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Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is not just about adding people of different backgrounds and abilities to your team. While that is a primary factor, DEI also plays a large role in talent acquisition and there are often many unconscious biases that make their way into the talent acquisition process before candidates even get hired. Below are the 5 most common biases we see during talent acquisition, plus how to look through the collective lens and mitigate these biases.

1. Stereotyping – forming generalizations about certain groups

Stereotyping is a well-understood concept by most, but it can be surprisingly easy for stereotyping to appear during recruitment. When recruiters assume things about their candidates based on race, gender, age, educational background, or other identifying information, it can cause discrimination, which is both illegal and harmful to an organization’s culture and identity.

Stereotyping has long been something organizations are working to eliminate, but oftentimes stereotyping can go unnoticed in job descriptions, required skills and experience, and interview questions. Sometimes recruiters and hiring managers also form generalizations about groups of people based on their life circumstances — for example, women in caregiving roles.

2. Affinity bias – subconsciously gravitating toward people with similar interests and beliefs

Affinity bias also causes applicants to face discrimination based on things such as age, gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity during recruitment and miss out on opportunities in the workplace. Affinity bias can also look like favoring someone who graduated from the same college as you. What might seem like honest and objective assessments of candidates can actually be an affinity bias towards people we think are similar to us.

What many people consider to be a “cultural fit” can also be harmful as it could stem from an associated affinity bias. At Circa, we recommend qualifying candidates as a “culture add” instead as to include a broader range of diverse candidates. When there is affinity bias, diverse candidates may feel undervalued and neglected, which can foster a dissatisfied and resentful workplace culture.

3. Minimum qualifications bias – holding a degree, number of years of experience, and skillset

One of the primary questions hiring managers and recruiters should ask themselves is whether the minimum and preferred qualifications for eligibility job-related are accurate predictors of successful performance. Are the criteria and measurements for assessing candidates applied equally to all candidates, especially the reasons for rejection?

Minimum or basic qualifications are intended to identify applicants who are likely to perform successfully on the job, so it’s important to focus on what minimum requirements are truly a necessity and ensure there is no underlying bias within those qualifications.

4. Assessment testing – measuring predictors for success

There should always be a standardized process in place for assessing candidates. Depending solely on an applicant’s resume can easily spark unintentional biases around age, race, gender, etc. Skills assessment testing is a great way for recruiters to test a candidate on their skillset and how well it matches the qualifications, something that would be difficult to determine just by looking at a resume. It also allows them to determine if the candidate would be a good addition to the team and company.

5. Inclusive language – how job descriptions communicate the position

It’s critically important for hiring managers and recruiters to carefully monitor career sites and job postings for biased language. It is also crucial to look beyond the “typical” biases such as race, age, and gender. Biased language can also marginalize groups of people based on culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, history with the law, and socioeconomic status.

Inclusivity in job descriptions also includes the site being accessible and ADA compliant, and your accommodations policy should be visible to job seekers and easy for them to access and request.

At Circa, our mission is to help organizations break through bias-related barriers in all aspects of business, including talent acquisition, learning and development, performance management, and compensation. In our whitepaper, How to Embed and Operationalize DEI in Your Organization, we go in-depth on these four key pillars, what are the most common biases, how to look at them through a corrective lens, and how to put that corrective lens into practice. Plus, check out our simple get-started checklist on how to evaluate your DEI initiatives by identifying internal challenges and recognizing biases!


ana farsalas
Ana Farsalas
ana farsalas

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