Sarah is a 31-year-old Client Relations VP at an established firm and seeks a Program Manager to implement her service initiatives. A recruiter has sent several candidates with varying degrees of qualification. Today, she’s interviewing Jacob, whose resume closely aligns with the role.
When Jacob sits down for the interview, Sarah offhandedly notices that he appears to be in his late 40s.
She asks good questions and Jacob provides encouraging responses. However, nagging thoughts start creeping around the back of Sarah’s mind: Jacob might resent having to take direction from someone 15 years younger than him. He may push back, thinking he knows better. What if he’s set in his ways and is unwilling to adopt the company’s methods?
Meanwhile, at the next-door building in the same office complex, Brandon is a Software Development Leader at a 2-year-old tech start-up. Since launch, his team has been made up of guys he’s worked with before and friends from college. Guys similar to him, in other words. But the company’s early success means it is time to expand and reach beyond personal circles to fill new positions.
Sitting across Brandon’s desk today is Femi, a candidate with the requisite education and experience to join the software team. As a woman from another country who speaks English with an accent and wears religious attire to work, Femi neither looks nor sounds like the people Brandon is used to collaborating with. He’s impressed with her responses to his questions, and she displays the positive attitude he expects of team members. But doubts begin to whisper at the edge of Brandon’s consciousness: She’s not going to “get” our audience or understand what our customers want.
By now, everyone should be able to recognize the unconscious bias at play in the examples above. Having unconscious bias doesn’t make Sarah and Brandon bad people. We all have unconscious biases we must overcome to be more collaborative and considerate in a multicultural, multi-generational workforce. Such biases become a major problem, however, when they lead us into making suboptimal business decisions.
The fictional managers described above are at risk of passing on good candidates because of biased assumptions. Sarah and her organization might miss out on Jacob’s valuable insights and historical knowledge that could improve outcomes. Brandon may fail to make the hire for the exact reason he should make the hire: Femi has vastly different life experience and perspectives. She is likely to understand the needs of customers in ways that Brandon and his team hadn’t considered.
Companies have an array of approaches they can take to limit hiring bias and, as a result, increase the diversity of their in-house talent. One of the best methods for doing so is a pre-employment assessment.
A well-designed, scientifically sound assessment will reveal if Jacob is oriented toward following direction or tends to prefer doing things his own way. An assessment will show whether Femi has the openness and listening dynamics to understand the needs of different audiences.
Assessments can also reveal job-specific information about candidates.
If Sarah’s firm integrated assessments into the hiring process, she would not only learn if Jacob is open to adopting the company’s methods, she’d also find out if he’s a good overall fit as a Program Manager. In Brandon’s case, he’d discover if Femi displays the important attributes of a Software Developer, such as creative problem solving and conscientiousness.
As demographics shift more rapidly toward a multicultural, multi-generational, and diverse workforce, smart companies know they must take steps to ensure their talent reflects both the world around them and, ideally, the customers they serve. Otherwise, they risk getting lost in a world that doesn’t exist anymore and watching their market share shrink away to nothing. By using assessments to reduce unconscious bias (and to support good hiring practices in general), business leaders can play a key part in positioning their organizations for continued growth and success.