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Chris Bell

5 Ways to Reduce Racial Bias in the Recruitment Process

In a study published in 2018, researchers found that Canadian job-seekers with Asian names are 20 to 40 percent less likely to receive a callback simply because of their name. This study is proof that racial bias still exists today and that it can find its way into something as routine as recruitment.

However, the study further reports that this type of bias is not the malicious kind meant to hurt others, which is the upside to the research. It is something that many people simply have, whether they are in the recruitment industry or not, which they are unconsciously allowing to affect their opinions and decisions.  

Unfortunately, even if people are not aware that they are being unconsciously racially biased, they can still hurt others in a lot of ways.

Battling Unconscious Hiring Bias in Recruitment

People in the recruitment industry need to be more mindful of unconscious hiring bias since being affected by this is not only hurtful to applicants, but it can be disadvantageous for their companies or clients, too.

Whether you are an in-house recruitment staff or part of an HR consultancyallowing your prejudice for certain races or ethnicities to influence your decisions can cause you to lose out on highly qualified candidates. This will also cause your company or client to miss out on having employees that are productive, reliable, and innovative – people that they need to maintain and improve their business.

Introducing certain changes to your recruitment process will help you become more aware of racial hiring bias, and consequently avoid it. Below are five ways you can improve various stages of the hiring process to reduce this type of hiring bias:

1.    Use neutral language in your recruitment materials.

Whether you are creating employment ads, job descriptions, or career pages, you can attract a more diverse pool of candidates by using neutral words.

Job descriptions without neutral language, in particular, can have various negative effects on the sourcing stage. If a job description is too subjective and is focused on output instead of competencies, you will have fewer interested, possibly qualified candidates that will identify with the role.

Because of this, you will miss out on a lot of highly desirable candidates.

Certain software programs will help you pinpoint words that are moving towards racial exclusivity. Make sure you remove these words or replace them with something more neutral to ensure you will attract a large, diverse pool of applicants.

2.    Expand your sourcing platforms.

Aside from using your usual sourcing and recruitment channels, widen your reach by tapping other networks. Post ads in job posting sites that are also popular locally and internationally to boost your chances of getting more diverse candidates.

Additionally, reach out or build relationships with people who can connect you with diverse networks. Get in touch with job hiring consultants to ask for referrals or to advertise their job openings for you.  

By doing so, you will get more recommendations or referrals, and this will help broaden your pool of candidates significantly.

3.    Remove or cover the personal detail parts on resumes.

If you are in the stage of reviewing resumes, level the playing field by focusing on all the candidates’ background, qualifications, experiences, and skills, and not on their personal information. You can easily do this by covering or removing the name, age, gender, and country of birth of the applicants on their resumes or CVs.

There are also different types of software that will remove all these details, thereby allowing you to blindly and more easily review resumes.

Keep in mind that a blind, systematic process for reviewing applications and resumes will enable you to effortlessly include the most relevant candidates in your interview pool. It will quickly dispel racial bias as well.

4.    Give applicants a work sample test.

Giving shortlisted candidates work sample tests that closely resemble their potential tasks will give you an insight into their future job performance. In addition, comparing the applicants’ individual performances with each other will help you make the right decision.

Another option would be to give the candidates a skill test. With this type of test, you will have no choice but to evaluate the quality of a candidate’s work and level of competency instead of judging them based on appearance, gender, or age.

5.    Conduct standardized interviews.

Unstructured interviews offer a number of benefits. However, if you want to minimize racial bias (and other forms) during the recruitment process, conduct a standardized or structured interview. This entails asking all candidates the same set of defined questions.

Consider using an interview point system or scorecard that grades candidates’ responses to each question on a predetermined scale. This will enable you to further narrow down the most qualified candidates without thinking about their race or ethnicity and other demographic characteristics.

Racial prejudice can sometimes be innate to some people. You can start avoiding this unhealthy mindset and attitude by following the tips above to minimize racial prejudice in your hiring process.


David Mackenzie, a recruitment professional with over 20 years’ experience in the field and a record of entrepreneurial accomplishment, is Managing Director and Head of HR at Mackenzie Jones. As the Group MD, David is responsible for the overall direction of the Mackenzie Jones Group, including Mackenzie Jones, MumsAtWork, MENA Solutions, Simply Digital and ThinkTech.