Unconscious Bias in Employment Interviews

This article was written with assistance from HYA Associates Micah Ali and Valerie Pitts

Bias, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is prejudice in favor of or against a person or a group, usually in a way considered to be unfair. Bias is not always deliberate and individuals sometimes lack cognizance of the social stereotypes they possess. This lack of realization about one’s own beliefs or assumptions is referred to as unconscious bias.

Biases can form misrepresentations in the hiring process and may have negative impacts on recruitment, ultimately affecting the future of a school district or organization. Knowing the influence unconscious bias can have on the employment process, the board at Bellflower Unified School District in Los Angeles County, California looked to HYA associates for ideas to control for their unconscious bias and HYA suggested a process to meet their goals.

Bellflower Unified School District narrowed their slate to four finalists before any identifying factors were revealed. This empowered the Board to control for unconscious bias, judging candidates solely based on merit. HYA associates presented candidates to the Board that matched the leadership profile developed by the community and Board, providing all relevant information about career experience and scope of work. HYA summarized candidate qualifications for the Board excluding names of candidates, current employers and any other identifying information; the Board chose who to interview based on the candidates’ merit and match with the leadership profile.  The Board did not know the identity of the candidates they selected until they walked in for their interview with the Board.

The process was pure and unadulterated. Other districts may be interested in pursuing a similar process to avoid limiting beliefs and attaining the most well-qualified candidate for the position. Either way, it is important that those involved in the hiring process are conscious of their unconscious biases in order to take steps to reduce the effects they have on recruitment and the environment within the organization.*


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