How to Avoid Hiring Bias in 5 Super-Fantastic, Secret Steps

by Catapult Leaders Podcast – Darryl L. Mobley


Hello Friend! Welcome to this episode of the Catapult Leaders podcast.

Today I will share 5 super-fantastic, amazingly wonderful, secret ways to avoid bias in your firm’s hiring process.

But first…

Catapult Leaders is America’s leading executive search firm that exclusively sources Black Mid-to-Senior level managers, Junior Military Officers, Early Career talent, and College Interns – for Engineering, Supply Chain, Computer & Data Science, and Marketing & Advertising roles – with top companies that value a diverse pipeline, equity, and inclusion.

Why does Catapult Leaders focus on this mission? Because companies have come to us and told us that they have a very difficult time finding Black professionals for important roles. Basically, we are problem solvers.

Now – about that hiring bias problem.

There are some things that you’d want a good friend to alert you to…like…

• Your fly being down;

• Food stuck between your front teeth;

• Toilet paper sticking out of your shoe;5 Secret Ways to Fight Hiring Bias

• A rip in your stockings;

• Lipstick on your front teeth; and

[Drumroll please]…

• Bias in your hiring process.

These are all things that make you and your company look bad… or worse!

So, consider me that good friend who’s going to point out the bias in your hiring process so that you can fix it and not look bad.

The process of hiring employees into an organization involves selecting qualified candidates for a variety of roles.

It’s important that your hiring process and managers remain fair to all during the interviewing & hiring process.

That means we must eliminate conscious & unconscious bias or special interests that would compromise the hiring process.

Both unconscious bias and conscious discrimination play a major role in manipulating the hiring process by favoring one group or individual over others.

Let’s admit – Overcoming bias in the process of hiring candidates can be extremely difficult.

Both conscious and unconscious bias can cause managers to make decisions for the benefit of one person and to the detriment of another person.

Bias can appear in the form of racism, sexism, favoritism, ageism, and colorism.

So, as a friend you’d want to tell you if your fly was down or it there was food stuck between your front teeth, and so on – – – and assuming you want to hire top talent – – here are my 5 super-fantastic, amazingly wonderful, secret ways to avoid bias in your firm’s hiring process…

#1. Almost Always Use Gender Neutral Job Descriptions

The job description is the first thing most candidates look at to determine their interest in a job.

Unless the manager is actively looking to select a particular gender for a position, the terms used in the description should not include pronouns such as ‘he, she, his, or her.’

You don’t want to communicate a bias towards women or men.

Now – don’t shoot the messenger regarding what I’m going to share with you next.

Do what you will with this info.

Here are some code words that tend to scream “we want women” when used in Job Descriptions:

Data indicates that men (in general – NOT all men) will tend to apply to jobs whose job descriptions feature these words at a lower rate than women.
• committed
• connect
• feel
• share
• together

Here are some code words that tend to scream “we want men” when used in Job Descriptions:

Data indicates that women (in general – NOT all women) will tend to apply to jobs whose job descriptions feature these words at a lower rate than men.
• competitive
• driven
• expert
• objectives
• strong

To note, there are also terms and phrases that are not gender neutral and can be off-putting.

While phrases such as “we are looking for an addition to our family,” may sound appealing and inviting to some, studies suggest they may sound discouraging to male candidates.

Similarly, while phrases such as ‘must be disciplined to tackle tasks’ may sound just about right to some, studies suggest they may sound less inviting to female candidates.

#2. Use Anonymized Resumes

I read on that the practice of ‘blind hiring’ began in the 1970s with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, which at that time was almost 100% white male. “In an effort to diversify, the orchestra began using partitions to conceal the identity of those who were auditioning. This led to a tremendous shift in the way the whole industry brought on talent, with blind auditions becoming the norm. As a result, the ratio of female musicians in the top U.S. orchestras increased from less than 5 percent in 1970 to 25 percent in the 1990s.”

While bias may be unconscious on the part of the manager hiring, it still favors some candidates to the detriment of other, often more qualified candidates.

Unconscious bias – due to upbringing, geography, schooling, or culture – can greatly influence the hiring, firing, and promotion decisions of even the most well-meaning, socially inclusive people.

That’s right all you “allies” out there – your unconscious bias can stop you from hiring – or cause you to hire – men, women, the disabled, people of color, those with accents, those from regions or neighborhoods that are not favored or familiar, those from certain schools, those with names that don’t sound “white,” or those with other distinguishing info on their resumes.

That is hugely damaging & disheartening to the applicants and limits the talent pool from which a company chooses.

Therefore, to actively avoid bias in selecting candidates, a recruiter or hiring manager might want to review Anonymized Resumes only.

An Anonymized Resume is one that by the time it makes its way to the hiring manager or recruiter, has had blocked-out or removed things like names, ages, schools, hometowns, and so forth.

In the best of all worlds, this process would lead to no candidate facing bias or undue favor in the hiring process. That seems fair to me.

#3. Create a Diverse Interview Panel

The saying, “Fire burns. Water runs downhill. And people hire people like themselves,” applies to organizations large and small.

Side bar comment: There are times when I look at a company’s leadership team or senior leaders and wince when everyone looks the same! It’s often shocking to me that in this day and age an organization can be so blind to their bias.


Many have found that an interview panel made up of a diverse array of company employees and managers is the most effective way to admit diverse perspectives into the organization’s hiring process.

If the recruitment is reserved for the hiring manager and they make hiring decisions alone, it becomes almost impossible to avoid bias in candidate selection.

They may easily and unconsciously or consciously overlook qualified candidates and select a candidate with whom they share a similarity. [See my saying above.]

However, when the hiring process is open to diverse input, the panel can discuss and share their reviews on each candidate, thereby – if all goes well – overriding any one person’s bias.

#4. Use Skills Assessment and not Job Requirement Laundry List Overkill

Reducing the bias in your hiring process can be made easier by paying more attention to the skills the candidates have acquired and the potential skills the actual job requires, rather than candidates’ education, unrelated experience, and demographic information.

My anecdotal story has now entered the chat. So…value this as you wish:

In my work at Catapult Leaders where we source and match outstanding talent with job opportunities, I often get the opportunity to look at 100 or more job descriptions from dozens of top companies each week. I would say that much more than 50% of the requested qualifications on the average job description have little to nothing to do with how a candidate will actually perform in the job. Studies have shown, however, that such excess “requirements” do cause women and diverse candidates to not apply for the roles for which they are actually very qualified.

Check out your job descriptions and line through all the filler that isn’t uniquely related to actually performing well on the job. Or, for real fun, highlight all the requirements on the job description that were not had by the boss when he or she joined the company or had the last 5 people hired for the job.

Good times.

My anecdotal story has now left the chat.

#5. Train Employees on Bias

We – that’s me, you, your fellow employees, managers and senior leadership, in and out of the recruiting function – are probably more consciously and unconsciously biased than we wish to admit.

It is impossible to solve a problem if you do not tackle it from the roots, and all lasting success & progress begins with truth.

Therefore, companies and organizations should organize training programs to help employees – from entry level all the way up through senior leadership and boards – recognize and learn how to overcome their biases.

The change we need to see and experience will not come on its own. We train for everything else. We should train for this as well.

You know that you love the Bottom-Line.

Here it is!

We all carry unconscious biases and too many of us harbor conscious biases.

And when I say “We,” I’m talking about you and me and everyone else. I’m also talking about all the hiring processes and systems which having been set-up by “we,” reflect our biases.

Reducing – eliminating hopefully – the hiring bias in your processes, systems, and people will greatly improve your organization. This will make the companies, cities, and countries we share much better places for all of us.

Off-putting hiring processes and job descriptions do not scream meritocracy.

They represent a system – holding onto the old, harmful and unfair ways – that needs to be fixed.

Don’t want your sympathy. Understanding is a start to progress.

That’s it.

Help Catapult Leaders help your company attract outstanding talent.

Contact us at if you want Catapult Leaders to find super talented Black Mid-to-Senior level managers, Junior Military Officers, Early Career talent, and College Interns – for Engineering, Supply Chain, Computer & Data Science, and Marketing & Advertising roles.

Thanks for your time.

Enjoy Life!

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