Insights

Overcoming Bias in Executive Search

Posted by Reed Flesher

Executive recruiters make many decisions on a daily basis about executive candidates in order to narrow down the pool to the few who seem to most meet the requirements of the position. Sometimes, biases can get in the way of making good decisions about candidates. Much about the process is based on instinct, and biases play into that instinct at times.

It’s tempting to just look at the bottom line, but you’re smart not to limit yourself in this way. If your searches are successful and clients are happy with your hires, then does it matter if there might be some slight bias in the process? It does matter, because there are proven benefits to diversity that make it worthwhile to eliminate biases and choose diverse candidates when they qualify for executive and other positions.

How Bias Creeps Into Executive Search

One of the ways bias can manifest itself in executive search is through the elusive criteria of “cultural fit.” It may be difficult to envision how diverse candidates will fit into the culture of a particular company, but that’s kind of the point. It turns out that shaking up corporate culture has benefits for those companies, and companies can’t maximize their productivity and innovation without also maximizing their diversity.

It’s easy through observation to come to the conclusion that certain populations work out best for certain positions; to conclude that a man would be a better fit in a male-dominated field or that a similar racial background will be more comfortable in an executive position than differing ones would.

These conclusions can be limiting, however, and can actually be counterproductive to the goals of many companies that are beginning to seek diversity and welcome the challenges and benefits it brings. A thorough elimination of biases is the only way for diversity’s benefits to take hold in companies, not to mention giving equal opportunities to qualified candidates.

Eliminating Biases in Executive Search

Acknowledging possible biases is the first step to overcoming them. Once you have decided to approach executive search more fairly, you will likely get closer to doing so, but unconscious biases can still creep in and derail your efforts.

Using technology may help to eliminate biases by making searches more colorblind. With tools like Thrive TRM, you can look at profiles and see experience, job history, and skills without being biased by a “gut feeling” about a person or by knowing their race or orientation.

The best way to overcome biases may be to choose who to interview without even looking at names, which could show gender or race and lead to bias. It’s somewhat more difficult once you’ve narrowed down the candidates and it’s time to conduct interviews. Having a way to concretely compare candidates is the best way to avoid bias, and Thrive TRM has this capability along with ways to instantly communicate with others involved in the process.

Discover solutions for search firms for ways Thrive TRM can help your executive searches avoid bias and embrace diversity.

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