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How Australian employers are combating ‘first impression bias’ in the hiring process

Recognising that snap judgements and unconscious bias are highly likely to influence a candidate’s job offers, organisations are actively taking steps to minimise these risks.

New research by recruiter Robert Half has found that eight in ten employers acknowledge initial impressions can influence their decision making during the recruitment process.

Over 60 per cent of hiring managers reported forming a first impression of a job candidate within the first 15 minutes of an in-person interview, with just 9 per cent saying it took more than an hour to form a first impression.

The research revealed that virtual interviews weren’t faring much better, with 56 per cent of hiring managers forming their first impression within 15 minutes.

“Despite the robust recruitment processes that many companies engage in, the survey results highlight that hiring managers are nonetheless forming quick first impressions about candidates’ suitability for roles,” explained Nicole Gorton, Director Robert Half Australia.

“While hiring managers may be well-intentioned, the speed at which first impressions are formed raises the possibility that unconscious biases are creeping into the hiring process, and these can often cloud judgement in the decision-making process and cause employers to miss out on top talent.”

In a separate survey of Australian workers, eight in 10 respondents said that a hiring manager’s first impression of them had impacted their decision when considering a role. Of this, almost a third of respondents believed it had a negative impact compared to 55 per cent who believed it had a positive impact. But this, too, might hold a catch for organisations.

“While many workers feel that a hiring manager’s first impression has positively impacted their likelihood of receiving a job offer, this can suggest an affinity bias which is creating a like-for-like talent pipeline,” Ms Gorton noted.

What are some strategies to tackle unconscious bias in the hiring process?

The good news is almost all employers (98 per cent) surveyed are actively taking steps to reduce the risk of unconscious bias affecting their hiring decisions in today’s competitive job market.

According to Ms Gorton, one of the benefits of working with a recruitment agency is the ability to source quality candidates on a company’s behalf without allowing unconscious bias to creep into the hiring process.

Other potential strategies for employers include:

  • conducting blind CV reviews
  • replacing the CV with an anonymous screening task
  • including multiple people in the hiring process
  • asking the same questions at the beginning of the interview to every candidate
  • using a scoring system to score candidates

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ALSO READ: Revealing the 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australians of 2022

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Rhea Laxmi Nath

Rhea Laxmi Nath

Rhea L Nath is a Sydney-based writer and editor. In 2022, she was named Young Journalist of the Year at the NSW Premier's Multicultural Communications Awards.

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