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Why Bias is a Must For Great Recruiters

David Law

Mon, 19 Apr, 2021

  • Reading Time:
    ~ 2 minutes

Albert Einstein once said, “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen”. To be a great recruiter today, you have to be good at understanding and using bias the right way.

Traditionally, recruitment has always been a craft. You needed good judgement and know-how, sure, but also connections and influence, which could make the field uneven. However, being a recruiter meant you had to know how to read a client and industry and understand how to find the right match.

Now, technology has altered recruitment forever. On one hand, new tools have made the industry more inclusive. On the other, using tech without a deeper understanding can cheapen the craft and provide mediocre talent that doesn’t yield results.

Providing great talent, regardless of available tools, still requires insight into both positive and negative bias. What does this mean, exactly?

Recruitment technology is biased.

When building machine learning or AI to help in the recruitment process, we input parameters for the tech to carry out the decision-making process in our stead. Then, our deep technology tools choose among candidates by sorting through data and filtering out unsuitable options.

These inbuilt parameters are biased. To speed up the process and make human work simpler, they need to select the best options according to the preferred criteria of whoever runs the system. Without bias, handling large volumes of candidates would remain slow and difficult.

Variables like education, previous experience, or particular skills often comprise the biases built into recruitment tech. The reason: we likely already know who is most likely to succeed in the role— we only need to make sure the system knows it too.

No matter whether these inbuilt parameters are scientifically proven or based on individual experience, they work to prune a too-large pool of possibilities to find the candidates most aligned with the employer’s needs and values.

The crucial role of bias in recruitment.

As humans, we can never entirely get rid of our ‘inbuilt’ biases: our ‘common sense’ is drilled too deep. But as recruiters, we must work to know them and offset them with conscious ones.

The key is to understand both positive and negative biases in ourselves and employers.

When recruiting an individual, you are always making a choice. The process necessarily involves selecting someone and sending someone else home— all based on bias, our opinion on who will succeed at the job based on our experience.

We need to accept that we have biases, both positive (who we’re inclined to appreciate) and negative (who we tend to reject). Knowing these tendencies will help us balance them out instead of perpetuating potentially harmful cycles.

A good recruiter needs to learn enough about their clients and industry to pinpoint these predispositions and articulate them with your own. Then, you have to choose which of all the biases are likely to yield good results for the position and team.

The difficult part is to offset the biases that we find harmful. For example, if an employer doesn’t prioritise diversity in its internal culture, the recruiter should even out this potential negative bias in the candidate pool.

We need to work with our biases, weighing all the shades of each situation and client — something online tech can’t do yet. At Fulcrum, we focus on getting past bias to sustainably transform your talent strategy.

Write to us — let’s work together to put together the stellar team your company needs.

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