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Hiring biases and how to minimize them with background checks

What are Hiring Biases?

Ever heard of hiring biases? In the hiring process, inattentive bias happens when you form an impression of applicants based solely on first reactions. Or, when you prefer one applicant over another only because the first one seems like someone you’d easily hang out with outside of work.

The United States of America strongly frowns upon all forms of discrimination, especially in the workplace. In fact, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was introduced in 1970, for this specific purpose, to protect the rights of working professionals. Individual employers and companies understand this and address this through vigilant HR policies.

But if there’s one space that may still be vulnerable to discrimination of employees, it is during the initial entry, where individual biases can get in the way of a fair hiring process. This is even more relevant in the present Covid-19 crisis, as employers, employees, and job candidates collectively work together to combat an economic slowdown.

You see, discrimination is often sub-conscious and many times unintentional. Humans invariably tend to gravitate towards identical individuals, perhaps sharing a similar race, color, gender, age group, social status, or cultural background.

Conversely, they may also be wary of individuals from disparate backgrounds. This intuitive reasoning has its uses but can cause a hiring manager to be inadvertently discriminatory with job candidates. This is where professional background checks help.

Pre-employment screening is not only useful in uncovering any criminal background associated with the job candidate, but it can also reduce latent hiring biases, by having the hiring manager depend on solid facts rather his or her instinct. Here are 5 additional tips to minimize hiring bases with professional background checks.

1. Create a clear job description

A clear and complete job description will help your hiring managers depend less on their gut and more on non-discriminatory facts. This should cover an exhaustive list of skills, professional background needs, and other niche competence required for the job.

This is when you need to take extra care with the wording, so the description is neutral to gender, race, color, age group, cultural background, etc. In fact, it is also advisable to get legal and human resource personnel to review the final job description, to catch any sub-conscious bias.

2. Outsource background checks to a vendor

When you bring in experts to check on the criminal past of a potential employee, you gain many advantages. For instance, a company that does this routinely as part of a provided service is more likely to have the skills and tools required to save you both time and money. Also, their experience and expertise can come in handy with dubious candidates who intentionally provide false or misleading information, in order to escape the detection of their criminal past.

3. Conduct pre-employment screening irrespective of background

Once you have decided upon a background check for candidates, ensure that this is uniformly conducted for all qualifying candidates, irrespective of their background. You may, however, choose to defer the check to the later stages of the hiring process, as you narrow down the list of candidates suitable for the job. This will help in reducing the hiring biases from the process.

4. Conduct detailed checks to suit the job

In most cases, a criminal background check should suffice for most jobs. If you are hiring for a finance-based industry, a credit check can also help. However, there are some special checks – like a drug test – that you can conduct with minimal risk as part of pre-employment screening.

On the other hand, conducting the same drug-test on existing employees can be considered discriminatory, and hence needs to be backed by a stringent HR guideline. Make use of this opportunity during pre-employment screenings.

5. Automate online applications to reduce hiring biases

Automation is a time-tested way to avoid manual error and bias. Here, if you can invest in technology to automate the hiring process including online job applications, you will save both time and money in the long term.

For instance, online applications can be more effective in detecting typos or missing fields that delay background checks. Also, this kind of system will help you ensure that the screenings are conducted on all suitable candidates in a fair manner. 

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