5 Ways Behavioral Assessments Help Build Diverse Teams and Reduce Bias in Hiring

5 Ways Behavioral Assessments Help Build Diverse Teams and Reduce Bias in Hiring

  1. Use Assessments Earlier in Your Workflow to Reduce Bias.  

Don’t wait to assess just your finalists.  By then it’s too late.   

In an ideal world, a recruiter or hiring manager would evaluate an application based exclusively on the skills, experience, and credentials listed on the page. But, unconscious bias can start at the pre-screening stage with small details that otherwise might seem trivial. Unconscious bias is our deeply seeded prejudices about others—in a negative and positive way—and this can influence our hiring and selection decisions, usually without us realizing it.

We are all human.  That means we all come with our own inherent set of biases, and employers can inadvertently let small, non-obvious things impact their decision making.  

Applications can quickly get sorted into different piles based on our preconceived judgements. By the time your applicants have been narrowed down to a shortlist of finalists, chances are that micro-biases have crept in and your finalists may not be those who really are most likely to thrive in the job.

A simple best practice in pre screening is to test more applicants sooner for less bias in your hiring process.  Standardize the questions one can and cannot ask in screening, and insist that notes be recorded by using a form.  Using assessments early in your workflow off-sets the potential systemic biases that may be present as you decide who to advance in the hiring process.

  1. Reduce Interview Bias.  

Screen IN someone you may have overlooked.  Science is objective.  Interviews are not.

Beyond prescreening, let’s look at the interview stage.  Even experienced interviewers can fall victim to biases and need to constantly be mindful of how this impacts their ‘people decisions.’  Assessments help us ‘screen in’ those high performing employees who would have otherwise been ‘screened out’ if an interview alone was used. For example, interviewer biases cause candidates who appear ‘likable’, similar to the interviewer, and a ‘good talker’ to be rated highest. But what if on-the-job performance does not require a ‘good talker’? What if the ‘talking’ in the interview is more of a rehearsed act than how the person will perform on the job? 

Biases from interviewers result in barriers that put both the candidate and the organization at a disadvantage. In the end, nobody benefits from a bad hire.  Do we really want to hire people who can put on a convincing act to an interviewer? Do we really want to hire people similar to the interviewer, or do we want to hire people who have the potential to grow into a high performer? Assessments are a scientific way to help decisions be based on objective data. Assessments help us to minimize our biases, identify high potential people who fit both the job and the organization, and hire more ‘diamonds in the rough’ you may otherwise have overlooked. 

  1. Use Benchmarks to objectively assess relevant competencies.

Standardize your measuring stick of what good looks like for all applicants.

Benchmarks help identify the key strengths and personality traits needed to be a top performer in a specific role, and can be a standard by which to measure every candidate fairly. Once benchmarks have been developed, your organization can use them to compare with profiles of new candidates for a role, and hire to match (or complement) a top performing profile. Or, for current employees, benchmarks bring insights for employee development, coaching and self-awareness.

Benchmarks provide an easy and efficient way to identify strengths and areas of concern. If a candidate’s marker lands within the benchmark range this indicates a good fit for that position because they are similar to the top performers.

If a candidate’s marker lands outside the benchmark range, this indicates an area of concern because they are different from the top performers in that specific role. Landing outside a benchmark does not mean an individual can’t do the job. Rather, it means there are certain components of the job that he or she is not a natural fit for. In this case, suggested interview questions are provided to allow you to further assess fit for the role.

For hiring, make sure you’re using normative personality assessments, and it’s a good idea to use one with benchmarked “ideal score ranges” based on objective data on high-performers in the same job position.  Scores against a benchmark should not be used as a pure ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ but rather as another factor in the overall decision making process. This helps you fairly measure each candidate against the competencies of the role.

  1. Avoid Adverse Impact.  

Use Assessments that do not discriminate on factors such as gender, race and ethnicity.  

When selecting a Talent Assessment vendor, ask extra questions to ensure extensive research has been conducted and the assessments meet the standards specified in the EEOC’s Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures which addresses adverse impact (discrimination) in pre-hire assessments. Make sure your assessment vendor has experts with decades of experience with legal compliance, including the issue of adverse impact. Also worth noting is that compared to behavioral assessments, cognitive assessments require extra steps during implementation to establish job relevance and appropriate cut scores.

Adverse Impact is clearly defined in existing law and professional guidelines under the Uniform Guidelines of Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP). When Adverse Impact results from a selection procedure, that procedure must be validated in accordance with the UGESP. An employer is not required to conduct validity studies of selection procedures where no Adverse Impact results. Nevertheless, best professional practice encourages validation studies and the use of valid selection tests.

  1. Behavioral assessments measure POTENTIAL…

… even if someone has not had the same opportunities in the past for education, experience or promotions.

How do you measure potential? How do you spot and support rising stars, retain your leaders of today AND engage leaders of tomorrow so they grow within your organization?  Are you doing enough to remove barriers for less advantaged individuals?

Building a diverse workforce means choosing people with best-fit personality traits who can make or break your culture and profitability.  Some of these people may not have come from privileged backgrounds, attended the “right schools” or have a family network of connections.  Behavioral assessments help build diversity and level the playing field, supporting you to identify talented individuals who are naturally suited to excel in a role, even if they haven’t done that exact job before.  With better insights you can make better decisions. We recommend you weigh assessment scores as one piece of your hiring, along with experience, reference and background checks, and interview impressions.   

Adding behavioral assessments to your hiring toolkit  brings objectivity and fair play to your process.  At the end of the day, bringing the power of assessments into the hiring mix will help you to build strong, diverse teams that thrive.