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Understanding Unconscious Bias

19 April 2024 at 9:00 am
Unconscious bias affects every recruitment process. With more understanding of our innate prejudices, how are we able to implement strategies to mitigate its influence on hiring decisions?

BrookerConsulting | 19 April 2024 at 9:00 am


Understanding Unconscious Bias
19 April 2024 at 9:00 am

What is unconscious bias?

Unconscious biases are prejudices we have but are unaware of. They are mental shortcuts based on social norms and stereotypes. Biases can be based on skin colour, gender, age, height, weight, marital and parental status, “foreign” accents or even where someone went to school / university.

To understand more about unconscious bias, please see below our latest white paper, ‘Understanding Unconscious Bias’, which highlights how humans can unconsciously register biases and what strategies we can use to mitigate this.

How to mitigate unconscious bias risk with internal recruitment

If your leaders are unaware of unconscious bias and its effects then they will be unable to address it. Firstly, make sure leaders and decision makers understand unconscious bias is and its implications for your hiring strategy.

Given two thirds of Australian business have committed to improving their Gender Diversity among leadership, it is a highly competitive market for “female talent”. The first and simplest step to take is addressing any unconscious bias that your existing staff exhibit.

Be very aware that with internal promotions, the Halo Effect, Affinity Bias, and Perception bias are factors that are equally as influential as they are in external recruitment. Internal jobs are often informally socialised which may lead to the exclusion of those who are not present at certain social occasions, most notably at lunchtime or after work drinks.

Ensure equal opportunity for job socialisation is given to all by ensuring communications are company wide or informal socialisation opportunities are frequent and not restricted to “after hours”.

Performance reviews are critical to successful internal recruitment. Setting clear career development goals and giving equal access to training and professional development opportunities is the first step to ensuring consistent and fair processes around talent development, promotion and succession planning. These should be based on business results such as productivity, engagement, and innovation in order to to avoid favouritism and bias.

Parental leave and career continuation – have open discussions with your teams and particularly those who are expecting or have recently become parents. Do not make assumptions about their plans (for more information on this please request our recent Parental Leave white paper).

  • Setting job criteria and requirements – are all of the requirements “must haves” or are they based on previous success and making assumptions?
  • Ensure that competencies and selection criteria are clear and documented.
  • When reviewing resumes – try removing candidate names and assess the outcome.
  • Interviewing – make an effort to ensure the candidate feels relaxed by finding commonalities.
  • Make evidence based decisions – too often, good and rigorous hiring practices are removed from the actual decision-making process. The phrase “culture fit” is often used to make a decision rather than “skill fit” which can often be an Affinity bias.
  • Socialise job opportunities and remember to actively promote roles within your organisation and beyond.
  • Be acutely aware that male and female employees respond and think differently (which is the whole point of diversity).
  • Pay particular attention to encouraging your female employees to actively use their networks – see “The Bias of Referrals” for more on this.

This article was originally at, you can download their full report HERE.

BrookerConsulting  |  @ProBonoNews

For over 25 years, Brooker has been at the forefront of executive search, connecting visionary leaders with organisations that matter in the Not-for-Profit, Health, Life Sciences and Associations fields.

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