Here’s a question for every recruiter and Talent Acquisition professional: Do you ever step back and consider what prejudices and bias you bring to your job as a hiring professional?

My guess is that not many TA pros spend much time thinking about their prejudices, but the topic popped up recently when I read a LinkedIn post from Brigette Hyacinth. She has a big audience — over 442,000 followers on LI — and she’s an author and keynote speaker who wrote The Future of Leadership: Rise of Automation, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

In other words, she’s a smart, thoughtful lady who stays on top of current workplace trends. That’s why this current LinkedIn discussion she started really got me thinking, and I bet it will get you thinking too.

Some great insight into recruiter prejudices

Here’s what she wrote about recruiter prejudices:

I HIRED someone with an UNEMPLOYMENT GAP of 3 years. You can’t imagine the resistance I had to overcome. He took the time off to be a stay-at-home dad for his kids.

You can’t imagine the resistance I had to overcome.

His resume had, “professional sabbatical to care for my family.” Life happens. I do not penalize people for a career gap. I admire people who show commitment, integrity and values.

All that should matter is if the candidate has the right skills and attitude to do the job.

There are 2 major prejudices that no one discusses or cares to. One is the unemployment gap and the other is absolute age discrimination (OVERQUALIFIED).

Our society needs to change. A gap in employment history should not discount someone’s experience or abilities.

There are many people in this position which is a waste of talent.


How do TA pros feel about prejudice when it comes to candidates?

Would you be surprised to know that this simple LinkedIn post from Brigette Hyacinth has generated 210,177 “likes” and 10,581 comments to date. As people like to say, Brigette seems to have touched a nerve.

Although a great many of the comments seemed to come from frustrated job seekers who identify with it, a good number of recruiting and TA pros weighed in on the subject. Here are some of the comments I found interesting:

  • From a Senior Manager at a tech company in Wilmington, Delaware — “Absolutely agree. Companies who limit the candidate pool because of the reasons you’ve listed are missing out on experienced resources who could bring a wealth of talent and experience to their organization. Oftentimes, online hiring tools eliminate qualified candidates, preventing the company from even being exposed to these quality resources. Bring back the human interaction and eliminate the biases from the hiring process.”
  • From a Compliance manager, New York, New York — I’m tired of the “overqualified” rejection. That tells me the business, corporation, etc.. prefers to hire young inexperienced people because they will work for less money, will less likely have children that may cause scheduling conflicts, and bring little knowledge with them of what a great work environment is truly like! It shows every day though, when I find a genuine person working anywhere that takes 2 minutes to listen to me it’s like I’ve found the Golden Ticket! It should not be this way! Solutions??”
  • From an Executive at a Fortune 100 tech company based in Dallas, Texas — “It’s not society that has the problems but the evil (companies) that do. They always want someone who can do it cheaper and younger personnel typically do it cheaper. Culture and (undocumented) policy shift needs to happen at evil (companies), not the people that work there. Oh and remember, corporations are people!!”
  • From a Recruitment marketer in London, England — “This is something we actively encourage our clients to look at. Traditionally, a lot of talent has been dismissed because of career break discrimination. Let’s make 2018 the year to change this around.”
  • From a Recruiter in Raleigh, North Carolina — “I encounter this problem all the time with my candidates. It is completely unfair and discriminatory to penalize someone for being a seasoned professional. We need to value the skills, experience and loyalty these individuals bring to the table and not discount them for being older adults. These professionals bring integrity, loyalty, experience and massive potential to the table, contrary to the less seasoned and younger individuals who are more likely to think of personal successful versus team success.”
  • From an Independent consultant in Los Angeles, California — “Unlike most who believe an unemployment gap is a kiss of death, I actually contend it’s a very good thing. Nothing like it to bring new perspective to a situation. This robotic continuous employment habit is so industrial 2000 and late – -especially when you factor in the false separation between a job and work, usually of the unpaid, caring kind.”
  • From an Office manager from New York, New York — “Thank you very much for this. I have been unemployed for 8 months and every interview starts off with “you are overqualified.” But I hang on to my faith that the right position will come along.”

Every recruiter brings their experiences AND biases to bear

Here’s my take: Just about everybody has biases that they bring to the table. The problem for recruiters and TA professionals is when those biases get in the way of making good candidate decisions.

Part of the problem is that EVERYBODY draws on their experiences, their background, and yes, their unconscious biases, when they evaluate candidates. The trick is to find a way to put all those things aside when it comes to candidates that don’t quite fit the usual profile for a given position.

I saw this story on SocialTalent a couple of years ago titled How Badly Is Your Unconscious Bias Affecting Your Recruiting Skills?  It did a great job of listing the many biases that TA professionals can bring to the table when they recruit and hire, and how those biases affect our actions.

My friend Kris Dunn, a veteran HR leader and recruiter deluxe, dug into the issue of recruiter bias a few months ago when he wrote a blog post titled Sit Down Old People — I’d Hire You But You’re Not “Digitally Native” … that called out job ads that are blatantly discriminatory by using terms like “digital native” to indicate that they only want people of a younger age applying. His view came down to this:

I’ll assume the reason you don’t want old people is because you think they can’t hang. A lot of times, you might be right.

But older workers are a value play in the talent marketplace right now. If you’re looking for great talent, you might want to figure out a way to sort the player/non-player thing out across older workers. I’d hire all of the older people I saw this week – without hesitation.

Are they “digital native”? I don’t know. But if you’re discounting the whole class due to that factor, I’ve only got one thing to say … You’re wrong.”

Turing a lose-lose into a win-win

Kris is right, but this is not just about older job candidates. It’s about ANY kind of candidate you quickly pass over for reasons like age, gender, race, regional origin, sexual preference, political persuasion, or anything else that’s not relevant to the job and their ability to do it.

Not only is it morally wrong and highly illegal to do that, but it also means you’re blowing past a lot of potentially great hires because you can’t put your bias and prejudices aside.

These are probably the two WORST qualities for any TA pro to have, and the better you are at putting them behind you, the better a recruiter you’ll be.

Hiring prejudices make for a lose-lose situation. The candidate loses … and your organization loses as well.

The quicker you can make your hiring decisions a win-win for both candidate and recruiter, the better job you’ll do and the happier everyone — candidate AND recruiter — will ultimately be.

John Hollon

John Hollon is managing editor at Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. You can download the research reports in their Global Talent Mobility Best Practice Research series at Fuel50.