How tech can help solve your unconscious hiring biases

by | Mar 10, 2020

Columnist Mathias Linnemann is a Co-founder and CCO of, a leading UK-based marketplace for companies seeking to hire professional freelancers and contractors. He is an X-Googler, an international speaker, appointed member of the Danish Government’s board for the sharing economy, debater, panelist and podcast host. 

Read all of Mathias’ articles here.

The goal of every business is to hire the best and the brightest. However, unconscious biases often influence recruitment decisions, actually hindering this goal. These biases can be difficult to uncover, because well, they’re unconscious. But there is one way to get rid of them.

Here’s how…

Unconscious biases comprise of subconscious patterns of thinking, meaning it happens without us even realising it. It’s triggered by our brain making a quick judgment, which is a result of how our brain is wired to react from both nature and nurture.

A CIPD report focusing on the behavioural science of recruitment showed that UK employers’ initial perceptions of whether a person will be a good fit for their company are highly determined by unconscious biases. These can be visual, cultural, demographic or situational factors.

For example:

  • Both male and female managers tend to favour men over women in hiring decisions
  • Evidence suggests that we hire Mini-Me’s: people similar to ourselves in terms of profile, professional experiences, and how we dress and present ourselves at interview
  • The time taken to make a recruitment decision is often higher for the first few candidates, but drops as soon as the fourth person is called in for an interview., This is when confirmation bias or ‘selective hearing’ can come into play

This results in hiring managers ending up with a homogenous talent pool, lacking diversity in skills and problem-solving methods. This can be detrimental to a company’s productivity and growth. As a recent McKinsey study shows, companies in the top quartile for diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.  

Additionally, a study from Bersin by Deloitte shows that diverse companies benefitted from 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period compared to non-diverse companies.

Not many hiring managers would disagree that the most important part of the hiring process is finding the very best person for the job. Recognising that they need to do something about their unconscious biases, some SMEs have looked to unconscious bias training as a possible solution. However, an article in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour, published by Wiley, suggests this form of training is ineffective and in some cases, can actually increase biased decision-making. 

So, how in the world can this issue be avoided?

Recruitment tech can solve the problem

SMEs wanting to get rid of their unconscious hiring biases can benefit from recruitment tech solutions that use advanced algorithms to filter through candidates. Online hiring platforms, for example, use advanced algorithms to filter through candidates, matching companies with the best talent solely from a skills and competencies based perspective. 

Here, variables such as age, name, race, or gender are removed from the equation. 

Consequently, these kinds of technological solutions provide hiring managers with an unbiased pool of the most eligible candidates for the job in a matter of seconds. 

However, it’s important to note that bias can still be injected into the AI – but it’s a lot easier to remove bias from tech than it is to remove it from people. 

As an added benefit, removing unconscious biases can also help businesses reduce the failure rate for hiring. Our own research on UK businesses found that 1 in 3 new hires currently fail to make it through probation.  On average, businesses spend nearly £6,559 a year on recruitment and hiring.

If a candidate doesn’t work out, not only are these fees lost, but the salary during the probationary period is also wasted. According to Adzuna, the average advertised UK salary is c. £35k, equating to a potential loss of £17k during a six month probationary period. This means one third of new hires could be costing businesses £23k. 

Therefore AI based hiring solutions  can not only help to eliminate unconscious bias, they can also help save SMEs money. 

In the end though, it’s still up to the hiring manager to choose who they believe is best suited for the role and to represent the company. This means the hiring manager can still project his or her own bias when selecting the successful candidate for the role.  But by utilising AI based hiring solutions, the final pool of candidates should be the most skilled of the bunch – regardless of age, gender or race.

So, to get a head start in making sure you’re enforcing the best hiring strategy possible, free from unconscious biases, here’s four key steps you need to consider.

Four steps to prevent unconscious bias:

  1. Always question your own judgment and be aware of your own biases. Only by acknowledging the issue of ‘hiring bias’, can we work towards finding a solution to eliminate it. 
  2. Communicate the risks associated with unconscious bias to everyone involved in the recruitment process. Raise awareness of it at every level of your organisation. 
  3. Be open-minded about harnessing tech solutions:  recruitment platforms powered by AI will help you find the best person for the job based on skills and competencies alone.
  4. Encourage your hiring managers to use blind recruitment wherever possible to prevent unconscious bias. Exclude name, age and race from a candidate’s CV, so that recruitment decisions  are purely based on merits.

4 Cloud Predictions For Businesses In 2021

With businesses starting work on their 2021 plans, and reflecting on the challenges of 2020, we asked leading experts for their views on the key technologies, trends and challenges that 2021 will bring. Today, we're looking at the cloud, which became one of the...

2021 Small Business Trends – Data Q&A With Natalie Cramp

In the first of our predictions pieces we speak to Natalie Cramp, CEO of data science company Profusion about the events of 2020 and what 2021 might have in store. What were the key events for you this year? It goes without saying 2020 has had a profound impact on how...