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Common Examples Of Unfair Hiring Practices & How To Avoid Them

Asavari Sharma

August 09, 2022

Infusing fresh talent continually into your business is critical to its long-term success. However, unfair hiring practices can creep in, resulting in discrimination or bias of those recruiting.

This is not only a case of racial discrimination but also includes other elements such as nationality, gender, and age, to name a few. Job seekers in a post-pandemic landscape are not the typical "I need a job that brings food to my table!" anymore.

Besides better pay and perks, they want to enjoy their hours working more flexibly. They want access to more learning and development opportunities.

No employees want to be stuck doing the same type of work anymore - they want diversity in their job roles, and they want to be treated fairly and equally for who they are.

Welcome to the 2020s

The 2020 pandemic has majorly contributed to the shift in this "employee-first" mindset. Sample this: A finding from Microsoft reveals that from more than 30,000 global workers surveyed, a good 40% of the workforce are considering leaving their current employers.

Today's corporate landscape is increasingly headed to becoming a level-playing field where employees proactively call out implicit biases or are at least aware that lopsided hiring practices warrant a discourse of their own.

An Oxford University study states that people from ethnic backgrounds apply to a whopping 80% more job postings than their caucasian counterparts. However, 76% of American professionals agree that racism is a problem across workplaces in the country.

Besides changing job seeker preferences and attitudes and the need for a more diverse workforce, understanding what unfair internal hiring practices are and how to avoid them has become a necessity. That is what we aim to explore in this article:

What are unfair hiring practices?

Unfair hiring practices are aspects of the recruitment process that are unfair or unjust towards specific groups or individuals, often a result of hidden biases common during hiring, such as confirmation bias or affinity bias.

Top classic examples of unfair hiring practices

Today's modern employee is perceptive to every nuance of hiring, which means – employers will need to be fully aware and responsible for unfair hiring practices, however unintentional they may be. Unfortunately, they have been around for long enough. Let us explore a few common examples of unfair hiring practices:

1. Resorting to shortcuts

Although employee referrals work wonders and are a good starting point to get your hiring goals sorted, it is always advisable to keep your options open and leverage various sourcing strategies.

Limiting yourself to internal hiring strategies will indirectly promote unintentional interviewer biases, given how your employees already have a set culture in mind and are likely to attract the same bunch of people.

Sourcing Strategies

Although building a culture with like-minded people is a bonus for your organization, it does not hurt to focus outside as well. Take the longer route and cut down on the shortcuts!

2. Lengthy hiring processes

Yawn…a long-drawn interview process can tire job candidates out and indirectly impact your organization's reputation for the future.

It is standard practice to start with a phone interview, followed by a skills assessment test and one or a few face-to-face interviews. However, extending it further to include more rounds just for you to come across as competitive indirectly translates to an unfair hiring practice.

It may also disengage or demotivate the candidate. That is right - making the process complex takes a toll on job candidates and can wear their patience thin. Keep it as straightforward as possible, and you will attract the right talent promptly.

3. Too many interviews

Yawn…a long-drawn interview process can tire job candidates out and indirectly impact your organization's reputation for the future. It is standard practice to start with a phone interview, followed through with a face-to-face.

However, extending it further to include more rounds just for you to come across as competitive indirectly translates to an unfair hiring practice.

Making the process complex takes a toll on job candidates and can wear their patience thin. Keep it as straightforward as possible, and you will attract the right talent!

4. Using ambiguous job descriptions

The possibility of covering the ground of all job responsibilities while doing up job descriptions is close to zero. However, using clear language to describe specific Key Responsibility Areas or KRAs with a focus on primary functions a specific position may demand would help employers and prospective employees get on the same page.

Being realistic about what a job entails right at the outset would set out clear expectations on both sides. One way to approach this is to get as granular as possible by providing details on seniority level, reporting structure, and listing duties in order of priority on a day-to-day basis.

This would keep things clear and upfront for both parties. Psst: Here's a little tip – While using fluid, explanatory language is key to sprucing up that perfect job description, leaving a little room for interpretation helps to keep the hiring pool more competitive.

5. Ignoring evidence-based decisions

Always ensure that you base your hiring decisions on evidence backed by solid data and analytics. Do not jump the gun to fill a position and drive up the numbers.

It is often too easy to get carried away with meeting hiring goals that due diligence is thrown out of the window. Even though qualified candidates need to be given a go at every step, take it one step at a time and make your decision after giving it much thought.

6. Falling prey to stereotypical mindsets

In the present-day context, inclusivity is key to staying relevant as an employer. Intentional or otherwise, discrimination typically is related to biases based on gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, and more.

Some ways to ensure that you completely stay away from the trap of discrimination in your hiring process are to use gender-neutral language, advertise jobs across regions to avoid geographical preferences, and cultivate a mindset and business culture of identifying biases and acting against them.

The more you are sorted on this, the less you will have to worry about any legal troubles that would haunt you at a later point in time!

7. Using employment status or the lack of it

Although legally permitted, it is considered unfair to ask job candidates their current employment status and, worse still, base your selection process on it. Using current employment status as a qualifier is deeply seated in discrimination and prevents hiring managers from moving forward with potentially qualified applicants.

8. Going the unstructured interview route

Unstructured interviews, as much as they seem to offer creative liberty, transparency, and spontaneity for your prospective candidates, are grounded in a hiring manager's inherent bias.

When a hiring manager uses informal techniques such as going by the gut, favoring one candidate over another owing to personal preferences, or identifying with one candidate's profile as a result of shared experiences – there is a high probability of ending up with a bad hire. The lack of a systematic assessment process leads to candidates being evaluated on different parameters, thus setting up the stage for unfair hiring practices.

Putting in a little effort and tons of foresight in planning your interview process with prospective candidates can culminate into a structured interview process and give each candidate an equal shot at being chosen!

5 tips to combat unfair hiring practices

Being unfair while hiring does not always involve refusing someone a position based on a few characteristics. It can also include offering someone a job because of their traits.

That would be a classic case of positive discrimination - for instance, if you hired a 58-year-old woman simply for the sake of having someone older on the team. So let us go back to the drawing board and revise some best practices for hiring:

1. Bank on blind hiring

While the jury is still out on how effective this practice has been in preventing hiring discrimination, blind hiring is a mindset change where recruiters mask out essential details such as age, names, nationality, or university names from prospective candidates' resumes before sending them out to hiring managers.

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM) experimented with blind hiring, where they replaced names with numbers on the resumes. Because of the same, they ended up inviting more diverse (and qualified) candidates to their interviews.

Unconscious Bias In Hiring

Research has proven that applicants with foreign-sounding names are 28% less likely to get a callback from recruiters. Blind hiring is a tactic employed to weed out inherent biases. Try it out, and let us know if you have had success in dealing with your prejudices.

2. Conduct a work sample test

Organizing skills assessments or job simulations that mirror the tasks the candidate will be doing in the job are the best predictors of job performance. The assessments give you an opportunity to test every applicant's suitability for the role by measuring the job-relevance aptitude objectively. You could use a candidate-friendly platform like Adaface to critique them and identify the quality performers for the job.

3. Inculcate a culture of diversity

Unconscious bias is probably one of the primary reasons that unfair hiring internal practices are rampant across workplaces. A first step toward preventing this is to start internalizing a culture of diversity and openness by conducting workshops covering EEOC and fair hiring practices. Educate employees on how unconscious bias bakes in into everyday work culture and warm them up to the benefits of building a supportive and inclusive workplace.

4. Establish clear lines of communication

Right at the outset, make things clear about your hiring criteria with detailed inputs on the steps involved, the number of rounds, the kind of deal-breakers, and so on. This helps build a transparent hiring culture that checks on discrimination right from the word go. Give your job candidates a clear picture that does not set them up for disappointment.

5. Bring structure and screen meticulously

Although it is essential to look at each job candidate for their merit, it helps to build a templated approach that brings some level of consistency and structure to the interviewing process.

A structured interview process helps combat implicit biases and adds a fair degree of objectivity to the hiring game. Make screening a rigorous process-oriented approach that does not leave room for personal preferences.

Limit interview questions to topics pertaining to the job that helps both the interviewer and the job candidate to stay focused without going off-script.

Over to you

The verdict is rather clear. Organizations that steer clear of the textbook definition of hiring and look beyond it by factoring in diversity in the workplace stand a better chance at innovation and creativity.

What is more, companies with thriving ethnic and racial diversity at the C-level enjoy above-average financial returns in their industry by 35%. Is it time for a reality check? Yes, absolutely. It is time to bring fairness to the hiring table. Let us get going!

Asavari Sharma

Asavari is an EiR at Adaface. She has made it her mission to help recruiters deploy candidate-friendly skill tests instead of trick-question based tests. When taking a break, she obsesses over art.

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