Diversity & Inclusion, Recruiting

How Objective Hiring Methods Can Reduce Bias and Discrimination

It has never been more important for HR teams to be capable of building and sustaining a diverse workforce. Companies with diverse employees aren’t just more innovative and high-performing than their peers; they’re also in a stronger position to attract and retain top talent. However, many organizations are still using traditional hiring methods that constrain their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.

For example, many organizations are still completely reliant on the two oldest and most common hiring resources available: résumés and unstructured interviews. These resources are notoriously prone to bias because they often give recruiters a superficial picture of a candidate’s skills and other traits. This causes résumé reviewers and interviewers to fill in the blanks with their own subjective impressions—and, yes, sometimes even their prejudices. HR teams also tend to focus on local talent markets, which prevents them from considering many of the most promising candidates for a role.

The remedy for these problems is the implementation of objective hiring methods that mitigate bias, give hiring managers an accurate understanding of each candidate’s abilities, and provide access to deeper talent pools. With evidence-based hiring tools, companies will be capable of building predictive, holistic, objective, and measurable hiring processes that reduce bias while helping them build healthy and productive workforces.

Why DEI Is a Core Focus for Today’s Hiring Managers

The evidence for the value of increasing diversity in the workplace is overwhelming. Diverse companies don’t just outperform their competitors; they’re also more attractive to jobseekers, and they have lower levels of turnover. According to research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board Company (CBE), diverse and inclusive work environments have a wide range of performance benefits: “[I]ndividual discretionary effort improves by 12 percent, intent to stay improves by 20 percent, and team collaboration and commitment improve by about 50 percent.”

Overall company performance increases, as well; McKinsey found that companies with more diverse leadership teams were significantly more likely to financially outperform companies that are behind on diversity measures. DEI provides significant cultural benefits, too, which is why diverse companies are better able to attract talent. Almost one-third of jobseekers report that they wouldn’t even bother applying to a company that doesn’t have a diverse workforce—a proportion that jumps to 41% for black candidates.

Despite the fact that DEI has become an essential element of building a healthy workforce, many companies are still struggling to incorporate it into their hiring platforms. This is where a reconsideration of outmoded hiring resources like résumés and unstructured interviews is vital: HR teams have to remove as much irrelevant information as possible from the hiring process to cut down on bias and identify the best candidates for the job.

Looking Beyond Traditional Hiring Methods to Ensure Diversity

Companies often think of DEI in terms of internal policies and initiatives that give all employees a voice and build a more inclusive culture. These efforts are critical, but HR teams should also prioritize DEI right from the start with objective hiring strategies that minimize bias and help companies determine which candidates have the skills and competencies necessary to succeed in their roles. This means reassessing long-standing assumptions about hiring benchmarks such as work experience and education.

Many hiring managers rely on single data points to make decisions, from how many years of experience candidates have to the schools they attended. But this information is often misleading. For example, when I was head of global talent and growth at Salesforce, we examined the top 100 salespeople and discovered that two-thirds didn’t have any enterprise experience (which is what many hiring managers would have been most concerned about). Instead, the top performers typically checked three boxes: They worked on a monthly sales cadence, they were familiar with the relevant sales environments and systems, and they had been trained in solution selling.

This is a reminder that the best candidates often have diverse and unique forms of experience that can’t be adequately summarized on a résumé. The same applies to other important variables, such as cognitive ability and emotional intelligence. Unlike the claims jobseekers make on their résumés, which are embellished and even fabricated with startling frequency, these variables can be tested with objective preemployment assessments. These assessments don’t just provide insight about how well a candidate will perform on the job; they also reduce bias by allowing all candidates to prove themselves on a level playing field.

How to Build a Diverse Workforce

A hiring process is only successful if it’s predictive—that is, if the process gives HR teams reliable information about what sort of employee a candidate will be. Preemployment assessments use multiple inputs to produce a comprehensive profile of each individual candidate based on the core competencies that matter to each company. Companies like Criteria (full disclosure: I’m on the board) offer a variety of science-backed assessments. One of the things I like about working with them as both a board member and a client is that they develop assessments that have been rigorously vetted to ensure they accurately represent candidates’ abilities, which limits bias and guesswork in the hiring process.

There are several abilities and traits that have repeatedly proven to be directly linked to job performance, such as cognitive ability, emotional intelligence, and behavioral competencies. One of the reasons résumés and unstructured interviews aren’t effective at predicting how candidates will perform in their new roles is the fact that they don’t offer objective measures of critical qualities like these. This doesn’t just deprive companies of a major competitive advantage at a time when talent markets are extremely tight; it also makes their hiring processes susceptible to bias, which is a pervasive phenomenon at companies across the country.

HR teams are responsible for identifying potential employees who meet their companies’ unique needs, and they can’t afford to filter out promising candidates based on bad information. With robust and objective hiring methods like preemployment assessments and structured interviews, HR professionals will reduce bias and uncertainty in their decision-making process and give all candidates a fair shot.

Ana Recio is SVP of Talent at SoFi.