How to Remove Unconscious Bias from the Recruiting Process 

Removing unconscious bias is among the toughest challenges for hiring leaders. In a new study, Chapel Hill Solutions offers several best practices to follow when partnering with organizations and PE firms looking to hire diverse leaders and teams.

February 10, 2022 – Diverse and inclusive workforces benefit all organizations at every level. By leveraging fresh and different perspectives, an organization can create a more intentional and inclusive environment for its employees and a better experience for its customers, according to a new report from Julian Rives, managing partner of Chapel Hill Solutions, a healthcare-focused executive search firm. Diversity and inclusion have been at the forefront of recruiting for over 10 years, but only recently implemented into standard recruitment practices.

“One of the unspoken challenges when recruiting diverse talent, aside from a narrow talent pool, is the ability for organizations, private equity firms and HR decision-makers to remove their own unconscious biases from the recruiting life cycle,” Mr. Rives said.

Chapel Hill Solutions provides several best practices to follow when partnering with organizations and PE firms looking to hire diverse leaders and teams.

Start with Sourcing

“When hiring for a more diverse workforce, begin by removing unconscious bias at the very beginning of the recruitment process,” said Mr. Rives. “Some trade associations, universities and talent sourcing platforms allow for unbiased sourcing by searching strictly for skills and qualifications that best match those required for a role.”

“Candidate profiles and resumes are then indexed, presented and scored in an anonymized way based upon these attributes,” Mr. Rives said. “Screening for candidates in this way is critical at the very beginning of a search since unconscious bias can easily influence the decision-making process based upon gender, education and name.”

Create Equity Through Access

With diversity talent already scarce at every level in the workforce, finding diverse candidates and talent at the senior leadership level presents an even more challenging mandate, according to the Chapel Hill Solutions report. “When we partner with organizations and private equity firms, we take our role and responsibility to remove unconscious bias very seriously,” said Mr. Rives. “To attract more diversity talent beyond our immediate networks and pipelines we carefully assess the position profile to eliminate any words or phrases that may prevent a diversity candidate from considering the opportunity.”

 Julian Rives is managing partner of Chapel Hill Solutions. The firm has grown in the executive search marketplace for 25-plus years, recruiting leaders and top talented individuals in its network to enhance its clients’ workforce. Chapel Hill Solutions focuses on the healthcare and life sciences industry, including all phases and business areas within the pharmaceutical, biotech, clinical research, medical device, and healthcare disciplines.

“We also post these key hire positions to our job boards,” said Mr. Rives. “While this is an uncommon practice for hiring senior leadership roles that may require discretion – we have found that it creates more equitable access and opportunity for diverse candidates to be exposed to these opportunities, who may not have appeared within our sourcing and research efforts.”

Remove Bias as Late as Possible in The Recruitment Life Cycle

Once we have screened and conducted preliminary interviews, we compile our long list of qualified, interested, and available candidates to share with the hiring manager and client, according to Mr. Rives. “If a client is looking specifically to shortlist and hire a diversity candidate, we redact any key identifier information from all candidate profiles and resumes by removing full names, gender data, pronouns, photos, etc.,” he said. “As a result, we can fairly present all candidates on a level playing field without unconscious bias working its way into the recruitment process. After we advise and help our clients narrow it down to a smaller group of top candidates, we then reveal the candidates’ identities in our shortlist. There are a few areas in the recruitment process where you can truly remove unconscious bias, and the early stages of talent attraction and candidate presentation are ideal phases to implement this.”

Related: Mitigating Unconscious Bias and Driving Diversity for Innovation in a Changed World

Remain Objective and Unbiased During Interviews

As the recruitment life cycle moves toward interviewing one on one, it becomes even more challenging to keep unconscious bias out of the hiring and decision-making process. “To help internal interviewers keep their unconscious bias in check, we encourage all internal stakeholders that are interviewing candidates to withhold from sharing their feedback with one another until interviews have concluded,” Mr. Rives said. “This practice allows for all internal stakeholders to form their own opinion of a candidate’s qualification and cultural fit free from influence or pre-judgement during the interview process.”

Hire for Best Athlete Talent Over Corporate Succession

When it comes to finding and selecting the right diversity candidates at any level, the talent pool is already limited, according to the Chapel Hill Solutions report. “Organizations and private equity firms sometimes will weigh experience and professional career trajectory more heavily than skills, qualification and fit,” said Mr. Rives. “The best diversity candidate will always be the best athlete that has proven performance, leadership and skills rather than the ideal corporate pedigree. Best athlete talent is agile and can grow within the role and is more likely to bring the right leadership style and traits.”

Overcoming Unconscious Bias

A newly released report by ExecSearches provides insight into how skilled executive recruiters avoid letting personal affinities affect their searches and instead hone in on core competencies. Developing a checklist of qualities, attributes and experience being sought in a candidate as well as strong training can go a long way in overcoming unconscious biases.

When Chapel Hill Solutions works with organizations and private equity firms, the organization will sometimes require candidates to have worked at one or more prestigious organizations, such as a Fortune 100 company. “In the end we advise clients that basing a hiring decision off of these accolades and corporate benchmarks can be a misstep, and they are likely overlooking the best athlete talent that will more readily succeed in the role,” Mr. Rives said. “In some cases, it is difficult for organizations and private equity firms to remove unconscious bias from their internal recruiting process. As a result, organizations and companies will partner with an external recruiting firm to gain wider access to talent and counteract the innate nature of unconscious bias.”

Chapel Hill Solutions focuses on healthcare as well as: pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, clinical research, and medical devices. It provides executive search services to these primary areas: healthcare, acute care, ambulatory surgery centers, information technology, healthcare financial services, surgical services, emergency room, OR, EMR, HIM and case management. Other services include research capabilities, technological support, and relocation assessment.

Related: Improving Diversity Starts with a Culture Check

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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