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Navigating unconscious bias

Navigating Unconscious Bias as a Jobseeker

By Consult Energy
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Unconscious bias: we all have it, sadly not all of us are willing to become aware enough of it to change it. In fact, most of the time these biases go completely unnoticed for a person’s whole lifetime. Unfortunately recruitment is one of those situations where these biases can often become more apparent, and as a jobseeker you might feel powerless to a hiring manager’s decision that could well be based on bias.

They say knowledge is power, and helping to understand how unconscious bias can crop up in the hiring process can help you to 1. call it out if you see it and 2. know that it’s not your fault you if feel you haven’t gotten a look in because of bias.

It’s worth noting that while a person may have unconscious bias at first, which is ultimately shaped by their unique experience of the world, usually after having those preferences challenged they’ll change their tune. Becoming aware of your innate biases is all it takes most of the time.

Before we get into the fundamentals of unconscious bias, it’s important to remember that having unconscious bias doesn’t mean you’re openly prejudiced towards a certain group of people, nor does it make you a bad person. At the end of the day, it’s unconscious, so the person very likely doesn’t realise that their decisions are being influenced by deep seated beliefs or preferences.

As recruiters, we’re trained to be highly astute at spotting bias in ourselves and our clients. So we’re pretty clued up about what bias looks like and how to challenge it effectively. Having a diverse recruitment process is really important to us, and in our experience our clients reap the rewards of having a more varied workforce. Afterall, if everybody is very similar then that company risks becoming an off-kilter echo chamber which is never a good thing.

Types of unconscious bias

“You mean there’s more than just one?!” We hear you. Unfortunately yes, but to understand the types of bias that can occur should help you to know what you could be up against and how to use it to your advantage.

Affinity bias

This happens when a person is unfairly drawn to a candidate because they share characteristics with them. For instance, an interviewer who loves Aston Villa football club could feel biased towards a candidate wearing an Aston Villa pin – this then clouds their vision and they may miss that this person might not have the right skills for the job. This is a very common form of unconscious bias and is the main reason businesses can often end up full of very similar people in demographic and interests.

Attribution bias

Attribution bias refers to making incorrect or unfounded assumptions about someone’s actions or skills. It’s where we try to find a reason behind why someone has achieved or not achieved something. For example, if somebody has achieved great things in their career and left university with very high grades – a hiring manager might assume that it’s because they are ruthlessly ambitious and might not be a good team player. In actual fact there’s no real evidence for that, and they might prefer working as a team to independently, but because the hiring manager will have already made that connection – their opinion about them is skewed.

Confirmation bias

This is where a person makes an assumption based on something superficial and then looks for deeper evidence to back that assumption up. An example of this could be a hiring manager thinking something like “I would prefer a man for this role instead of a woman” and then searching for reasons to confirm that initial view. So when their female interviewee mentions being a mother is one of the things she’s most proud of, that hiring manager may see this as validation in their initial prejudice as they might make the assumption that she won’t be as committed due to having children. This is, of course, very unfair and is precisely why gender, sexual orientation, age and disability disparity exist in so many companies today.

What can you do about it?

You’re not completely at the subconscious of your hiring manager or interviewer’s mercy here, there are a couple of options open to you to help you avoid falling foul to unconscious bias while looking for a new job.

Don’t get too personal

If you’re concerned about unconscious bias standing in the way of your career goals, make sure you remove any unnecessary personal information from your CV. For example, there’s no reason to include a photo, your age or date of birth, gender or marital status, address or hobbies and interests. Instead, focus on making your CV purely merit-based as it should be.

Speak up

If an interviewer or hiring manager has made it really clear to you that they are biased, it never hurts to point this out to them if you feel comfortable doing so. After all, if becoming aware of your unconscious bias is the antidote to that particular situation – you may be able to change the outcome for yourself. If not, then any hiring manager worth their salt will take the feedback on board and work on making their hiring process more inclusive and bias-free.

Get some help

The beautiful thing about working with recruiters is that we can highlight unconscious bias where we see it and make the businesses we work with aware of any potential pitfalls. Quite often, our clients will hand over to us to ensure their unconscious bias doesn’t impact the diversity of the hiring pool we’re working with.

Having a specialist recruiter in your corner means we’re championing you as the best person for the role based on your skills and experience. Since we’re trusted to do just that, we can have the awkward conversations that you might not feel able to.

Alas, unconscious bias in the recruitment process isn’t something we’re going to be able to tackle overnight. But the more people that  are aware of it, the less likely it is to occur and the closer we are to a more fair and diverse workforce.

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Our latest job opportunities

Added 2 days ago

EIA – Associate Director

Job Reference: 3405

Added 7 days ago

Senior Management Accountant

Job Reference: 3403

  • Location

    Warwickshire

  • Money

    £50,000 - £60,000

  • Contract

    Permanent

Added 23 Nov 2021

Senior Application Engineer

Job Reference: 3400

  • Location

    Windsor

  • Money

    £50,000 - £60,000

  • Contract

    Permanent

Added 23 Nov 2021

Finance Analyst

Job Reference: 3398

  • Location

    Blackpool

  • Money

    £20,000 - £25,000

  • Contract

    Permanent

Added 19 Nov 2021

Full Stack Developers

Job Reference:

  • Money

    £35,000 - £75,000

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    Permanent

Added 18 Nov 2021

Salesforce Marketing Cloud Specialist – Contract

Job Reference: 3389

  • Location

    Remote

  • Money

    £250 / £300 Per Day Inside IR35

  • Contract

    Contract

Added 18 Nov 2021

Business Development Manager

Job Reference: 3385

  • Location

    London

  • Money

    £40,000-£60,000

  • Contract

    Permanent

Added 16 Nov 2021

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Job Reference: 3381

  • Location

    Nottingham

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    Up to £55000

  • Contract

    Permanent

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Job Reference: 3370

  • Location

    London, England

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    £50,000 - £70,000

  • Contract

    Permanent

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Business Analyst

Job Reference: 3335

  • Location

    London

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    Up to £45000

  • Contract

    Permanent

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Job Reference: 3373

  • Location

    Remote with UK wide travel

  • Money

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