Most of the time your intuition will actually help you to avoid dangerous situations. So we’re often told to “just trust your gut”. This specific ability, to judge, has been keeping us safe and happy. But when meeting a new person for the first time, we can also be tricked by our beloved gut feeling. Because a subconscious cognitive process constantly is affecting us. This can be a dangerous pitfall for both hiring managers and job seekers. In this blog article, we explore how unconscious biases can affect a recruitment process and if it's even possible for a human recruiter to not judge a candidate.
Our human nature
When meeting someone for the first time you instantly try to understand “what type” of person you’re interacting with. This is a completely natural response and something we all do, without even thinking. That’s a part of being a human and it’s how we relate to each other. We like what we already are familiar with because it’s comfortable and relatable. This natural, cognitive process is helping us understand the world around us. But it can also create serious consequences, as we today know that minority groups are at a disadvantage when hiring is based on ‘best fit’ to company culture.
Subconscious stereotypes and familiarity bias
To make sense of the world around us we use social categories. A social category could be anything from distinguishing a person as a man (by comparing him to a woman), an old person (versus a young person), a White person (in relation to a person of color), etc. But then it gets more complicated. Because we also assign different values to the categories, which creates a social hierarchy. Meaning that we have stereotypes and prejudice about the different groups. And because the stereotypes are connected to our personal experience, we usually favor our own categories. This is also called familiarity bias and it is making us prefer people who are similar to ourselves.
Today, research is showing that even a five-year-old child has a basic understanding of cultural norms, stereotypes, and appropriate behaviors. To gain these insights, they have to compare themselves with other people. In other words, we start shaping our identity and where we fit in the world by judging and comparing. But once our prejudices are established, it can be difficult to change them. Of course, you may think that you personally don’t act based on your stereotypes, but you may not even be aware of it. Because most of our stereotypes are subconscious, making it difficult to even identify them. Instead, we start responding to people like we already knew them and therefore know how they would act.
It is human to judge
So we are literally hardwired to have preconceived prejudices about each other. And even though these cognitive biases have helped us navigate through life, they are not effective when trying to recruit new talent. And both the candidate and the recruiter can use social categorization, stereotypes, and familiarity biases to their advantage. Besides, we already create these social categories before even meeting.
For example, the recruiter will subconsciously be putting the candidate in a category even before the initial phone call. So if the recruiter is perceiving the candidate as similar to themselves and that will usually benefit that applicant. And research has shown that minority groups are at a disadvantage when hiring is based on “best fit” to company culture. In other words, our human brain is playing tricks on us. Just because a candidate is seemingly familiar, doesn’t mean they are a good fit for the job. And this is where Tengai comes in.
Tengai is leveling the playing field
Tengai’s sole purpose is to assist recruiters and hiring managers to make objective assessments. And even though Tengai has certain human qualities to be relatable, she lacks the cognitive ability to judge. By eliminating gut feeling completely, a candidate’s age, sex, appearance, and dialect become irrelevant. And while the goal in a human meeting is to charm one another. Tengai cannot be charmed since she only is measuring competency.
In conclusion, we prefer to build relationships with people that already seem familiar since we like what we already know. And this quality is extremely valuable to us because it is helping us to build meaningful and deep relationships. But it’s not effective when you should objectively assess a person for a job position. To be successful in today’s modern society, we need diverse and creative teams. And by understanding our human flaws and strengths we can make more productive decisions. The Tengai-team has been identifying this problematic dynamic. With this in mind, we decided to make Tengai’s diversity and inclusion software unbiased by design.