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Insights into Human Resources

Unconscious bias: dealing with the elephant in the room

Wednesday 19 September 2018 - By Kathleen Powell - Co Founder and Director of Colossus Systems

In today’s article we shall be discussing how technology can help reduce the time to hire and improve hiring decisions, while ridding us of unconscious bias at the recruitment stage.


No matter, how hard people try to prevent unconscious bias from influencing their decisions, it still happens, the perfect picture is painted of the ideal candidate and then it’s difficult to shake that perception and to rid ourselves of our preconceived ideas of what the perfect fit and hire should be like. Unconscious bias can override rational decision making and get in the way of logical thinking. Although most of us hate to think we base our opinions of others through stereotyping, the human brain does this instinctively. The problem this can cause in the workplace is that we adopt practices that lack diversity and change in departments and business, continuing to follow the same patterns, never changing or growing. For instance, a company that doesn’t promote many women into leadership roles, is a prime example of this and the overall impact it can have. The lack of female role models in leadership positions and the biases against women in power, or mothers that work, within a company and society as a whole, can prevent young capable women acting on their leadership potential within an organisation, resulting in an unhealthy work culture, lack of gender diversity within particular roles and discrimination.

Another problem we can experience, if we allow it, is that we continue down this long drawn out recruitment process, passing up 100’s of CV’s and interviewing 50+ candidates and still not finding that “perfect” fit. This results in vacancies being left open for months, and the same job being reposted, all costing money and taking up large amounts of time. How can we then adopt methods that better serve us rather than hold us as humans and the business back? We all want to find the right person for the company and not make a bad hire, but when is it our logical mind at play, or our unconscious bias kicking in and wreaking havoc. If we are presented with a candidate that has the right skills and qualifications, responds mainly well to the interview questions, but may not have the cookie cutter responses, predetermined by the hiring manager, and still for some reason this person is unsuccessful because it just doesn’t feel right, then this is more than likely our unconscious bias kicking in. Can technology help?


This is where we have seen the introduction of machine learning and technology, this will not only eliminate unconscious bias and the legal ramifications this can lead to, if the company is found to have acted discriminatory in its pre-hire process, but it dramatically reduces the time to hire, saving companies thousands in hiring costs and resources. How can recruitment software help, through the application of an algorithm that assesses whether the applicant has the skills required for the job and meets those indicated in the job description regardless of gender, age or ethnicity. The data is pulled that corresponds solely with the skills required, candidates that match the predetermined personality profile, drawn up from the job spec, will become automatically rated and placed in the potential pool. This process helps screen candidates faster against suitability, leaving unconscious-bias at the door, ensuring candidates shortlists are more diverse and objective.

The majority of us would hate to think and admit to being biased against a person due to their gender, race, age or disability, but research indicates that we all have a level of unconscious bias to some degree, the good thing is that once we are aware of it and the negative impact it can have on our relationships with others, our organisation and the policies and processes we implement, we can take steps to eliminate it through education.


Equality and diversity training is key to help eradicate unconscious bias, focusing on self-awareness and how our past experiences can mould our preconceptions, thoughts and opinions, which at times may not always be logical or the best outcome for ourselves or others around us.

Technology can now help your business source and search for talented individuals from underrepresented groups, helping you implement your diversity and equality policy in a simpler more effective way. Traditional recruitment methods used to source talented and diverse candidates are renowned to be time consuming, labour intensive and as a result inefficient. Technology can now help reduce the time down from hours to minutes through algorithms, that makes monitoring existing diversity within the company easier to establish and source diversity needs; for instance sourcing talented women for tech roles, or putting forward ethnic women into senior roles, which have predominantly been white male, would all be included in a company’s diversity policy, tech software would just make it that much easier to manage and to see insights at a glance. Technology enables us to predict future recruitment needs of the business, the best ways of attracting, sourcing and measuring the attempts and progress of a company’s diversity efforts more efficiently.

Adopting these methods early on will only strengthen and speed up your processing, helping you keep ahead of the game, improving time to hire and diversity efforts, giving you your valuable time back to concentrate on accomplishing more within the business. The great thing about recruitment software is that it helps you manage the recruitment process, while still enabling you to maintain control of the important decisions.

We understand the concerns surrounding costs of implementing software, especially for small businesses and the doubt surrounding adopting new methods, when the old ones have worked just fine for so long, but is just fine enough; with AI and machine learning rapidly moving upon us it’s important not to get left behind and stuck in old patterns, while the competition strives forward embracing the new way, becoming ever more efficient and effective.

If you’re interested in learning more about how recruitment and hiring automation can help excel your business, get in touch today to find out more about our surprisingly affordable software packages.

Follow for me at @SystemsColossus  or for similar blogs, resources and stories.

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