What your staffing agency can do right now to reduce bias in recruitment

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Reducing unconscious bias has been a hot topic in recruitment circles for years now. But for staffing agencies that recruit workers for skilled jobs, the issue is complicated. Agencies are under pressure to fill roles quickly, and the last thing recruiters want to hear is that they must change their process or complete extra steps. 

While it’s clear that preventing unconscious bias results in better candidates and increased diversity in skilled jobs, it’s tough to know how to address the issue effectively. What can staffing agencies do to reduce hiring bias and improve recruitment practices?

How does unconscious bias appear in recruitment for skilled jobs?

First, it’s important to define the issue. Although most recruiters always intend to hire the best possible workers for every role, unconscious biases may affect hiring decisions in a variety of ways. 

One of the most common forms of bias is affinity bias—favouring a candidate because they have a characteristic in common with you. Feeling close to a stranger when you share something in common is natural, but in recruitment, it can cause problems, leading recruiters to select candidates with whom they feel an affinity instead of those who might be best for the job. This form of bias also leads to homogeneity. Without consciously realizing it, a recruiter might select more candidates who look the same, come from the same background, or are trained in the same place. This bias contributes to a lack of diversity that is pervasive in many workplaces. 

Bias also emerges because of a desire for speed and convenience. Staffing work is fast-paced, and recruiters are rewarded for making decisions and finding qualified candidates fast. Because of the pressure to recruit quickly, staffing agencies often rely on lists of “go-to” candidates who can be depended upon to respond quickly and keep their certifications up to date. The practice is understandable, but too often, these “go-to” lists exclude more qualified candidates and contribute to a lack of diversity in hiring. 

What can your staffing agency do to reduce bias?

At staffing agencies, we know that leaders are looking for strategies to reduce hiring bias. If your agency is ready to get started, here are a few ideas to help.

Talk about it

It’s not easy to open up a conversation about unconscious bias. We all want to believe that we make the best, objective decisions, and it may be uncomfortable to confront the idea that we’ve made mistakes. 

However, it’s important to discuss bias openly at your agency. Discuss how and why it happens, acknowledging that it’s natural and human. Recognizing the problem without judgement is the first step to changing your agency’s practices for the better.

Learn more 

Educate your team to ensure they understand how unconscious bias can negatively affect hiring, both in terms of the quality and the diversity of the candidates you place in roles. Most recruiters are relatively well-informed about the issues, but learning more will help everyone at your agency keep up with the latest practices, and better understand why addressing bias is so important. 

Be intentional

Once you’ve identified the issue, your team is ready to take action. It’s important to be intentional about eliminating bias, recognizing that you can’t address the issue without taking concrete steps. 

As a team, set meaningful goals and identify the changes you will make to meet those targets. When you say that you want to increase diversity, what does that mean? How will you measure it? 

Expand your search

One of the simplest ways to address bias is to expand your candidate pool. Too often, staffing agencies fall into the trap of hiring from a small field of candidates they know, because it’s easy. 

Expand your search by onboarding more candidates to your database. Then, make a plan to move away from “go-to” lists, ensuring that you consult your full database each time you fill a role. 

Use technology to help

Technology can be a tremendous aid for preventing hiring bias at staffing agencies. The right software solution can help your team build your database of candidates and search it more easily to find the best workers for every job. 

Most importantly, staffing software selects candidates based only on their qualifications—free from favouritism or assumptions. Enlisting the help of an algorithm for your searches will not only save time, but ensure you select the right candidates. Talk about a win-win. 

The bottom line

It’s completely possible to reduce hiring bias in staffing decisions—and all without compromising speed or quality. If your agency is ready to get serious about preventing bias, then learning more about the topic, growing your candidate database, setting goals, and finding the right staffing software are all great places to start. 

Is your staffing agency searching for a software solution that can help to reduce hiring bias? Labourly™ is a simple, intuitive solution built specially for Human Resource departments and staffing agencies. Book a demo call with our team to learn more about options your agency.

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