How Testing Can Eliminate Bias in Hiring and Promotion

By June 19, 2023HR & Recruitment

Staffing plays a pivotal role in any organization’s success. It determines the quality of talent that joins the company through recruitment and which team members will be developed into future leaders.

However, staffing is often impeded by unconscious biases that can lead to unfair decisions and a lack of diversity in the workplace.

Although many biases are implicit biases and are unintentional, they can still prevent the company from reaching its true potential by limiting its talent pool and opening the company to legal liability.

This article discusses strategies for how to reduce bias in the hiring process.

The importance of reducing implicit bias

Reducing implicit bias in the workplace is essential to promote inclusivity and to create supportive environments that encourage creativity and employee development. Reducing bias is also essential for maintaining legal compliance.

The first step in addressing bias is to recognize that it exists and that it can negatively impact staffing decisions, even if the bias seems beneficial, like a bias favoring women.

By being self-aware and understanding the different types of implicit bias, hiring managers can take deliberate actions to standardize the hiring and promotion processes and to ensure a fair evaluation of internal and external candidates.

Implementing specific strategies, such as using blind resume review, structured interviewing, and leveraging diverse hiring teams can lead to significant improvements in equity and fairness which, in turn, encourage employee engagement.

Companies like TrueAbility help reduce bias in hiring by providing a level playing field for candidates.

Using these strategies is a great way to address unconscious bias. In addition, however, organizations should also commit to the ongoing education of their staff about bias and provide them with the needed tools to overcome it.

Actively working to minimize or eliminate bias in the workplace allows companies to promote a more diverse and inclusive workforce, leading to better collaboration, creativity, and, ultimately, success.

Understanding bias in the hiring process

By understanding the different types of biases, identifying examples in the workplace, and acknowledging the effects on candidates and organizations, companies can work towards reducing bias and can promote equitable hiring decisions.

What are the types of bias in hiring?

There are a number of biases that are encountered in the workplace. These biases are not limited to the hiring process; however, they can be particularly detrimental when making hiring decisions.

  • Unconscious bias—The unintentional and automatic judgments made about someone based on social stereotypes.
  • Affinity bias—Favoring candidates who share similar traits, interests, or backgrounds with the interviewers.
  • Confirmation bias—Seeking information that confirms our preexisting beliefs about a candidate, while ignoring conflicting information.
  • The halo effect—The tendency to attribute favorable impressions to a candidate based on one positive trait or experience.

Examples of unconscious bias during the hiring process

Unconscious biases can present themselves in many ways during the hiring process, but they all have one thing in common—hiring decisions based on bias are unlikely to be the best hiring decisions. They may even have adverse effects on the organization as a whole. Because of this, it is important to reduce unconscious bias wherever found. 

Bias prevents organizations from truly evaluating their talent pool, and limits their ability to hire the best candidates.

Examples of unconscious bias include:

  • Using gender or ethnic-coded language in job descriptions, which may discourage certain applicants.
  • Failing to make applications and other hiring materials accessible to all candidates will lead to an application process that limits the talent pool.
  • Overlooking qualified candidates due to non-traditional or less prestigious educational backgrounds artificially limits candidates who have strong work experience.
  • Biased interview questions that favor one candidate over another based on personal characteristics.
  • Giving more weight to applicants with similar hobbies, interests, or work experience as the hiring manager may lead to suboptimal candidates being hired due to affinity bias.

How bias impacts organizations

The impact of bias in the hiring process impacts more than individual job candidates. Bias in the hiring process has long-lasting consequences for the organizations themselves. Some of the effects of bias in the hiring process include:

  • Limited diversity—Biased hiring and promotion practices can lead to less diverse teams, which may hinder an organization’s creativity, innovation, and adaptability.
  • Decreased employee morale—When employees believe the hiring process is unfair, they often feel less motivated to perform and less engaged with their work. The perception of bias will cause morale to decline and can result in employee turnover.
  • Legal consequences—Failure to address bias in the hiring process and workplace environments may expose organizations to legal risks and potential damage to their reputations.
  • Loss of talent—Companies that do not work to remove bias risk overlooking highly qualified candidates in both their external and internal talent pools.

Companies who recognize these biases and their negative consequences should take proactive steps to reduce bias in hiring and promotions at their company. They can also work to develop more inclusive and supportive company cultures.

Advantages to diversity in hiring and promotion

Companies have come to realize the value of having a diverse workforce. In an increasingly multifaceted world, companies that embrace diversity will be the ones who are best positioned to respond to changing market conditions and to succeed in the face of economic uncertainty.

Developing a diverse organization starts with hiring diverse talent and developing that talent to move into leadership.

Diversity, inclusion, and employee engagement

A diverse workforce encourages an inclusive environment which, in turn, promotes employee engagement and satisfaction.

Employees come from different backgrounds, have unique experiences, and distinct perspectives. However, all employees want to feel valued.

When companies show their commitment to their employees, those employees are more likely to be committed and engaged with their work. This sense of engagement leads to more positive workplace environments, increased job satisfaction, and higher retention rates.

Organizations that make diversity goals a default value encourage innovation and creative problem-solving among team members.

Diversity deepens the pool of available talent

Due to unconscious biases, many talented job candidates are not given fair consideration. For example, persons with disabilities are routinely overlooked by hiring managers due to biased assumptions regarding their abilities. The same holds true for people over fifty and for females.

Organizations that reach out to underrepresented groups often find top talent that is not being actively pursued, and this results in higher interview conversion rates.

An additional benefit of committing to diversity goals is that it shows an organization is serious about efforts to reduce bias. This, in turn, can be used as evidence to verify good-faith efforts in response to allegations about discrimination.

Diversity improves performance

Research indicates that diversity in the workplace results in significant business advantages. Diverse perspectives lead to a broader range of ideas and solutions, and because of this, companies with diverse teams tend to be more innovative and adaptable

In general, diverse teams display improved decision-making abilities and produce better outcomes because they are more able to identify and address potential problems or challenges.

A diverse customer base is better served by diverse organizations. These organizations are more likely to be aware of and empathize with the needs, preferences, and challenges of their customer base.

This results in increased market share and customer loyalty, providing a competitive edge to diverse companies.

In short, diversity is a strength, and in business, a diverse environment is better prepared to succeed in a challenging market.

By adopting practices that reduce unconscious bias, such as neutral language, standardized staffing processes, and objective criteria for hiring and promotion, companies can effectively capitalize on the advantages of a diverse workforce.

Strategies to minimize bias in the hiring process

There is no simple solution to end the problem of bias. However, hiring teams can take steps to address bias head-on.

By taking action to remove unconscious bias, organizations not only improve their recruiting process but demonstrate their commitment to improving their organizational culture for the entire team.

These actions strengthen employee engagement and increase the likelihood that employees will stay with the company.

1. Watch the language used in job descriptions and advertisements

Using language that is neutral and inclusive in job descriptions and advertisements is crucial to attracting a diverse pool of candidates.

Avoid using gender-coded words like “ninja” or “rockstar” in job descriptions and focus the job description on highlighting the skills and experiences necessary for a qualified candidate to have.

When providing information about an open job role or working for the company in general, it is wise to use inclusive language. Whatever is written about working for an organization should include information about the organization’s commitment to diversity, gender equality, and inclusion. This will appeal to a broader range of potential applicants.

A candidate’s first impression of a company is often a job description or advertisement, so it is important to make that first impression a positive one. Even subtle word choices can have a significant impact on a group of candidates that may be considering a number of job openings.

2. Implement blind resume screening

Blind resume screening techniques can help reduce both conscious bias and unconscious bias when reviewing candidates.

The first step hiring managers take in creating a blind resume is to remove any information that might reveal a candidate’s gender identity, race, age, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics. Blind resumes allow hiring managers and other interviewers to focus solely on the candidate’s qualifications, skills, and experience.

It isn’t necessary, or advisable to remove the dates of employment on a candidate’s resume. However, removing dates such as the year of education completion or military service is a good idea to avoid potential age bias.

3. Use structured interviews

Structured interviews are an excellent way to minimize bias in the interview process for all job candidates, both external and internal.

In the structured interview process, all candidates are asked the same set of approved questions. A standard scoring system is used to ensure that all individuals are evaluated and assessed based on the same criteria.

With unstructured interviews, the interview results are subjective, making candidate comparison difficult. By using a structured interview process for interviews, an organization can demonstrate and justify the reasoning behind their hiring decisions.

4. Roll out diversity training for the hiring team

In order to minimize bias in hiring, organizations must provide diversity training for all members of the hiring team, including the hiring manager. This training should include awareness-building exercises. This will help members of the hiring team recognize and overcome their own unconscious biases.

When organizations develop and encourage an environment of inclusivity and understanding, they are better prepared to make informed hiring decisions and cultivate a more diverse workforce.

5. Create a diverse interview panel

One effective way to reduce or eliminate unconscious bias in hiring is to create a diverse interview panel.

This can involve assembling a cross-functional interview team of interviewers from various backgrounds, departments, and job levels within the company.

Having diverse perspectives can help to ensure that all candidates are assessed fairly and that unconscious biases are kept in check. This approach can also help candidates feel more comfortable and welcome during interviews, which can contribute to their willingness to join the organization.

To create a diverse interview panel, include interview team members who represent diverse candidates:

  • Different genders
  • Various ethnicities and cultures
  • A range of age groups
  • People with disabilities
  • Individuals from various departments or job levels

By focusing on promoting diversity and inclusion through awareness training, the creation of diverse interview panels, and ensuring fairness and consistency in hiring decisions, organizations can take significant steps toward their diversity goals and reduce bias in their staffing plans. 

Strategies that lead to a more diverse and inclusive workplace, benefit everyone, including candidates, employees, and the organization as a whole.

Leveraging technology to reduce bias

Reducing bias is a crucial goal for organizations seeking to create diverse work environments. Technology can play a significant role in mitigating bias and promoting fair hiring practices.

1. Artificial intelligence in recruitment

Technology is not subject to bias, unlike humans. Artificial Intelligence can help organizations avoid unconscious bias by focusing on candidate skills and excluding identifiers that may trigger bias, such as a job candidate’s name, age, or ethnicity.

Companies are using AI technology to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce, helping them reach diversity goals and make data-driven decisions on how to rank candidates.

There are various AI tools designed specifically for recruitment, including natural language processing algorithms to parse resumes, chatbots to engage with candidates, and prediction models to identify top applicants.

AI measures and ranks job candidates on their experience and skills, rather than unconscious bias. AI allows employers to evaluate all candidates objectively with the same criteria

It is difficult for people to ignore their unconscious bias, but AI doesn’t have that problem. AI can’t make hiring decisions. However, it can effectively remove bias from the process behind those hiring decisions.

When hiring managers are freed from unconscious bias, they are able to make better hiring decisions and keep the company in compliance with employment laws.

2. Automated candidate evaluation tools

Alongside AI, automated candidate evaluation tools and skill tests are also making strides in minimizing bias in candidate evaluation. These tools streamline the recruitment process, offering a more objective analysis of a candidates’ skills and abilities.

Many evaluation tools provide standardized testing and assessments to measure aptitude for specific job roles. These assessments can include:

  • Skill tests—Quantify the candidate’s proficiency in specific technical skills
  • Personality assessments—Determine cultural fit and compatibility.
  • Cognitive tests—Gauge a candidate’s problem-solving and critical thinking abilities.

By automating the recruitment process, organizations can ensure that candidates are evaluated on the same criteria, with minimal influence from implicit biases. As a result, the selection process becomes more consistent, fair, and objective.

3. Performance-based assessments

Candidate testing doesn’t have to stop with the skill test. To assess the true potential of candidates, performance-based assessments should be used.

Performance-based assessments, such as TrueAbility’s Pure Performance-based assessment, measure a candidate’s ability to perform well in the job.

By using a performance-based assessment, organizations can analyze a candidate’s ability to solve job-related problems and/or complete tasks that are similar to the ones they would face in an average workday.

True Ability’s performance-based testing allows hiring teams to focus on skills, experiences, and quantifiable data—leading to a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

The use of performance-based assessments and structured interviews reduces unconscious bias and also protects employers from allegations of discrimination and unfair hiring practices.

Structured interviews and performance-based assessments are truly objective, ensuring that all candidates are evaluated by the same measures.

By using performance-based assessments and structured interviews, organizations not only reduce unconscious bias, but also protect themselves from allegations of discrimination and unfair hiring practices.

Leveraging AI and automated evaluation tools can play an essential role in reducing and removing unconscious bias from the recruitment process. By focusing on skills, experiences, and quantifiable data, these technologies enable organizations to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Bias in employee promotions

Biases, whether conscious or unconscious, can impact the fairness and equity of the promotion process for employees as well as the external recruitment process.

Minimizing bias in and among current employees

Currently employed candidates who are looking for a new job often say that there is little to no chance for advancement with their current employer.

The suspicion of bias, whether conscious or unconscious, is a huge factor behind the feeling that there isn’t a possibility for advancement. Bias is not only toxic for the recruiting process but for employee retention as well.

A company’s current employees are their internal talent pool, and they are the people who will be developed into managers and shape the company’s future. To maintain this resource, companies must take decisive action to minimize and eliminate bias.

Here are some strategies.

  • Establish clear and objective promotion criteria—Develop transparent and measurable criteria for evaluating employee performance and potential. This reduces the scope for subjective judgments and biases.
  • Provide unconscious bias training—Educate decision-makers and employees about unconscious biases and their impact on decision-making. This awareness can help individuals recognize and mitigate their own biases.
  • Implement diversity and inclusion initiatives—Actively promote diversity and inclusion within the organization. Encourage diverse representation on promotion committees and provide equal opportunities for all employees.
  • Promote internal hiring opportunities—Take steps to make sure that employees are aware of promotion and advancement opportunities. Encourage them to participate in the internal interview process.
  • Regularly review promotion practices—Monitor and analyze promotion data to identify any patterns of bias. Regularly review promotion processes to ensure fairness and equal opportunities.
  • Utilize employee development—Offer employee development programs that provide equal access to training, mentoring, and career advancement opportunities. These programs can help build a pipeline of qualified candidates and reduce potential biases resulting from unequal access to professional growth.
  • Develop a culture of fairness and transparency—Promote a culture that values fairness, transparency, and accountability in the promotion process. Encourage open communication and provide avenues for employees to raise concerns or report instances of bias.

Frequently asked questions

How should organizations define diversity?

Diversity in employment means hiring people from different backgrounds and experiences in order to share their points of view.

While companies may define diversity differently, depending on their employees, the goal is to get different perspectives and angles. Companies who wish to remain relevant must make the effort to involve other voices.

There are five main categories of diversity—Demographic, cognitive, experiential, cultural, and background. The definition of diversity for these categories will depend on the organization. The most important thing is that organizations seek diverse candidates to improve their internal talent pools.

How can companies avoid allegations of discrimination?

All companies are concerned with allegations of discrimination, but the real concern should be companies actually engaging in discrimination.

Discrimination is not only illegal, but it is self-defeating. Companies who continue to let bias influence their staffing decisions not only put themselves at risk of violating the law, but they hobble themselves when choosing talent.

The most important thing for companies to do is to not discriminate. This is best accomplished by taking steps to reduce bias. Companies should also document the steps taken to make hiring decisions by using tools like the structured interview process and performance assessments. By showing that hiring decisions are data-driven decisions and not subject to bias, companies can show that they’ve remained in compliance.

What is the best way to encourage employees to apply for internal job opportunities?

Companies should promote job openings internally for a period of time before seeking external candidates. An internal candidate’s experience should be largely identical to an external candidate.

In closing

Companies who use these strategies can help minimize bias in hiring and promotions. They can create a more equitable and inclusive work environment. These changes require a commitment from leadership, ongoing efforts, and a willingness to continuously evaluate and improve promotion processes.

Jodi Mai began her career as a recruiter after college. She moved into an HR Generalist role and later, into HR management, working on such topics as employee relations, benefit administration, and payroll. Over the last 15 years, she has worked in the talent acquisition and management industry, and since 2018, Jodi has expanded to HR consulting and writing on HR and recruitment topics.

Learn more about TrueAbility—an industry leader in providing assessment testing and has experience offering testing, certification, and training to companies, such as Google, SUSE, VMWare etc.

About TrueAbililty 

TrueAbility is a trusted global performance-based technical assessment provider offering a community ecosystem allowing technical professionals and employers to collaborate and measure skill sets through AbilityScreen®. AbilityScreen is the only fully-managed performance-based technical assessment platform operating in a live, cloud environment that automates recruiting and hiring processes to definitively assess and qualify a technical professional’s technology experience.

TrueAbility has executed over 20,000 technical assessments logging more than 18,000 hours of live server practical skill evaluations. Employers have collectively hired hundreds of qualified technical professionals for specific job positions across an array of industries. Founded in 2012, TrueAbility is privately held and headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. For more information, please visit

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