How to Avoid Bias in the Hiring Process

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on November 02, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Despite employment laws designed to protect against discrimination, employers are still influenced by their biases. Apparently, even well-intentioned employers are biased against disabled persons.

According to a study by Rutgers and Syracuse Universities, disabled persons who reveal their disability in their letters and cover letters were about a quarter less likely to garner employee interest than those who did not.

Study: Disabled Discrimination and the ADA

In the Rutgers study, fake resumes and cover letters were sent on behalf of fictitious candidates for thousands of accounting positions. The only variation in each of the letters was a disclosure of a disability or not.

Interestingly, the experimenters concluded that the American with Disabilities Act appeared to dampen the effects of the discrimination.

Hiring for the "Right" Reasons

In-house attorneys should probably not advise clients to fall over themselves to hire any disabled candidate. Rather, employers must simply re-examine the legitimacy of rejecting a disabled candidate, or a minority candidate, or any candidate who doesn't fit the HR manager's perfect image. Assess the right reasons for hiring or rejecting a candidate.

Easy Tips to Avoid Mistakes

Nicole Fallon of Business News Daily composed a list of the biggest mistakes that employers make during the hiring process that are bound to increase the chance of hiring for the "wrong" reasons. In no particular order:

  • Hiring Friends and Family: Hiring friends and family is very dangerous because one is less inclined to be truly objective and honest about the candidate's performance.
  • Trusting First Impressions: HR managers should work to disprove their initial first impressions. If they initially like the person, assess possible reasons why they are not good for the job.
  • Lack of Vetting: Calling previous employers can give you a better idea of the background and characteristics of the candidate. Don't neglect an opportunity to learn about a potential hire.
  • Wrong Questions: Hiring for culture is one of the most tempting inclinations of an employer. If one is too quick to hire someone who tows the line, there's the danger that a highly skilled actor can infiltrate your ranks. Hiring a competent employee who challenges company doctrine is probably preferable to hiring a sycophantic toady.

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