How Do We Stop the Interview Bias of Hiring Managers?

Q: How Do We Stop the Interview Bias of Hiring Managers?

We recently learned that, when interviewing candidates, some hiring managers are biased against people who have an accent. How do I convince them that this biased attitude affects our commitment to hiring a diverse workforce that is reflective of our community at large?

----At Odds, HR Generalist, Vancouver, WA

A: The short answer to your question is to show them research that supports the idea that diversity significantly contributes to an organization's competitive advantage

The somewhat longer answer: The ability of an organization to commit to hiring a diverse workforce is challenging for a number of reasons. First, there are only so many positions available for a qualified pool of people to hire. Second, people within the organization might not be committed in full to hire a diverse workforce. Third, the organization itself may not have systems in place to engage a diverse workforce. To get everyone on board with having a diverse workforce, try the following strategies to get people thinking in new and creative ways:

Analysis First: It's important to take a look at the organization itself to understand its relationship with diversity. This means a closer look must be taken at the organization's policies, procedures, hiring strategies, orientation, training, performance appraisal system, goals, mission and values. Do these structures support or inhibit diversity?

Understand Diversity: Many times, "you don't know what you don't know," as the saying goes. In other words, some people haven't been exposed to diversity issues, challenges and opportunities. Improvement can be made by having "brown bag lunch talks" in which diversity is the featured topic. A seminar on the competitive advantages of diversity also might be worthwhile for all your employees.

Senior Leaders/Diversity Champions: The senior leadership needs to talk about diversity in a public setting. Employees need to hear from the top that diversity is important. And, when leadership positions are being hired for, hiring managers must do their part to seek diverse candidates. Also, special attention must be paid to "diversity champions": those who get it and want to do something about it. These are the folks who can act as catalysts to get others excited about diversity.

Orientation and Training: Diversity must be a keynote topic during orientation and throughout training. The more people hear about diversity, the more opportunities they will have to look at what it means to them and their department or program. For hiring managers, this implies being more open when hearing a person with an accent. Instead of shutting the person off, it instead implies keeping an open mind and working to discover the individual's unique strengths.

Institutionalizing Diversity: It is one thing to talk about diversity. It's quite another thing to have a systematic approach for embracing it. Institutionalization comes down to proactively discovering ways to integrate diversity within the organizational culture. For instance, diversity might be integrated into the organization's training program, where people learn more about diversity. Diversity could also become an organizational value, where people discover ways to bring the value to life and create a diverse work environment.

Moving Diversity Forward: All organizations seek to improve in some way. By embracing diversity, an organization can significantly improve by gaining new perspectives and insights. The key is to look at diversity as a way to grow the organization and take it to the next level. The more positive outcomes that are achieved with diversity, the more diversity gets branded as a positive employee experience. The "diversity experience" will begin to take on a life of its own with proper maintenance and dedication.

Branch Out: Organizations often put their public relations and/or public affairs departments in charge of projects of social responsibility. This is another way for organizations to learn about a community's diversity assets. Not only could organizations contribute to their communities, but they can also team up with diverse individuals, who might one day be an employee, customer, vendor or board member.

Go out and make this week one for the record books!


George F. Mancuso

George F. Mancuso, CPC