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Does Implicit Bias Make Equal Opportunity Impossible?

Anti Implicit Bias

In my last blog post, I explored what an Implicit Bias is and what can be done to acknowledge them and move in a direction of working through them. Writing that post, as well as doing my work with clients at Daily Work, has me thinking about how employers might be holding unconscious biases toward job seekers during the application process.

During the application process, job seekers typically provide their name and address. Once they reach the interview phase, employers will likely learn a job seeker’s race, age gender, and legal background. Now that I know about implicit bias, I can’t help but wonder how this information impacts hiring decisions. Furthermore, is this information actually necessary for employers to know?

In most job postings it summarizes the job description and the minimum qualifications. Obviously, it’s illegal for an employer to seek out people of a certain gender, race or housing location, so why should job seekers be required to provide that information? Does the name of the potential employee determine if they are able to do their job well? Does gender? Does Race?

At the top of most resumes, the format has a name of the job seeker in bold and larger than all the rest of the text. Seems innocent, right? The part where this gets tricky is that most names are gender specific and some are specific to a certain race. In my last blog post we learned that people feel more comfortable with people who are like them. Does this mean that people with foreign sounding or unfamiliar names (to the hiring manager) have an unfair disadvantage during the interview selection process?

When working with people at Daily Work, most of whom have names that are not typical American names, I can’t help but feel worried that some of them will be passed up for a job because of something out of their control, even when they are very qualified, and in my opinion, very great people. I think in our society we have become so immune to filling out personal information such as name, age, gender and so on that we have not thought about how that can be discriminatory against some people. I think that we need to talk about this issue more in order to improve the job recruitment process and improve the fairness in the hiring process.

While interning at Daily Work, I have come to the conclusion that we should be seeking ways to make the hiring process blind to obvious characteristics such as race, gender, age, etc. If the process cannot be completely blind, how can we make hiring managers more aware of their own implicit bias? I encourage you to bring this topic up in your own workplaces. What are your companies doing to ensure they truly have a fair hiring process? I think it’s important to keep the discussion going and to bring it up to decision makers. Please share with us your thoughts, experiences and actions to make your workplace one of truly equal opportunity. How else can you help?

By Chelsea Pedersen, Case Management InternChelsea

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