Is personal bias preventing you from recruiting the right people?

When you began your company, you may not have considered the importance of strategic human resources planning. Designing how your organisation can and will grow is one thing, but ensuring that you have the right people behind the wheel is another entirely – and this is where good HR practices come into play.

Even if you are an adept critical thinker, it's human nature to let your feelings override your thoughts when it comes down to a make-or-break decision. And with a new hire, it's important to make the right choice, especially for small businesses.

Skills come in second rank to the elusive notion of a "cultural match".

Drawn to irrelevant measures

A 2012 study published in the American Sociological Review found that when selecting the most suitable hire, skills come in second rank to the elusive notion of a "cultural match". From a series of 120 in-depth interviews with professional service firms, researcher Lauren Rivera found that hobbies, personal history and physical appearance were salient when sizing up the candidates, actually outweighing measures for performance and productivity.

It's a double-edged sword because it implies that firms may be missing out on the best candidate for the job because of subjective biases and irrelevant criteria.

Even in juries these biases are present. For instance, a 2008 study titled "Attractive but guilty" found jurors were inclined to hand out less severe punishments to attractive defendants. The study did find, however, that the deliberation process mitigated this bias, leading to a more objective assessment.

So what does this mean for small-business owners?

Most companies disregard performance measures when choosing job candidates.Most companies disregard performance measures when choosing job candidates.

Biases in recruitment

Various visceral responses often guide important recruitment choices, and too often these biases have absolutely nothing to do with the candidate's ability to perform the job well. Writing in LinkedIn Pulse, Behavioural Analyst and HR Consultant Ron Haynes described various biases relevant to recruitment. Addressing false attributions to presumptions, he offers some practical advice.

"Minimizing the effects of bias begins with self-awareness (a major component of your Emotional Quotient) and requires a commitment to use objective reasoning and thinking," said Mr. Haynes.

"Bringing in a third party to help us make our most important decisions can minimize any bias in hiring as well."

Getting the best new hire

Are you selecting staff which develop and enhance your company or are personal biases coming into play? Recruitment needs to be about finding the best person for the role, not the one most similar to you.

If you are struggling to make good hiring decisions, you may want to speak to a Recruitment Management Consultant today.