How to Use Technology to Remove Unconscious Bias in Hiring

Posted by SeekOut on Apr 23, 2018 11:32:09 PM

It’s no secret that unconscious bias in hiring is a big problem.

Not only does it hurt people. It also negatively impacts your company’s talent pool and business productivity.

And while most people know about unconscious bias in hiring, here’s the sad truth:

The majority of us are guilty of it.

who me?

According to TechStars, 92 percent of founders know about unconscious bias. But, only 45 percent have a plan to reduce it in their hiring process.

And considering the numerous ways unconscious biases can negatively impact your business, that number needs to be closer to 100 percent.

So, the SeekOut team put together this post to help you uncover some new tools geared toward eliminating unconscious bias in hiring.

But, to kick things off, let’s tackle a seemingly simple, but actually complex question:

What Exactly is Unconscious Bias?

At the risk of stating the obvious, unconscious biases are hard to nail down because they are, well...unconscious.

So, here’s a brief breakdown of what we mean:

Fact: our brains consume more than 11 million pieces of information at any given moment.

information in the brain

But, here’s the catch: we can only process about 40 of those 11 millions pieces.

So, in order to make sense of the information, our brain creates these unconscious biases — or what Jessica Guynn over at USA Today calls “mental shortcuts based on social norms and stereotypes.”

You may not know it’s happening, but your biases affect the way you source, interview, and hire candidates.

Which is why we have to raise awareness about the existence of unconscious biases before we can even begin eliminating them.

What are Some of the Most Common Forms of Unconscious Bias?

I’m sure you’ll agree: the first step in solving a problem is understanding it.

Which is why you and your team should get familiar with the most common forms of unconscious bias, including:

  • Affinity Bias: We like people who are similar to us.
  • Halo Effect: Because we like someone, we tend to think everything they do is good.
  • Perception Bias: We form stereotypes about groups of people that make it extremely difficult to be objective.
  • Confirmation Bias: We seek information that confirms our pre-existing thoughts or beliefs.

These are just a few examples of biases — as you can see in this graphic from Diversity Australia, the list of potential biases goes on and on:

unconscious bias in hiring graph

(image source)

If all of this has you thinking about your own biases don’t worry — you’re not alone.

Unconscious biases don’t make us bad people, but it can make for bad business.

Here’s how:

How exactly does unconscious bias affect your business?

Unconscious biases can creep into every corner of your business, from marketing to management and everywhere in between.

But one of the areas where it is most prevalent is in your company’s hiring process.

In a study from GapJumpers, about one fifth of applicants who were not white, male, able-bodied people from elite schools made it to a first-round interview.

When they eliminated those factors from a recruiters knowledge, 60 percent made it to the first round.

Pretty crazy, right?

That study underscores why it’s important to understand your own biases and those that occur throughout your business.

Luckily, there are tools that can help you do that.

Take Diverseo, for example.

With the goal of improving “objectiveness of decision-making” and shifting mindsets by “reducing the impact of unconscious bias,” Diverseo’s training and process analysis helps businesses surface and reduce unconscious biases at scale.

According to the Diverseo website, their program has a significant impact on organizations:

diverseo reduces unconscious bias

(image source)

By conducting a deep-dive into your current recruitment process and offering tangible recommendations to eliminate recruiter bias, Diverseo helps you identify the problem within your organization.

Now, you can start fixing it.

How to Solve the Problem of Unconscious Bias in Hiring

If you read our previous post about important diversity initiatives for 2018, then you know there’s good reason to make diversity hiring a key initiative for every company.

And with the help of new technology, eliminating biases and creating a more diverse workforce is more achievable than ever.

As Laura Mather, founder and CEO of Talent Sonar, perfectly states in her Motto blog:

“We can drive change leaps and bounds beyond what we’ve accomplished already with a new, data-driven approach. Through technology, we can sidestep the bias that has shaped our institutions for too long and finally realize the change required for growth, shareholder value and getting to a society of more equal representation.”

Pretty powerful stuff. Laura’s saying that with the use of new technologies, we can slowly start to phase unconscious biases out of the hiring process.

Here are a few ways you can start doing that today:

1. Fix the language in your communication with candidates.

One of the most common areas for unconscious bias is within written communication, including job descriptions, interview scripts, and even company policies.

And while you may not even realize it while writing, certain words cater to different audiences.

Take the word “fearless,” for example. It’s often used in job descriptions to show you’re looking for someone willing to take initiative with confidence. But, it’s also proven to skew your talent pool towards men.

Again, while the onus falls on you to fix it, technology makes it so you don’t have to do all the legwork yourself.

(image source)

Textio is a fantastic tool reducing unconscious bias in hiring.

Textio analyzes millions of postings a month and provides real-time guidance on how to improve the wording within your job descriptions. They claim that with a high “Textio” score, you can recruit 25 percent more qualified people to interview.

textio example

(image source)

With your written communications optimized for inclusion, you’re now ready to remove bias from the sourcing and screening process:

2. Implement Blind Sourcing and Resume Screening for Recruiters and Hiring Managers

Stripping race, gender, and age from candidate sourcing and resume screening is the easiest way to ensure your team evaluates candidates based on their qualifications — and nothing else.

You might be thinking: “What is this, the 1960’s? No one at my company is going to discriminate based on age, race, ethnicity, or gender.”

But again, unconscious biases aren’t necessarily overt acts of discrimination.

You may not realize the impact your biases have on candidate selection until your process is truly blind. Take, for example, a study on orchestra participants showed that by blinding musical auditions, the number of females in the orchestra increased from 5% to 25%.

Similarly, a study of employer responses to racial names found that people with ethnic-sounding names sent out 50 percent more resumes than people with “white” sounding names in order to get a callback.

These biases are not intentional — but they happen.

And that’s why blinding the sourcing and resume screen process has become a more common practice with employers as of late.

SeekOut is proud to be at the forefront of reducing unconscious bias through blind hiring.

We’ve developed an in-product tool that allows recruiters to screen profiles without unconscious biases playing a role.

SeekOut users can toggle-on “Blind Hiring Mode” and immediately remove information that may reveal a candidate’s race, gender, or ethnicity.

Here’s an example:

example of blind hiring mode in seekout

We abbreviate names down to their initials and replace images with pictures of our favorite feline friends.


In addition to Blind Hiring Mode, SeekOut also offers a variety of new filters to enable your diversity recruiting initiatives.

Recruiters using SeekOut can narrow their search results down to women-only, Hispanics, veterans, African-Americans and can even specify their candidate’s country-of-origin.

diversity filters

In addition to SeekOut, Talent Sonar helps remove unconscious bias in hiring by blinding your candidate’s identity when submitting resumes to hiring managers.

talent sonar resume blinding

(image source)

Both platforms help you develop an unbiased talent pool.

And with that pool of talent, it’s time to take those same practices into your interviews.

  1. Train Your Team to Conduct Bias-Free Interviews

Unconscious bias isn’t limited to the sourcing process — it extends into your interviews, too.

Bias-free interviews mean that all qualified candidates have a fair shot at moving forward and landing the job.

And the easiest way to reduce biases while interviewing is to use a structured interview technique.

Hired Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Matt Mickiewicz explains it well in his article. While free-flowing interviews may be attractive, structure is key to removing biases:

“At a glance, the flexible framework and conversational flow of unstructured interviews might seem attractive to many employers. However, this type of interview is often extremely subjective, which reduces accuracy and invites legal challenges...While unstructured interviews tend to flow like a conversation, structured interviews ensure that a list of specific questions are asked in exactly the same way to each candidate.”

GapJumpers and are two companies working toward a more structured interview process based on skills and experience and not factors prone to unconscious bias. launched a platform for interviewing engineers that utilizes voice-changing technology to mask a candidate’s gender and ethnicity.

And GapJumpers is taking a unique approach to job interviews by offering “blind auditions”: opportunities for candidates to complete a job-related task to prove their ability before any aspects of their identity — including race, gender, age, or ethnicity — are revealed to the employer.

According to their data, nearly 60 percent of the top performers in blind auditions are women:

gapjumpers performance

(image source)


We can all agree that an unconscious bias in hiring is bad for business.

But, it’s your responsibility to take action to eliminate the problem from your hiring process.

The good news is that technology developed by forward-thinking companies can take the weight off your shoulders.

Topics: Diversity Hiring