Eliminating Unconscious Bias in Recruiting

At BrightHouse, we’re working to eliminate unconscious bias from our recruiting process. By implementing structured interviews, ensuring everyone is interviewed by multiple people, and incorporating case studies, we’re making progress on ensuring that our recruiting process finds the best candidates for the job.

Like many employers across the country, BrightHouse’s Strategy team spent this past fall visiting college campuses to recruit the next generation of Bright Lights to join our team. As in past years, we were looking for both full-time candidates graduating in the spring and sophomores and juniors who could join us for our summer internship program.

But after doing a company-wide training on unconscious bias, we knew that we wanted to make some changes in our approach. So we made a commitment to re-examine our entire campus interview process and restructure it to eliminate our own unconscious biases. After conducting additional research and applying learnings from our training, we made significant changes to our Fall Campus Recruiting process.

First, during our workshop with LCW we learned that no individual can completely remove all biases from his or her interactions with others—it’s something humans naturally do. So the best way to counter this is to not let any single individual make too many decisions by themselves. In other words, involve more people. For this reason, we made sure that all applications we received were screened by multiple individuals, and more than 90% of our strategy team participated in some form of interviewing, resume review, or campus visits.

Second, we moved away from unstructured interviews. According to Iris Bohnet, a behavioral economics professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School and author of What Works: Gender Equity by Design, unstructured interviews are “fraught with bias and irrelevant information.” Instead we developed a standard set of behavioral interview questions to ask each candidate in a given round. This meant that we could directly compare candidates’ answers instead of relying on whatever question that interviewer felt like asking. It led to more of an “apples to apples” comparison and eliminated the temptation to simply rely on a “gut feeling” about someone.

Finally, we incorporated another suggestion from Bohnet to “invest in tools that have been shown to predict future performance (like) work-sample tests related to the tasks the job candidate will have to perform.” So this fall, we developed a mini-case study based on a real client, allowing candidates to go through some of the typical tasks in BrightHouse’s process for uncovering Purpose. It helped us assess candidates’ thinking in a new way and identify those who were truly energized by the type of work BrightHouse strategists do every day.

In the end, we found some incredible young people to join us this summer. And as we keep growing, we’re committed to improving our campus recruiting process by extending our relationships with more schools, incorporating best practices from researchers, and continuing to examine our own biases as individuals. In this way, we can create opportunities for all and continue to discover true light in the world.

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