How CIOs Can Reduce Bias When They Are Hiring

The goal for a CIO is to increase IT department diversity
The goal for a CIO is to increase IT department diversity
Image Credit: Ikhlasul Amal

With a little luck, we’ve all gotten the message by now: having a more diverse IT department makes for a better IT department. However, despite the fact that most companies have spent a lot of money trying to teach everyone about the power of diversity, we still don’t seem to have done a very good job of making our departments diverse. It turns out that one of the big problems that the person with the CIO job is dealing with is that the people doing the interviewing are bringing their bias to the interview table. We all like people who are like us. What can be done about this?

It’s All About The Job Description

In order for the person in the CIO position to remove bias from the hiring process, they need to work to take the bias out of the process instead of trying to take it out of the person doing the interviewing. One of the first steps in doing this is to take a look at the job descriptions that your IT department is producing. What you want to be looking for is signs of implicit bias in them. The wording that you use in your job descriptions can subtly encourage or discourage applicants.

Examples of this can be found in job descriptions that say that they are looking for someone who is “competitive” or “dominant”. These types of descriptions will attract fewer women because these are traits that people associate with men and negatively associate with women. A simple rule is to avoid language that favors one gender over the other (e.g. spokesman vs spokesperson). You also want to avoid using words like “up and coming” or even “fresh” because they imply that you are looking for younger candidates.

Get Uncomfortable When You Do Recruiting

One of the biggest problems that CIOs run into is the people who are hiring for the IT department are most attracted to people who are similar to them. One of the reasons that they feel this way is that we always seem to get our candidates from the same place. We like to recruit from places that are both familiar and closer to us.

The problem when all of your employees start to look like each other is that it can encourage things like a culture of secrecy and groupthink. Additionally, outsiders looking in may start to think that they should not even go to the effort of applying because they are different. So how can a CIO deal with this problem? You need to start by making a list of the qualities that you are looking for in the person that you want to hire. Next you need to create a list of where you think that you can find people with these characteristics. Once you’ve done this, you then need to go out and actively recruit from all of them.

Standardize How You Review Resumes

If the people in your IT department are dealing with implicit bias, then this is going to cause problems when they sit down to review resumes. What is going to happen is that they are going to view the same candidate qualifications differently depending on if that person is from the majority or from a minority. Things as small as the name of the candidate can trigger a reviewer’s bias.

In order to prevent someone’s resume from preventing them from getting a job, the CIO needs to create a standard evaluation form that contains detailed scoring metrics. This way of evaluating resumes has to be used for all resumes and it has to be used the same way for every resume. At the same time, details about a candidate’s race and gender need to be removed from each resume that is being reviewed. The goal is to make sure that this does not play a role in the evaluation of the candidate. You can accomplish this by removing such items as photos and names.

What All Of This Means For You

One of the roles of a CIO is to make sure that the IT department is able to perform its duties as effectively as possible as we try to share the importance of information technology with the rest of the company. In the past few years we have all been taught that in order to make this happen, what we need to do is to make sure that our IT department is as diverse as it can be. However, there may be implicit bias in how the people in our department go about doing hiring and this can harm our quest for diversity. What should a CIO do?

One of the big problems with creating a diverse IT department is that our job descriptions may be scaring away the diversity candidates that we are looking for. We need to take a close look at the words that we use in our job descriptions to make sure that we are sending out the right message. The people in our department who are doing the recruiting may be bringing their bias to the interview process. They may be looking for people who are like them. We need to prevent this by finding our candidates from different locations that are not as close or as familiar to us. How a resume gets reviewed is a critical step in the hiring process. The CIO needs to take steps to ensure that all indications of a candidate’s gender and race are removed from the resume before it gets reviewed.

The goal of having a diverse IT department is a good goal for every CIO to have. However, we need to understand that just wanting this is not going to be enough – we are going to have to take steps in order to make it happen. By realizing that the people in our department who are doing the hiring may have internal bias, we can take steps to remove the bias from the process even if we can’t remove it from the people. The effort that we put into doing this will create an IT department that is better able to serve the rest of the company.

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

Question For You: What do you think is the best way for a CIO to determine if the IT department is diverse enough?

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