Bias is Killing Your Recruiting Efforts

Almost every business in the US is experiencing recruiting challenges.  We are turning down work because we’ve overworked our employees and they can do no more.  Many of us are still receiving applications from people but are lamenting that they aren’t good applicants.  As a result, we don’t have the workers we need to do the work.  One key reason for this is your biases.

How do biases apply to recruiting?

Biases can quickly become one of the major reasons for the failure of a recruiting plan.  But lets first describe what I mean by the term “Bias.”  The Cambridge Dictionary defines bias as “an unfair personal opinion that influences your judgment.”  So, in short, the recruiter, hiring manager or business leader has formed an opinion that is viewed as unfair and it influences their opinion.  Some classic examples of these are:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Industry experience
  • Seniority

Each of these biases can cause a decision to exclude someone from the hiring process.  Sometimes we do these subconsciously while other times we make a clear determined decision.  A friend of mine on LinkedIn recently shared the following regarding bias. “Real story, a business owner asked me to give his HR department a quick look.  I noticed a high number of positions not filled.  I asked to see just one of the job vacancies.  Non technical job, 294 days since being sent to HR, 400 plus resumes, ATS (Applicant Tracking System) said no matches.  With the owners input I asked what was his 5 top requirements for this particular job.  Took a highlighter out of my pocket and asked to see any 10 resumes.  4 out of 10 applicants had the top 5 requirements.  3 phone calls and a day later position filled.  Problem: age bias and a lack of critical thinking to evaluate employee skill sets for correlations and transferability.”

Another example of a bias that I experienced with a client involved a setup position in a Machine Shop.  The roles was relatively simple and a checklist was provided for the individual to assemble all of the tools and materials necessary for the machinist to run a job.  It was determined to be a low-skilled position, but it required some familiarity with tools and equipment.  The Hiring Manager selected a young woman who had for years helped her husband work on cars.  Her involvement was not much more than passing him tools.  Further, she had no industry experience. The Hiring Manager received a great deal of pushback from the person responsible for HR, the Manager of the CNC group and even the owner of the company.  I received a great deal of pushback over the hire as well.  None of those pushing back saw value in the hire and knew she would fail.  In less than 30-days the new hire turned those objections into praises.  She excelled at the job and also began to be trained to perform many other roles and functions in the production areas of the business.

Here we have a situation where for 294 days an important role of the company went unfilled.  The costs of that are tremendous.  Here are two formulas for calculating that cost from Hudson RPO, one for revenue generating positions and one for non-revenue generating positions:

Revenue Generating:  (Annual Sales Quota x 1.24) – (Total Annual Compensation x 1.20) ÷ 365 = Daily Lost Revenue

Non-Revenue Generating:  (Total Company Annual Revenue) ÷ (Number of Employees) ÷ 365 = Daily Lost Revenue

Bias can be overcome but it takes effort.  A 5 step method is one I use with my clients to help with overcoming their biases.

  1. The first step in unconscious bias reduction is being aware of what bias is and how it can affect others.
  2. To reduce the effects of unconscious bias, question biases in yourself and raise awareness in others.
  3. Create inclusive meeting practices.
  4. Create a supportive dialogue that encourages and accepts differences.
  5. Take action to eliminate bias in yourself and your workforce


Eliminating bias in your Recruiting process is a key step in improving your recruiting outcomes.  Eliminating outdated checklists and search criteria is a part of this removal process.  In the end, you will have a more diverse workforce of high-quality employees that will help drive the success of your business.