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Reduce Bias and Discrimination Using Assessments

Posted a month ago

When we hear “bias” and “discrimination,” most of us associate those as words with negative connotation - unjust, prejudice, unfair, and unreasoned. However, by definition, bias can be either good or bad and discrimination is simply a kind of discernment. It is the act of how these are applied that determines their positive or negative outcomes.

According to Psychology Today, “some biases are positive and helpful—like choosing to only eat foods that are considered healthy or staying away from someone who has knowingly caused harm. But biases are often based on stereotypes rather than actual knowledge of an individual or circumstance. Whether positive or negative, such cognitive shortcuts can result in prejudgments that lead to rash decisions or discriminatory practices” (

What is bias?

Bias is a natural tendency or inclination for or against an idea, object, group, or individual. It often is learned and is dependent on variables like a person’s upbringing, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, education, and more. Often, people are not even aware of their own biases, nor the consequences of them. As noted above, some biases can be positive and helpful, and others can be negative and harmful.

What causes people to be biased?

If you’re human, you have biases. All people are naturally biased. We inherently like certain things and dislike other things, often without really knowing why. Then, as we grow and develop, we react to another person based on our own history, stories, or mindset. Biases are established from things like our own instincts (or human nature), family, environment, education, media, religion, location, culture, and more.

Starting at a young age, we will naturally differentiate between what/who we are drawn to, for example, those who are more like us and others who are different. This distinction helps to create a sense of identity and safety; most humans crave and thrive in a shared existence with others, so we are instinctually drawn to those with whom we “fit” or to interactions where we have something to offer and feel valuable. The potential downside is that as we are drawn to some people, we pull away from others, categorizing and assigning judgments based on our impressions of them (often first impressions). This information is rarely enough to make a healthy, balanced observation.  Instead, human nature and instinct take over, in addition to what we’ve learned and been conditioned by in our environments, and we make judgments that may not always be accurate.

How can we reduce bias?

Rarely can bias be reduced by discouraging it or suppressing it. The most effective way to begin to reduce bias is by reflecting and noticing what biases exist in our thinking, and determining whether those biases are positive and helpful or negative and harmful. When we consciously and deliberately make an effort to notice bias, we are able to intentionally choose how to respond and behave as a result.

“Paying attention to helpful biases while keeping harmful, negative, prejudicial, or even accidental biases in check requires effort, energy, and a delicate balance between self-protection and empathy for others.” (

How can Assessments help reduce Bias and Discrimination?

Remember that not all assessments are created equal. Some assessments may not be designed with reduction of bias in mind, so it is imperative that you know how the assessment works, what it measures, and that it has been tested by a third party to know it is reliable and valid.

If the assessment has a proven track record of reliability and validity, the key to reducing bias and discrimination with assessments is the opportunity to receive objective, impartial data which initially limits personal interaction (in person or recorded) until the information is compared quantitatively and fairly to identified requirements. In short, the software and algorithm are designed to gather neutral data before it is filtered through human interaction. There should always be a human component that should be applied later in the process.

Why use assessments in the hiring and selection process?

Hiring processes have always relied heavily on interviews, resumes, and references. Quite often, interviews can span many people and departments which can make the process disjointed, inconsistent, and cumbersome. Multiple interviews are often unsuccessful, not data-driven, and expensive. And, because all people have bias, perspectives can vary for each interview experience. Additionally, resumes are increasingly falling out of favor as the primary source for determining an applicant's suitability for a job because they may be subject to bias, based solely on how well they are written and presented. Carefully crafted resumes for specific jobs are now readily available from professional services that frequently provide resumes designed to be persuasive, but that may or may not be accurate. The same is true with references; sometimes you’ll get an accurate and candid response, and sometimes the perspectives shared by a reference may be biased as well.

Even with highly trained and experienced evaluators performing the interviews, the potential exists for bias. Once a screening interview is performed or once a resume is read, a bias occurs. It could be positive, or it could be negative. Both present potential problems.

As a result, determining and cataloging objective data establishing the applicant's ability to do the job is now migrating towards other resources, including assessments. Assessments remove bias tendencies by not allowing resume reading nor interviewing until objective data has been compared against desired traits. They act as a filtering system, before the human element is introduced, to more effectively handle the applicant field based on data and information, rather than impressions and perceptions.

Why use HireSense to reduce bias in hiring and selection?

There are no “crystal balls” in hiring, however hiring choices should not be made merely by reading a resume and depending on intuition based on a short interview or interaction. One should not automatically assume that the person with the most experience or deepest expertise is the best candidate for a particular job or company culture. Employers should always look at a candidate’s people skills, values, appreciation of the company’s mission and culture, as well as motivations, and decision-making process. All of these factors will likely impact their success on the job and within the company.

HireSense is one of the few platforms that reliably assesses three classic characteristics of success: thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Most importantly, the individual assessments used by HireSense do not assess or discriminate based on an applicant’s race, age, disability, sexual preference, social/economic class, or other personally identifying information. Applicants’ objective data comes in a concise, easy-to-understand format that compares the applicant to what is required to succeed in the job, environment, and company culture. The interviewer, having this view of the applicant before meeting them, can then prepare for and create an informed, directed interview.

HireSense can help employers see below the surface of their candidates and can add great value to a limited process. It won’t make the decision for you, but it will provide information to make sure the decision is an informed one. HireSense is not meant to be used as the sole tool in making hiring decisions. Rather, it is supplementary and provides analysis that can reveal information about candidates that would not readily be available otherwise.

HireSense recognizes that no single assessment will highlight everything we may want to know that is relevant to hiring a specific candidate or comparing two or more candidates. With that in mind, HireSense is comprised of three, scientifically validated, and reliable individual assessments that provide details on behavior, motivators, and critical thinking. It then takes the data points from all three, draws insights, highlights potential risks about each candidate, and compares their scores to the particular job.

When these three assessments are examined together, many deep insights can be drawn that may provide hiring managers with details about candidates that they would not have discovered on their own as quickly. It is then up to the hiring manager, Human Resources, or other powers-that-be to determine whether the insights raised by HireSense are relevant for the role and should be considered as part of the selection discussion and process.

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