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SHRM Survey Reveals Pervasiveness of Unconscious Bias

Recently, Roy Maurer covered a SHRM survey of recruiters that revealed some interesting insights into differences between male and female recruiters in terms of how they evaluate candidates coming in for job interviews. The survey questioned 831 recruiters in the United States on their thoughts regarding recruiting and looked for evidence of hiring bias, among other trends. The results yield some interesting and important insights about how we are all impacted—in ways we may not even be consciously aware of—by those we interact with. Whether hiring, or simply interacting with, others it’s important to keep the potential for unconscious bias top-of-mind.

Here's what the survey results reveal.

Appearance Matters—In Ways We May Not Even Realize!

One of the most interesting findings was the difference in how male and female recruiters take a candidate’s appearance into account during the interview process. “Male recruiters said they tend to pay more attention to appearance, personal style and enthusiasm during the screening process,” reports Maurer. According to the research, males are more likely than females to look at applicants’ photos prior to the interview. Males also admit that they’re likely to be influenced by the photos they view. They’re also more likely than female interviewers to reject a candidate that they feel is “wearing attire considered too casual” to an interview, Maurer writes. Female recruiters, says Maurer, focused more on candidates’ educational background and references, than appearance.

The Pervasive Impacts of Unconscious Bias

SHRM’s survey results support the presence, and pervasiveness, of unconscious bias.

“Half of surveyed recruiters (57 percent) believe unconscious bias is part of the typical hiring process, and some respondents say they've witnessed biased attitudes in action,” reports Maurer. “About a fourth (27 percent) of recruiters say they have observed or heard sexist attitudes expressed toward a candidate, and 22 percent said the same about racist attitudes.”

The fact that so many respondents said they believe bias is present in the recruiting process is likely due to the fact that they believe they are observing such behavior in others, as opposed to themselves. It’s important for all of us to recognize that we, too, suffer from unconscious bias and to be alert to that potential in all of our interactions.

The SHRM survey is another wake-up call reflecting the fact that unconscious bias has real-world impacts that can’t be ignored. Recruiters are gatekeepers in so many ways; their attitudes and biases have big implications for the level of diversity and inclusion in organizations of all kinds.

What steps are you taking to help minimize the potential of these impacts in your organization? Be inclusive!

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