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What is a hiring bias and how do you overcome it?

how to overcome hiring bias

Job hunts are stressful enough without having to overcome invisible barriers — but that’s what hiring biases are. A hiring bias could easily be the reason you lose out on the perfect opportunity. 

This wouldn’t be the case in an ideal world, but prejudice is unfortunately prevalent. This is why it’s important to learn how to spot recruitment biases during the entire job search process. So, how do you ensure you get chosen for your skills instead of disregarded for who you are? 

What is a hiring bias?

A hiring bias is a subconscious or conscious preference or aversion recruiters may host against job candidates. These biases target marginalised individuals the most. Due to this, many otherwise ideal candidates end up losing out. They are often preconceived notions or prejudices based on one or many factors. Below are some common biases.

  • Education: Recruiters often give preference to candidates from more prestigious institutions. Occasionally, this bias can cause a less-qualified candidate to receive the role over more qualified candidates from less prestigious educational backgrounds.
  • Race/Ethnicity: Racial discrimination is a serious problem and harms people of colour beyond just the hiring process.
  • Confirmation bias: This is when recruiters look for information that supports their existing beliefs about a candidate instead of fairly assessing their qualifications.
  • Gender: Cis men tend to receive preference in the hiring process. This particular bias puts a gender preference over skills. This also includes discrimination against trans and gender-diverse people.
  • Sexual orientation: This is most often discrimination against candidates who are not (traditionally) heterosexual.
  • Age: Discrimination against people for their age, such as being ‘too young’ or ‘too old’ for roles.
  • Class: This is when recruiters make decisions based on the candidate’s known or perceived socioeconomic status or social class.
  • Appearance bias: Forming judgments based on physical appearance or personal style.
  • Halo/Horns effect: This is when a recruiter allows one positive (halo) or negative (horns) trait to colour their opinions on the candidate’s other traits.
  • Religion: Candidates may be favoured or discriminated against based on their religious beliefs.
  • Disability: Discriminating against candidates with disabilities. This comes in many forms, including eliminating candidates for being visibly disabled or refusing to provide disability accommodations.
  • Affinity bias: Favouring candidates who share similar backgrounds, experiences, or interests.

Spotting discrimination

It is crucial for job seekers to be able to identify discrimination in the hiring process. Recognising these signs protects you from unfair treatment and provides valuable insights into the company’s values and culture. Here are some steps you can take!

  1. Research the company before applying. Check websites, social media, news pages, etc. This will help you better understand the organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  2. Learn about your rights by studying the laws that guard against hiring discrimination, like the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws in your country. This knowledge will help you identify and confront any discriminatory practices that may occur.
  3. Pay attention to any biased language, discriminatory requirements, or biased interview questions during the application process. These are red flags.
  4. Let your skills and qualifications shine in your CV. Emphasise how they meet the job requirements.
  5. If possible, exclude personal details like gender, age, and photo from your CV and application materials. These often play a bit part in fueling hiring biases.
  6. Look for opportunities at companies that actively promote diversity and inclusivity.
  7. Networking is key! Attend industry events, Engage in face-to-face interactions to bypass potential biases in initial screening processes.
  8. Try to connect with current employees through LinkedIn. They can provide insights into the company’s culture and practices.
  9. If you get shortlisted and are called in for an interview, you should prepare well. Ask well-thought-out questions. Use this opportunity to discuss the company’s diversity and inclusivity policy.
  10. If you still feel like you’ve experienced some form of discrimination after everything, trust your gut. It’s better to pull out of a potentially harmful work environment and protect your well-being.
  11. If you choose to continue but encounter a discriminatory incident, you can choose to take action. Document the incidents and store this information if you want to report it. Take note of the date, time, names of those involved, and other specifics. 

Final thoughts

Overcoming hiring bias is crucial for job seekers to secure fair opportunities and for companies to foster diverse and inclusive work environments. By being proactive in understanding and addressing biases, applicants can navigate the job search process effectively. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t a final solution to the hiring bias problem. Companies play a vital role by recognising and eliminating recruitment biases, ensuring equal opportunities for all qualified candidates and creating a more equitable recruitment process. Through better policies and ensuring diversity in recruitment processes, we could eliminate hiring biases for good.



Kahless is a writer with a special interest in sociology. He spends much of his free time travelling, reading, writing, and stopping his cats from ripping apart everything he owns. It’s advised to bring along a strong cup of coffee (3 espresso shots minimum) when approaching him.

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