How Structured Assessments Can Reduce Bias in Executive Hiring

DDI’s recent DE&I report shows that the number of leaders who endorse DE&I initiatives at their company has decreased by an average of 18% compared to 2020. 

In short, executive leadership is beginning to question the impact and investment surrounding DE&I. For many talent leaders in our community, quantifying the impact of these initiatives still remains a monumental challenge, but often ahead of metrics comes process improvement.

One tangible way to show leadership that your organization continues to advance DE&I is by demonstrating positive changes your team is making when it comes to candidate interaction and selection–specifically in combatting unconscious bias.

Even when slates and talent pools are more diverse, one of the main best practices we’ve heard from our community is that a consistent interview process is key to eliminating biases. Without this, otherwise qualified candidates may be removed from consideration arbitrarily, hindering overall progress.

The outcome of such process improvements can show up in the very metrics needed to regain waning DE&I buy-in at the leadership level.  

Even if you’re confident in the strength of your DE&I commitment, the questions below highlight tangible improvements talent leaders can share with executives to show incremental progress.

1. Does every team member ask the same questions during interviews?

The data is clear–don’t go with unstructured interviews if you want the consistency required to reduce bias. Numerous studies have shown that recruiters are more likely to fall prey to implicit biases, such as favoring those who look like them, or ranking one candidate as more qualified than another when on paper their skill sets are comparable. You likely already have an idea of which skills correspond with job success later on. By standardizing interview questions for specific roles, you’ll not only ensure candidates have the same interview experience, but you’ll more easily be able to compare responses later on.

2. Do Interviewers record candidate answers in real-time as questions are addressed, or do they take notes all at once at the end?

It’s hard to remember every detail while simultaneously engaging in active listening. Often, when we save note-taking for the end, we only remember the standout stories or the last answer given, which means we may fall prey to recency bias or the halo effect. Having the questions up and in front of you with a clear space to jot down notes is the most effective way of capturing accurate inputs for an effective evaluation.

3. Are team members aware of potential pitfalls of introducing bias in their role specifications and notes on candidates?

In 2011, an influential study concluded that women felt less interested in applying for and less like they belonged in roles where the job postings contained heavily masculine, gender-coded language. Because executive roles aren’t often published, you can leverage tools like this to review your internal job specifications and ensure you aren’t unintentionally suggesting certain candidates over others to the recruiting team.

When sharing notes with internal team members who will help make a decision on a candidate, it’s also essential to recognize how our own word choice can unintentionally introduce bias when evaluating candidate fit. Phrases like, “kind and understanding,” or “driven leader” might seem like relevant supporting details, when they actually reinforce gender bias.

4. Can team members effectively rate candidates based on standard criteria? 

For example, how do team members determine whether to give someone a 5/5 versus a 4/5 rating for a specific skill or competency? Developing assessment criteria gives your team a standard framework to evaluate candidates for different roles. Name and define what these are, and provide specific examples of what constitutes a number rank or star rating.

If you answered no to any of the above, keep in mind that creating inclusive recruiting practices is an ongoing commitment for every organization, and the work is never done.

If you need support, Thrive can help. Our latest Assessments feature helps reduce bias during candidate interviews and when evaluating candidates against set criteria by standardizing your team’s process for everyone to follow. 

Get in touch with our team to learn more.