encouraging but at Headstart, we’re working hard to push that number as close as we can to 100%.

Find out more about how Headstart could help your campus recruiting team fight bias, improve diversity, and save with automation. Book your free demo today.

Headstart is on a mission to transform the way organisations hire! We are the world's first diversity driven Applicant Matching and Management System. We use Machine Learning and Data Science to transform the recruitment process, enabling clients to find the right high potential employees regardless of gender, ethnic status, sexual orientation or age.

With major brands like Accenture publicly supporting our mission, Headstart is already improving the recruitment experience for candidates around the world.

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