Reducing bias in hiring can have an overall positive impact on retention. Why?
A company's hiring practices sets a tone in the company. If the company values all employee and employee contributions, employees can feel it. When employees feel valued, they are happier and more likely to stay.
In this episode, Gabe Gurman from Career Place gives valuable insights into some of the challenges in reducing bias in hiring.
Reducing bias in hiring is just one piece of the puzzle. In order for it to be impactful, employees must also feel included and a vital part of the community. We will discuss the importance of and ways to make all employees feel included in one of our upcoming episodes.
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Hi, I'm Ann Lustig and this is the HR Fix podcast. Today I'm speaking with Gabe Gurman about reducing bias in the interview process. Gabe is the co founder and COO of career place, an HR technology solution provider with the mission to eliminate bias and promote diversity in hiring. His 30 year career started at AT&T bell labs, then IBM and they continuing with leadership positions in various other technology companies. Gabes last six years has focused on closing the gap between people and technology in human resources. So welcome Gabe. I'm so excited that you're here to talk to us about reducing bias and hiring this. This is going to be a great conversation.Gabe Gurman:
It is Ann. Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here looking forward to this conversation.Ann Lustig:
Yeah, and I have a ton of questions for you so I'm going to jump right in if that's okay. My first question is about the bias itself and when I think about bias, I think of it in many ways, but one way is bias is largely subconscious. You know, I think about back in what a thousand or so years ago, or maybe more, probably more when we were nomadic groups, we would wander around and every once in a while groups would kind of like bump into each other and then they'd start fighting and killing each other. So people , you know, people develop this innate fear of other people or if people that look different or people that were part of different groups. So I think in a sense it's like some kind of primitive subconscious reaction that's out there. I also think that there's a programmed reaction to other people. So I think of like the neighborhood bully, you know, let's say you had one guy in the neighborhood that always had this one phrase that he would use before he would start attacking people or you know, he had a certain look or he had a certain way of walking and you know, when you see that automatically brings back those memories. So I think some of those kinds of biases are part of who we are and we can't really escape those, you know, that's , those are survival instincts in the best we could do is try to overcome it. It's always there. So the question, do you , do you agree that it's just really everywhere?Gabe Gurman:
Yeah, I totally agree. And , it's not just your , like you mentioned, it's not just those two types of biases. There are many more forms of biases . I mean, since birth, I mean it's , it's our parents, the environment, our life experiences, the media have all been responsible for forming our , our biases. And, you know, I was reading an article not that long ago about bias and it's been a topic I've been especially really on top of it the past couple of years. You know, our brain has to process or has to gets bombarded with about 11 million pieces of information every second, every day. 11 million. Wow . Our brain can only accept about half of it. And of the half, is a very small percentage that will actually trigger and bounce off memories that we have. The act of our brain trying to process the information and act on information has a lot to do with our biases. I mean one of the very early biases we learn is fire, fire is hot, stay away from fire. That is an example of a bias and we'll learn it at a very early age. Obviously as we get older, our biases that get a little more and more complex and they form into such things so that we unfortunately start grouping people, the biases that we receive will sometimes say, "Oh, this person is part of this group" and you'll have an association of that's good or bad. So yeah, Ann I agree, going back to the question, biases with us every second of every day that we're around.Ann Lustig:
And that's what I think, what makes it so challenging. And it's funny that you mentioned the media because I think that they play on that a little bit too. I'm not going to come down on the media right now. But I think that, you know, it is part of advertising to capitalize on the way people think and the way that their emotions, the way they feel and take advantage of that . Absolutely. Yeah, that was really interesting point. Totally agree. Yeah. So then taking it over to recruiting, when we think about bias to recruiting, we all have some idea of what that means, right? But bias can happen for so many different reasons and it could be both for things and against things. You know, a lot of times when we think of bias, we think it's being against certain groups of people or against, you know, certain things. But it could also be when you really like something and you're really for something. And I always use the example of , there's a bunch of alumni from Penn state. This is the example, I don't know where I got this example, but this i s the one I picked. So let's say there's a bunch of alumni from Penn state and they've created their own company and they decided that they only want to hire other alumni from Penn state. So that's a bias for people, not against people. And so I think there's a lot of subtle biases out there. And what are some of the more subtle biases that you've come across?Gabe Gurman:
Oh, there's been quite, quite a few. So one of my, and when I hear so much is , an email address. So someone with an AOL email address, the association of, for someone with that email address is that the person is over 60 years old and that actually is the start of it , of the ageism bias. Right. That's actually one piece of advice I give to folks when I sometimes review resumes and I'll say, although I 'm kind of against resumes, but i t's a whole other topic. But I'll say if you have an AOL email address, go to Gmail and create an account, replace it. I've seen biases come out, when you know people who have a gap in their experience, right? And, and especially coming back to the resume, right? And w e n ever got an experience i n when you're looking at two resumes o f t wo, what you think are qualified people, one h ead's a gap, one doesn't, the one w ith the gap is going to go underneath. That's on the bad column. A nd, and another one t hat, that I see quite a bit isn't even just in the way people format their resume. Because you know, you associate people, associate people you know, who are organized and neat. U m, we'll, we'll probably perform better. Right? Just the way the resume is formatted d own to the font u se, has, where I've seen i n talking to people, where it's to result in people saying, well, this person I'm going to talk to and this person I'm not g onna talk to.Ann Lustig:
Yeah. I guess people use Comic S ans - people probably don't take that very seriously.Gabe Gurman:
No , they don't. They don't. But yeah, I've seen those . Those are some of the, some of the more common examples that I've run across that are beyond some of the more obvious ones out there, like a person's name or a school. I hear that the school all the time. Yeah . So I totally get that.Ann Lustig:
Yeah. Another one that I've heard is, again, certain companies are looking for pedigrees (I call them), when they're looking for people that have worked at a particular place. Absolutely. And doesn't mean you're not qualified. If you haven't worked at that place. I don't think it helps anybody something like this because there's a lot of people that are qualified that could be overlooked. Just because you wo rked at a place doesn't mean you 're, y ou were very, I mean, you're leaving. So what happened? It doesn't mean you're very good. So when you're speaking with recruiters, have you seen that recruiters or hiring managers have no clue that they're even bias? What's, one of the more extreme stories that you've heard about recruiting bias ? I'm sure you come across so much of this stuff.Gabe Gurman:
I do, but there's one, as soon as you said that, extreme stories, but this one really, really stands out. So I was talking with a recruiter. I'll say this was a third party recruiter. This guy's livelihood, which by the way, the job of recruiter, it's truly an art. To go off of these reqs are sometimes confusing and hav e to fi nd the unicorn right out of that. But, I was talking to som e re c ruiters wh o wa s really interested in what we did to cr eate a place and in terms of helping him. He figured he could use it to help him screen candidates - to find the ideal candidate to present to employers. And I talked about the anonymity, that you're not going to h a ve the resume in front, you're going to qualify candidates on wh at matters. And the first question the person said was, well, I could see their picture though. It's okay if I don't see the resume, but I could see their picture on while they're being screened. And l ike , uh, n o, they're anonymous. And he says, Oh, that's just not gonna work for me. I really appreciate you ta kin g the time. I'm like, well, hold on a second. Hold on. Why do you need to see their picture? And what this person actually told me, and speaking to me like, this made perfect sense, "I need to see if they're organized or not." I'm like, how is a picture going to tell you if a person is organized or not? And wh at h e told me is that if they have a, you know, if they've taken the time to put themselves together, look, know with from their hair and how they're dressed and they care about their picture, I know they're organized and I know I'll be able to present those candidates to , to the manager. And that's wh at i t was at that point. I said, wow, this conversation is not going to go anywhere. I wished th em t he best of luck. But um , b ut that was I mean I was in awe after I hung up the phone. Like, wow, this person really believes that how a person looks - I guess if they have a gl amour s hot, they're probably go nna p erform better and do be tter o n an interview than someone who does not have a glamour shot on their LinkedIn profile. It was, I thought that was kind of a horrendous example. But it is, I consider that to be an extreme example. I really hope that's not prevalent out there, but ye ah, probably is.Ann Lustig:
But that makes me think also like, I wonder if there's some people that make up, like they either they don't know that they're bias or they know their bias and they're not admitting it and they make up other reasons because they don't want to admit that they're bias. Like, have you come across that as well?Gabe Gurman:
Yeah, and I think it was with this person, he felt he was a successful recruiter. Now, whether he was or wasn't, I have no idea. But I guess he felt this was just his mechanism, his way of doing things. Um, and felt that that was the legitimate way of being able to, you know, to vet people is part of it is to look at their picture. Now granted he was, he was a third party recruiter and on the flip side, there's a hiring manager and some company waiting for this recruiter to give him resumes. And I suppose his part of his thinking as well. So I don't want to , blast him completely - his thinking as well. So he's gonna present three best candidates and this highing manager is going to go to LinkedIn as a first step or her first step and see, well what does this person look like? I mean, that could be happening as well. So that probably is part of his process is a reason. That's probably the reason why it's part of his process to look at pictures. But I just thought it wasn't awful.Ann Lustig:
That's crazy. I think it's crazy. But that brings up another question is that there's gotta be a lot or hurdles that you're dealing with when you're talking to your clients about screening candidates without a resume. So like what are some of the hurdles, I mean, besides just this kind of obvious bias, what are some of the hurdles that you've come across?Gabe Gurman:
Well, actually it's interesting. So you know, what we're doing is we've challenged the process of hiring, right? But not start with the resume to really end with the resume and focus on what matters from an HR perspective. HR folks , we speak to love it. They love the idea of this. Um, they loved it mainly because it really truly will give every candidate who is applying a fair and equal shot at being evaluated for the position to get to that short list . And I hear the term which makes me cringe every time you hear it. As I hear the term war on talent, there is a war on talent. Yes. If you're looking for straight white males under the age of 40, there is a war on talent for sure. But there are so many demographics that unfortunately are not getting onto those lists and being considered for positions where there are higher unemployment rates and those groups represent highly skilled people, you know, so one of them i s t he aging workforce a nd people with disabilities, people from other demographics, veterans are also in that category. So HR loves the idea of let's mix up the funnel with candidates from everywhere. The hurdle has been on the hiring manager side, the hiring managers typically loved the paper. They don't want to be presented with. Sometimes with th e t op three choices, they want to see the resumes, they want to see the paper, they want to smell the paper, they want to see what it's about. And unfortunately it's seen, yo u k n ow, that chance of being able to see the paper is, is an opportunity for those biases to come into place. Yeah. This pe rson's n ot fr om m y industry an d i t's not just the obvious biases. It can be the ad vices. Like, like we ta lked a bout before, pu rchase n ot fr om m y industry person didn't go to my school, Oh, this person has my name, must, I'm going to trust this person. Must be great. Yes. So, u m , s o it's, the hurdle has been primarily on the side of the hiring managers, which I know has been a challenge for HR for mi llennium i n terms of working with them and trying to, yo u k n ow, bring change an d e f fect c hange instead of pr ocessing. So that's been th e, probably the number one hurdle we've, we've seen.Speaker 2:
Do they ever feel like , um, you're not giving them enough because of that or you're , you know, like they want to just see more to see what those being eliminated. See if maybe you miss something, like is there a sense of trust that you have to deal with there as well?Speaker 3:
There is, there is, it is. It is that sense that I may have missed something, right? Yeah . So just kind of let go and allow kind of a systematic process to help them do that. They said, no, no, I , I'd rather just let me , let me spend the time to go through and see as much papers I can.Speaker 2:
Yeah, we got the termination. I can see where they need to build a little trust and that's where things like testimonials and metrics and things like that can help you to justify those things. Which actually brings me to my next question. Um, so career place is a blind to candidates screening tool, right ? Yeah . Okay. So you've removed the resume before they enter the recruiting workflow and essentially you're eliminating bias all the way up to the interview process. But how do you know what's working and what kind of metrics you're seeing that show there's an improvement?Speaker 3:
What I'm going to share with you is more, I'll call data points of rather than data trends. I mean we've , we've been around for almost a year at this point with the product being used out there. So what I'm going to do is first start with a story. It was our very first hire made through the [inaudible] who was a manufacturing company looking for a materials manager and uh , not that the company was looking for or had an issue with diversity or had problems with diversity or were looking for more diverse candidates. They weren't, they needed the materials manager. They needed a quick plea right place, right time they used our tool AE ended up with three candidates within a weeks time. Three candidates who were very qualified for the job , um , now happen to be in this company again, there, it was always a male in this position. When they revealed the three candidates, it was two females and one male. Um, they interviewed all three people and within a week later they made a decision to hire one of the females. I'll never forget the phone call from the hiring manager called me up and said, Hey we , we hired, we hired a woman for this role and, and I'm like, that's great but , but that's not what you did. I said, you hired the most qualified person for for the role is really what you did and kind of get out of that mindset of fired up this or that. And, and um, it was a great initial story. It really focused on the fact that um, yeah, if you give people a fair shot, if you give everyone a fair shot, the best will shine through no matter what. So we have been collecting stories, dozens and dozens of stories of companies are sharing and when they use our tool and share it with us, not just for things like the demographics of male, female and and ethnicity and , but disabilities, veterans making it through the, through the process and then all those other areas where I never thought a person coming from. Like if for example an advertising industry there , I'm going to insult people, a lot of nepotism there. They only hire from advertising and say , well sure enough, they actually find a qualified candidate coming from outside the, the, the , uh , I've got to go figure. So it's , so it's things like industry, people with degrees or not having degrees. Another area where people say , no , I've always hired someone with a degree, does a job really require it if it doesn't open it up. And sure enough, people even without degrees are making it through. So it's a lot of stories and the metrics are kind of going to be all over the place because it's not just a standard demographics. It's really so many different flavors of what I'll call diversity goes way beyond the standard demographics that we've defined in the government. Um , so that's, it's really, we've been getting a lot of those, lot of those things and a lot, it's been very positive since we , uh , since we deployed.Speaker 2:
Yeah. I'm so excited to see how this evolves over time. I think that this is really great. Wow. So those are all my questions. Is there anything else you want to add there?Speaker 3:
No, that the , I even think about that. Oh, you put me on the spot. No, I think, no, that's, that's really it. Um, you know, it's, it's a , it's , it's first of all pleasure to be here with you and you know, for coming . Yeah, absolutely. My pleasure. I love talking about this topic. I can talk about it all day and all night and um, and that's not , that's really it. I really appreciate the time.Speaker 2:
Well great. Thank you so much for joining me today and , and uh , answering all of my questions cause I always have a million questions or I'd probably gonna hang up and have so many more questions for you to do another one. All right . Thanks again, Gabe.Speaker 3:
Thank you so much and you have a good one. You too. Bye. Bye.Speaker 2:
Thanks again to Gabe Gurman for sharing his insights about reducing bias in hiring. If you want more information about reducing bias in hiring using anonymous applicant screening, you can reach firstname.lastname@example.org or go to their website, which is career.place. So that's it for now. But I do plan to talk about this in more detail in future podcasts . So if you're interested in learning more about this topic, please subscribe to this podcast. And if you want to contact me or ask a question or invite me to speak at your company or conference, you can reach me through my website, which is an lustig.com or send a message to me through LinkedIn. Thanks so much for listening. Every member focus on the future. Take action today.