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8 tips to avoid bias in selection

Bias in your selection that’s what you want to avoid, right? How do you set up a selection process that is as fair as possible? Fairness in the selection of new colleagues means avoiding bias. Bias comes from systematic errors in judgment during the selection process. These errors can adversely impact: candidates with specific characteristics are then structurally disadvantaged. Bias based on culture, gender, and age is the most common. Bias is in people but also in systems and programs. I have listed eight tips from our practice for you in this blog.

“Unstructured interviews lead automatically to personal bias.”

Bias and selection are human work.

Selectors are like people. They often unconsciously arrive at biased judgments. How can you prevent this?

  1. First of all, raise awareness and make selectors aware of the limitations of their reference frameworks. There are now plenty of training courses on offer in the area of awareness.
  2. Make sure your selectors are trained in conducting structured interviews, for example, the STAR technique. Unstructured and poorly prepared interviews lead to interviewers riding their hobbyhorses and therefore guarantee bias. Candidates should be judged on the same criteria and in the same way.
  3. A judge based on factual information. It is amazing how many judgments about applicants are not based on pre-agreed criteria. “I can see him doing it”, a familiar phenomenon, right? Again, a guarantee of bias.
  4. Provide evaluation of judgments. How well can your selectors predict? Compare your performance data with the judgments from the selection of a year ago. The worst selectors are often also the most biased.

“Recognize that current systems and processes are not equitable.”

Bias in selection systems and procedures

In addition to fallible human judgment, bias can occur in the selection process because of systems and procedures. What bias and how do you counter it?

  1. Selection criteria should be relevant and independent of each other. In addition, selection criteria must be established in advance, including associated standards. So that every candidate is judged against the same yardstick. You keep the selection criteria manageable by limiting the number of criteria. In our practice, we use a maximum of 12 criteria (knowledge and behavioral competencies). Behavioral competencies should be as far apart as possible to avoid bias. For our clients, we can use the distance matrix to test behavioral competencies for interdependence. This distance matrix indicates to what extent the competencies call upon the same underlying psychological characteristics.
  2. In addition to human judgment, organizations often use psychological tests or assessments. Two points are essential in this regard. In the 1st place, organizations should examine online selection instruments for bias. Candidates should, for example, be able to take a test in their native language. Second, selectors must have the knowledge to interpret psychological score reports. If this is not the case, train them.
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  1. Choose a multi-method approach. This ensures that candidates are assessed based on multiple criteria, collected with various instruments and numerous assessors. Of course, completely objective judgments without bias do not exist. But if selectors collect information independently, with multiple instruments, on predetermined criteria, it helps quite a bit to counteract bias.
  2. Conduct annual validation studies to test selection criteria for usefulness in practice. This requires that you systematically compare performance data with previously collected psychological data.
    A validation study can show that specific psychological data used during the selection process does not predict the assessed performance. Therefore, data that do not add anything to the quality of the judgment should not be used. This can only produce bias.

Less bias, improved selection, more diversity

Do you want new voices in your organization? Do you want to be surprised more often by a new way of solving problems, a different view of things? Then start reducing bias in the selection processes. Hiring managers, recruitment, HR, and everyone involved will objectively recognize talent out of many target groups. Very useful in a scarce labor market.

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