Despite a leader’s best intentions, unconscious biases can creep in when hiring and influence decisions for the worse. Small businesses in particular can’t afford to let biases get in the way. They must fill their limited number of positions with the best talent available and avoid making potentially devastating hiring mistakes.
Strengthen the hiring process at your small business with these bias-reducing measures:
Structure job interviews
Before seeing anyone, determine key competencies needed for the position at hand. Then, design job interview questions to reveal these abilities. Asking every applicant the same thing in the same order levels the playing field and discourages inadvertently introducing non-relevant subjects that could lead to bias (or a costly discrimination lawsuit for your small business).
This method also lends itself well to using a scorecard. After a candidate responds to each predetermined question, the interviewer immediately jots a rating on a five-point scale (waiting can lead to forgetting or recasting certain individuals’ answers in a better or worse light). The final tally offers a quantifiable basis for comparison.
Create objective measures
Realistic sample tests can be great predictors of how candidates will perform if hired, and they provide applicants equal chances to shine. Choose tasks in line with the actual job, such as editing a document, writing code, or responding to a customer complaint. Keep identities secret until everyone’s work is evaluated in order to judge solely on merit.
Want to gather a non-biased pool from the start? Make submitting work samples or solving a relevant problem part of the application process for your small business. Look at this material before reading a cover letter or resume. You’ll gain a perception of talent that isn’t clouded by info such as age or where the person went to school.
Enlist input from others
Members of your small business staff can be good at determining the cultural fit of aspiring hires. They also can point out potential errors in your judgment, such as selective perception. Extra eyes and ears may pick up on things you missed, offer different interpretations of candidate responses, or raise awareness of factors you may be ignoring.
Likewise, gather information from other sources. Conduct background checks on all applicants. Contact their references and truly listen. Be open to re-evaluating your opinions based on what you learn.
Explore your possible biases
Lastly, realize that bias takes many forms. In addition to developing opinions based on gender, race, sexuality, age and appearance, people oftentimes draw conclusions from factors such as alma mater, career path chosen, and even similarity to oneself. Harvard’s free online Implicit Association Tests can aid small business owners interested in uncovering thoughts they may be unconsciously hiding. Use this self-awareness to check hiring behavior and select people most likely to help your small business thrive.
Want more small business advice? Find the answers you’re looking for at CareerBuilder’s small business resource page.