Removing unconscious bias from hiring decisions – focus on awareness

There’s a post on Founders Notebook today with advice on avoiding unconscious bias in hiring decisions. Information as simple as a person’s name or where they went to school can unconsciously bias hiring decisions and the advice is to redact all information from CVs other than that which pertains to the person’s work. If the hirer doesn’t have the information they can’t be biased by it.

That’s fine, but it slows things down. In most if not all the startups I know the pressure is on to execute fast and the way to do things quickly is to use all the available information. Rather than removing data from the equation the better approach is to be aware of potential bias and take steps to counteract.

Founder’s Notebook gives a good example of a counteracting tactic in How to avoid hiring someone just because you like them. If you have a personal affinity for a candidate a good trick is to deliberately not  make a decision in the first 30 minutes of an interview. That way you will be more likely to ask them the tough questions you would of a candidate you didn’t like so much and any unconscious bias will be limited.

I’ve been thinking a lot about cognitive/unconscious bias recently and I’m increasingly of the view that in the fast moving world of startups awareness is a better way to deal with it than handicapping processes by stripping out data or forcing decisions to be made on objective measures.