How Can CIOs Remove The Bias From How They Hire?

To increase diversity in IT, CIOs need to take the bias out of the hiring process
To increase diversity in IT, CIOs need to take the bias out of the hiring process
Image Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

Just in case you have somehow not gotten the message, if you want to build the best IT department that will be able to share the importance of information technology with the rest of the company, you are going to want to make it as diverse as you possibly can. Having all of those people with different backgrounds ensures you that you’ll get the different opinions and solutions that a modern IT department needs in order to be successful. However, there’s a problem here. The hiring process that your IT department uses is broken – it has bias built into it and you’ll never get the diverse employees that you so desperately need. What’s a CIO to do?

It’s All About The Job Description

The way that you get people to join your IT department is by first creating a description of the job that you’d like to fill. It turns out that this is a critical step in the process and if you are not careful, this is where bias can start to sneak into how you do hiring. It turns out that the wording that we use in our job descriptions can, if we aren’t careful, turn away prospective diversity candidates. As an example, if you use the words “competitive” or “dominate” in a job description, there’s a good chance that you’ll turn away female candidates because those words describe male workplace characteristics.

Another challenge that you may face when writing a job description is that you may use words that reference one gender. An example would be “spokesman” verses “spokesperson”. You might also exclude candidates based on age because of the words that you used in your job description. This could happen if you used words like “fresh” or “up-and-coming”. To clearly communicate that you are not targeting candidates from one particular local, include words such as “… we want people from different regions…” Your goal is to allow your job description to provide you with as diverse a set of potential candidates as possible.

Pull Candidates From Outside Of Your Standard Comfort Zone

When the person with the CIO job is recruiting new talent for the IT department, it can be all too easy to go back to the places where you’ve gotten people from before. The reason that we do this is because these locations are familiar to us and more often than not they may also be located close to us also. This can cause a problem because if we get too many employees who all share the same background, then this can lead to “group think” and can allow an atmosphere of secrecy to develop within the department.

What we need to do instead is to sit down and determine what qualities we are looking for in the candidates that apply for the job opening that we have. The next step is to then go ahead and identify where we think that we’ll be able to find candidates who have these qualities. Once we have this list, it then becomes our responsibility to make sure that we reach out to each of them and recruit from all of them.

Apply A Standard Process To How You Evaluate Every Resume

Unfortunately there have been too many studies that show that while the person in the CIO position is reviewing resumes, we can allow bias to enter into the process. The way that this happens is that we allow ourselves to become influenced by things that we see on the resume, perhaps it’s a name or a photograph, and this influences how we interpret the rest of the resume. Clearly this is not a good thing.

In order to prevent this from happening, what we need to do is to set up a standard process for evaluating all of the resumes that are submitted for a given position. This process must contain a detailed scoring metric that we can use to evaluate each resume. The goal must be to use it in exactly the same way for each resume. In order to remove any bias from this process, you may want to have names and photographs removed from resumes so that you won’t be influenced by them.

What All Of This Means For You

As a CIO, you would like to have an IT department that is as diverse as possible. What this means is that you need to create a system that will allow you to attract the greatest number of diverse candidates and which will then give all of them a fair shot at landing the job. It can be all too easy to allow bias to enter into this process and so you are going to have to take steps to make sure that this does not happen.

It all starts with the job description. The words that you use in the job description can either attract or repel diversity candidates. Women can be turned off by words that people associate with men in the workplace and you’ll also have to be careful about using words that imply that you have a preference for younger workers. Where we go to find candidates can get stuck in a rut as we keep going back to the same old places. As CIO you need to identify what characteristics you are looking for in a job candidate and then create a list of where people like that can be found. You’ll then have to reach out to all of those places. Finally, while reviewing a resume bias can sneak in because of a person’s name or a photo that they have included.

If you can create a truly diverse IT department, then that department will be able to creatively solve the most complex problems. However, before you can create a department like that, you are going to have to first eliminate the bias that exist in the hiring process. These bias can be almost anywhere. Take the time to make sure that your candidate evaluation system gives everyone a fair chance and you’ll end up with a world-class IT department!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think putting all resumes into a common form would help to eliminate any bias in evaluating them?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

It can be all too easy for the person with the CIO job to spend their time sitting around thinking about the future. We all know about things like big data, cloud computing, etc. These are new and novel things now, we assume that in the future they will be more run-of-the-mill. However, that’s off in the future and we can worry about it then. The bad news is that the future is racing towards us right now. Are you going to be ready when it shows up?