How hiring for diversity fights bias

How hiring for diversity fights bias

February 6, 2018 by Raghav Mehta

One of the trends we here at Reo see continuing into 2018 is a greater focus on diversity in the workplace. As the harmful effects of explicit and implicit bias in recruitment become more accepted and understood, firms are making greater efforts to combat them.

What is explicit and implicit bias?

Explicit bias is bias that’s expressed consciously – think someone that decides against hiring a candidate because of their race, gender or sexual orientation. Implicit bias, on the other hand, is bias that lurks below a person’s conscious awareness.


While explicit bias is far less prevalent in today’s society, implicit bias is still widespread; even sometimes in people that express unbiased conscious beliefs. Because of its shady character, implicit bias can be exceptionally difficult to spot and defeat in yourself, even when you’re aware of it. This is why many firms have shifted their hiring practices towards methods that remove the chance for implicit bias to rear its head; things like nameless or ‘blind’ CVs that are stripped of all identifying information irrelevant to the job in question.

Why diversity makes business sense

Diversity is not just a valuable goal to pursue from the perspective of social justice; it’s beneficial for self-interested business reasons too. Katherine Phillips of the Kellogg School of Management found that groups with more diverse team members, despite having less confidence in their performance on a task, were more successful at completing it.

The authors argue that this was due to the relative unfamiliarity the group members had with each other’s perspectives, which caused them to constructively argue and process information more carefully. Groups with homogenous members tended to share similar perspectives, and were therefore less likely to spend as much time critically thinking about the proposed solutions.


Diversity will become more and more important in 2018.
Implicit bias is something all recruiters should be on the watch for.

A case in point: criminal records

People make mistakes and sometimes it’s those that have fallen that hardest that get back up and stand the tallest.

Hiring for diversity has real positive consequences. A criminal record, for example, might seem a perfectly legitimate reason to dismiss a candidate for a job. You want someone of good stead and character to be a representative for your business – depending on the crime, a person with a conviction may not be a good fit for the company. However, the key part of that sentence is ‘depending on the crime’ – if candidates feel they’ve been discriminated against based on a criminal conviction that isn’t relevant to the job in question, they can take their case to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

The AHRC can investigate claims made and can issue recommendations, but these are non-binding – even if an employer is found to have acted in a discriminatory way, the AHRC has no power to enforce their remedial suggestions. Only in Tasmania and the Northern Territory are there explicit laws against discrimination over irrelevant criminal records. Everywhere else, businesses more or less escape any legal consequences for their discriminatory actions.

It should go without saying that if a criminal record is truly irrelevant, then businesses shouldn’t use it as a metric to screen candidates.  Research from Kellogg School of Management has shown that ex-offenders hired in sales and customer service roles were no more likely to be fired than their non-offending counterparts, but were also less likely to quit, saving their firms from having to find new staff. People make mistakes and sometimes it’s those that have fallen that hardest that get back up and stand the tallest. Given the chance, they reward their employers with loyalty.

For more information on how Reo can help get the best talent for your company, get in touch with a member of the team today.


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