Blog: Deciphering employer bias during hiring


Deciphering employer bias during hiring

Two separate studies try to make sense of the biases that employers and recruiters carry during hiring.
Deciphering employer bias during hiring

Human nature is unpredictable. As a consequence, it cannot be foretold with certainty the actions a person might take. We are constantly assimilating our experiences to better our knowledge and understanding of the world, and act accordingly. In the corporate world as well, although objectivity is what everyone strives for, few are able to achieve, for inherent and subconscious biases creep in. Two separate studies that came out last week tried to make sense of these biases that employers and recruiters might have during the process of hiring.

Between Hard Work and Natural Talent

According to a study conducted by a University College London professor, natural talent is what impresses interviewers and recruiters more than experience and hard work reports Forbes. Professor Chia-Jung Tsay, who undertook the study, gave out information to participants about a potential candidate name ‘Charles’. Half of the participants of the study were told that Charles is a natural leader and was born with innate talent to lead, whereas the other half were told that Charles gradually learnt to become a good leader, by trying, struggling, learning and developing important relationships. 

Then, the participants were made to listen to a recorded business pitch from Charles, and were asked to rank him, on different criteria like his likelihood to succeed, likelihood to hire him or invest in his company. The results indicated that participants who were told that Charles was a natural leader scored him higher than the others. 

Another experiment of the same study, the results showed that even when hiring an entrepreneur with natural talent would mean incurring more costs for the organisation, the participants were ‘still more likely to choose the person with natural talent.’ Or in other words, when the results were crunched into numbers, the participants were willing to give up 4 years of leadership experience, 8 % of management skills, 30 points on IQ, and over $30,000 in incurred costs to invest in entrepreneur who was viewed as one with natural talent.

Not very surprising is the fact that if the participant of the study had more experience in entrepreneurship, they were more biased toward people with natural talent. Similarly, most participants were not able to identify this bias, and were under the impression that their preference was for hard working candidates who strived.

Between Qualification and a Positive Attitude

A TimesJobs survey, of 800-plus HR and recruitment professionals, claims that employers are open to hiring a candidate with lesser qualifications than required, if they have the right attitude. The respondents were asked questions to comprehend the thought-process that goes behind a decision to hire a less-qualified candidate.

65% of the respondents said that they found nothing wrong in hiring a less qualified candidate for a position. However, when asked if they had ever hired such a candidate, 60% of the respondents replied in affirmative. 52% of those who admitted to hiring a less-qualified candidate said that such an appointment was for a junior position, followed by 35% for middle positions, and 13% for senior positions. Furthermore in a multi-select question, ‘Positive Attitude’ (45%), ‘Good Personality’ (40%), ‘Cultural Fitment’ (35%) and Low Pay Scale (30%) were the most popular reasons as to why such a candidate was hired.

Those who viewed hiring a less-qualified candidate as a good decision were of the opinion ‘Skills can be taught; but not the right attitude’ (45%), ‘They have more scope for growth’ (30%) and that this was a ‘Good To-Do for Hard-to-Fill positions (25%). However, the respondents who thought that this was not a good decision said this step ‘May result in a high turnover’ (50%), or that this was ‘Not a good recruitment practice’ (35%), or it was ‘Bad for Business’ (15%). 

The Bottom-Line

Due to the very nature of humans, biases and subjectivity come into play while making decisions. The two studies show that natural talent and a positive attitude might go a long way in titling the odds in your favour, and being under-qualified or having lesser experience might not be as bad as you may imagine. Nonetheless, it is best to stay true and honest to yourself, and to your potential employers, to fully understand if you are the right fit for the position. 

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Topics: Recruitment, #Hiring

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