The Unconscious Biases That Are Holding You Back From Hiring Women

17 May The Unconscious Biases That Are Holding You Back From Hiring Women

When I consult with SVP and sales managers on hiring biases they sometimes get the impression that I am accusing them of intentionally being biased.

But having biases doesn’t make you a bad person, they just make you human. We pick up our biases through life experiences, film, education, and possibly even human evolution. If you don’t have biases, you probably don’t have a pulse!

Make sure to read my post on how a balance of women and men on your sales team will make your sales team profitable.

In this post we’re going to address some of the biases you may accidentally fall into during the hiring process. We know women are valuable members of a sales teams, so being aware of biases can help you avoid making the mistake of overlooking some of your best candidates.

3 Major Unconscious Biases

In order to avoid falling into common biases when interviewing candidates, you must first be aware of what they are. Let’s take a look at the three most common biases and how they affect the interviewing process.

Affinity Bias

Affinity bias is when a hiring manager selects a candidate based on perceived similarities between themselves and the candidate.

It’s the reason why candidates will reach out to alumni from their alma mater to help them land a position.

Affinity bias is an accepted part of business, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good practice for your organization. Some argue that it helps to ensure culture fit, but it can also prevent you from growing a diverse team.

How does affinity bias limit your team? If a hiring manager is a man, he may share fraternity membership, gendered interests, and other similarities with a male candidate. That might work nicely for watercooler chit chat, but doesn’t translate to a high achieving, quota crunching sales hire.

Conformity Bias

Many studies have shown that even when individuals clearly know the right answer, they often overlook their own intellect and intuition in order to conform to the group.

In a hiring decision, conformity bias occurs when the hiring manager allows themself to be strongly influenced by the opinions of others, rather than standing strong in their own estimation of a candidate’s qualifications. Even if you don’t hold any gender biases, being unaware of conformity bias means you might accidentally fall into someone else’s biases. To avoid this hiring pitfall, awareness, education, and even diversity training can help.

Beauty Bias

When you take two candidates with equal qualifications the more attractive one, gets better overall scores. We tend to assess an attractive candidate with more ability than a less attractive candidate.

It isn’t only about beauty, it’s also about appearance. For example, height is unconsciously seen as indicating good leadership skills. Don’t believe this bias is real? Malcolm Gladwell details in his book Blink, that 58% of CEOs in the US are over 6 feet tall. Don’t feel too bad about this bias, one study found it was probably ingrained during early human evolution, but how many women do you know who are over 6 feet tall?

Overcoming Biases for a Thriving Team

There’s no question that hiring decisions are often dominated by unconscious biases. This is one of the reasons why educating yourself or working with a sales consultant is the key to finding the best talent.

The interview process itself is rife with issues and doesn’t necessarily help you uncover what each candidate can really bring to the team. Personality and work related assessments can help you overcome biases and find the candidates most suited for open roles.  

Otherwise, identifying these biases is key. The hiring process is complicated enough; you don’t want something as trivial as height or fraternity membership to stand between you and the best candidate.