HR Wheel for Recruitment Services from Strategic HR Business Advisors.

How Can We Reduce Bias in Recruitment Processes?

Last Updated on May 16, 2023 / Recruitment

Wooden block letters spelling "bias"HR Question:

Our team is learning about bias in the workplace, and as a result, we’re re-examining many of our own processes to see how we can improve. How can we reduce bias in our recruitment processes?

HR Answer:

First, let’s define “bias.” A bias is “a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others that usually results in treating some people unfairly.” Whether we are aware or not, we all have biases. Most biases we have may be unconscious – meaning we don’t know we have or show them. And if we don’t know that we exhibit bias, it may explain how easily these preferences can creep into hiring and other employment practices.

You may find bias in your recruitment process at any point, whether that’s in your ad language, or where you recruit, all the way through interviews, assessments, evaluations, and offers. So, the first step is to understand different types of bias that can occur, followed by identifying specific ways to avoid falling into the pitfalls they create.

Types of Bias to Be Aware Of

Here are a few common interview and evaluation biases we consistently see have the most impact. Simply being aware of them can help interviewers and hiring managers reduce these tendencies.

Halo/Horn Effect

Also connected to anchoring bias or first impression biases, this bias creates a tendency to judge based on a piece of information received first, regardless of the value of it or what’s heard or seen later. This positive or negative impression then carries too much weight, allowing valuable information that follows to lose value and not get the attention it deserves.

For example, maybe the candidate’s first answer wasn’t strong. The rest of their answers may be exactly what you need, but as a result, you discounted everything positive after you heard one thing you didn’t like. Consider how differently you may have treated the interview or rated them if that “poor” answer was not until the end of the interview.

“Like Me” or Preferential Bias

People innately like those who are like them. This can lead interviewers to rate candidates like (or perceived like) themselves higher. This preferential bias keeps interviewers from rating candidates by actual relevant skills or qualifications.


We all know this term. Consider its impacts in this scenario: you see a candidate from a company where you had a past employee who was a poor performer. Are you already thinking they will not be good performers too?

Desperation Bias

In this tight labor market, it’s tough to find multiple candidates who meet your requirements. You may have just one to interview after an exhaustive search. When your choice is to hire or not hire, sometimes the desire of feeling less stressed and simply getting the position filled makes the decision for you. That desperation bias comes in leading to a strong temptation to hire now, take a chance, and live with any regret or poor hiring decision – no matter the cost.

How Can We Reduce Bias in Recruiting?

There are numerous practices and policies in the recruitment process where you can look to reduce bias, so here are a few key areas to review:

Check the verbiage in your job ads and qualifications.

Don’t let your job ads limit your ability to attract a diverse pool of candidates. We suggest removing single-gendered wording. Review your requested qualifications of specific education and consider whether that unnecessarily eliminates someone who has the skills or experience, but doesn’t have the degree. List open-ended years required (i.e., 5+ years) instead of 5-7 years to avoid unintentionally showing a bias against older applicants.

Use a structured interview process.

Consistently use the same interview questions for candidates for the same job. This will keep your interviews on target, relevant, and job-related with less potentially-biased questions.

Have each interviewer use and complete standardized evaluation guides.

When the interviewer is scoring candidates on the same outlined criteria (tech skills, accountability, effective communication, etc.), it lessens the chance of other evaluation criteria and biases being used.

Consider a telephone interview as the first step.

Go old school! Yes, while video interviews can be easy and efficient, they’re best used toward the end of the process in lieu of in-person interviews. With a phone interview, you can ensure you have not screened someone out too soon based on any biases for age, race, or something else not job-relevant (like a surprising hair color or tattoo). Another added benefit? Candidates are usually less nervous and typically share more examples while at ease on a call versus video.

Enlist multiple interviewers in the process.

It can be tempting to have one or two people conducting interviews, but by including more interviewers with multiple perspectives, you’ll have more input and data points while being less likely swayed by just one person’s bias. You’re almost guaranteed a better-matched hire as well.

Don’t share all your feedback with other interviewers right away.

Avoid discussing specifics unless you need the next interviewer to probe further or ask something important you forgot. Listening to others’ feedback prior to your interview can bring their biases into your interview.

By implementing these best practices in your organization’s talent acquisition processes, not only will you reduce biases and diversify your workforce, but you will be also adhering to EEOC guidelines.

Special thanks to Andrea Whalen, Senior HR Business Strategist, for contributing to this edition of our HR Question of the Week. 

Looking for ways to reduce bias and create streamlined recruitment processes? Strategic HR can help! Whether it’s taking on your recruiting function or analyzing internal processes for improvements, our team of recruitment experts can help you reach your talent acquisition goals. Check out our Outsourced Recruitment page or contact us today to learn more!