Avoiding unconscious bias in recruitment – 8 tips to ensure you pick the right candidate in your business and not just the one that looks and thinks like you!

  • Post author:
  • Post category:recruitment

Unconscious bias in your recruitment process is bad for business and for your diversity and inclusivity goals. You only need to look at the many organisations which aim to be diverse yet have a leadership team which all look and act surprisingly like the founder. 

While we all know that it is important to recognise and avoid bias to attract the best talent, research shows that the hiring processes of many businesses are unfair and don’t account for hidden biases. This means that in addition to the lack of fairness, many organisations miss out on the benefits brought by a diversity of perspectives, education and experience.  

So, how do we avoid unconscious bias during the recruitment process? 

The first part is simply acknowledging the fact that we all do have an unconscious bias, regardless of whether we think we do or not.  

The second part is to recruit in a way which actively avoids unconscious bias and hopefully sidestep the ‘pale, male and stale’ cliché which affects many boards. 

Here are our 8 tips to reduce unconscious bias when you recruit.

     1. Use blind recruitment processes

Remove personal information such as name, age, and gender from a candidate’s application before considering them for interview. This will reduce unconscious bias, enable you to stay legally compliant and ensure that candidates are considered based on their skills, experience and potential. 

     2. Test for essential skills

Devise a way to test for key skills before selecting candidates for interview. You can create your own test based on the specific area, such as an excel spreadsheet test or an attention to detail exercise to see how candidates perform. Such tests are a great way for a candidate to demonstrate those transferable skills which are sometimes hard to quantify.  

     3. Focus on the candidate’s potential

It’s important to focus on a candidate’s potential rather than rely solely on their past experience. This means looking for transferable skills and qualities that will enable them to succeed in the role, rather than judging them on their previous job titles. By doing the tests mentioned above, you’ll gain the reassurance you need of a candidate’s current level of transferable skills. Of course, if the role you are looking to fill requires experience or qualifications in a certain field, then you need to account for this. But don’t dismiss an excellent candidate just because they don’t have the exact experience or education you think they should. 

     4. Start with a diverse pool of candidates

It sounds obvious, but if you only advertise your vacancy on LinkedIn, then you are very likely to only get candidates who found it on LinkedIn. Instead, consider advertising your job vacancy in a range of places, including on job boards, on social media, and in industry-specific publications. You could also consider using recruitment agencies that specialise in hiring for a specific role as they are likely to have access to a wider range of candidates.  

     5. Watch your language

Put some thought into the language you use to advertise role. When you use language which isn’t necessary for that specific role you could well deter some excellent candidates from applying. Certain words can have a more masculine feel which can subtly deter women or parents from applying – for example, words like ‘competitive’ tend to appeal to men, and words like ‘collaborative’ tend to appeal more to women. While there is much to be said about the way language works, it is worth reconsidering how your job descriptions are worded.  

     6. Use structured interviews and stick to the questions!

Asking all candidates the same questions in the same order will ensure that you’re assessing them on a level playing field. You should also ensure that the questions you ask are relevant to the role and work through all the questions in your list rather than skip a few, assuming you know the answers. For some Finance Role technical questions, head here, and here for soft skill questions for any executive level role.

Make a good record of the responses too, rather than simply noting if you like or approve of the answer. Using a numerical scale can be useful to ensure that you are comparing answers fairly.  

     7. Avoid making assumptions

Do not make assumptions about candidates based on their personal characteristics. For example, you might assume that a younger candidate is more likely to be tech-savvy than an older candidate. An assumption like this could mean you miss out on some excellent candidates because you relied on your ‘gut feeling’ rather than asking the question. 

     8. Use diverse interview panels

If you’re using a number of people to interview candidates, consider if your panel is actually diverse by including people from different backgrounds, seniority and with different perspectives. A diverse panel will often spot unconscious bias early on, ensuring you avoid it. This will help you find the best candidate. At the same time, remember to support those members of staff from under-represented groups who are part of the interview panel, particularly if this isn’t part of their formal job description. Their input is invaluable so ensure they know their feedback will be received and actioned properly. 

     9. Bonus Tip For The Longer Term: Monitor and Measure

Monitor and measure your recruitment process to ensure that unconscious bias is being avoided. This means keeping track of your candidate pool and assessing the results of recruitment and making any changes you make to your recruitment process. Periodically review your recruitment policies and procedures if you have them, and create some if you don’t.  


Avoiding unconscious bias when you recruit new team members at any level is essential to ensure that the best candidate is found for the role. The tips above will help you develop a fair recruitment process that celebrates diversity and promotes equality in your organisation.  

How We Can Help You

Our Artemis Clarke Assessment Process is a useful add-on for your recruitment process, particularly for those senior level or financial roles. This stand-alone process helps you to avoid unconscious bias, includes some of those key skills tests and handles one of the trickiest parts of recruitment while ensuring that the final outcome is the perfect candidate for the role. Drop us a message titled Assessment Process to find out more.