Are you making hiring decisions based on education and pedigree? Are promotions happening because of a person’s likability? Are certain individuals being steered away from positions based on negative hearsay? Are you missing out on top talent because you haven’t taken the time to match talent to what the job really needs?

If you are doing these things, you and your organization are likely succumbing to unconscious bias in your processes of recruitment, hiring, development and retention of employees. To begin the process of preventing these biases and helping you build a more diverse and inclusive workplace, it is important to identify the biases that all too often impact candidates and hiring efforts in the workplace.

This is the third installment in a series of blogs that define the 12 types of unconscious biases found in the workplace and tips you can use to avoid them when hiring and promoting employees. We have already written about affinity and confirmation bias and attribution and conformity bias in our previous posts. Now we will define halo and horn biases.

Halo Bias

Halo bias is the tendency people have to place another person on a pedestal after learning something impressive about them such as graduating from an Ivy League school or working at a Fortune 500 company. This can occur at any stage of the hiring or promotion process. While our tendency is to put them at the top of the list for a job or promotion, if there is anything we learned from the recent 2019 college admissions scandal, that name brand may not be so reliable for basing decisions.

When hiring, halo bias can cause hiring managers to pass up candidates from lesser known schools, or assume a candidate is unfit for the job because they didn’t work at a similar or better company. We tend to place great value on people’s connections and the type of work that has been done without looking deeper into what a job really need for success.

This bias especially creeps in when reviewing a stack of candidate applications. A hiring manager is probably looking for something unique that makes the candidate stand out from the crowd. To avoid this, you need to remove the candidate’s pedestal-producing attribute from the equation and see how their experiences, skills and personalities compare to other candidates who may not have had the same privileges or opportunities. Always begin with what the job needs and compare data from assessment results as part of the hiring process.

Horn Bias

Horn bias in many ways is the opposite of halo bias. This is the tendency to view another person negatively after learning something unpleasant or negative about them. Horn bias can cause hiring managers to eliminate candidates based on a trait that is averse to the team’s preferences. This could be something as minor as the candidate working with a company or organization you personally dislike, or the candidate displays a particular quirk or mannerism during the interview. These traits may alter a hiring manager’s perception of a candidate entirely even though it is a small factor that may not be relevant to what the job needs.

To avoid horn bias, it is important to examine the negative feeling you may have about a candidate and take the time to figure out what is influencing your gut feeling. When you self-evaluate, you may discover what has influenced your initial feelings may be superficial and should not play a factor in the candidate’s opportunity for the role.

You may also want to check with the rest of your hiring team to understand everyone’s opinions and preferences about a candidate. Take the time to search out the root of their position rather than taking it at face value. Again, match the data from assessments to a benchmark of the job needs in order to fairly evaluate a candidate as part of the hiring process.

As shared in previous blog posts, it is important to set up a weighting scale as part of your hiring process. By implementing consistent, actionable procedures and tools, you will create the necessary objective lens to support talent-related decisions. Doing so will help you reduce these biases and create the appropriate accountability measures to decisions that helps your organization build a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

In our next blog, we will look at contrast and gender bias.

Have you and your company made bold statements of commitment to reduce bias in your organization and don’t know how to put actions to your words? Contact the Vantage Group today.

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