Steps to Avoid Discrimination in your Hiring Process

 Our firm recently took on the task of hiring a new employee. The process was long and required reading numerous resumes to find just the right candidates to potentially interview. A lot of small businesses like ours may not have an entire Human Resources department to look over resumes and make hiring decisions. However, it is important for ALL companies to understand that discrimination can take place BEFORE you even hire an employee. The reasons why you choose to interview certain candidates and choose to look over other candidates must be made carefully.

A vast body of research has shown that the hiring process can be biased and unfair. Oftentimes employers engage in implicit bias and discrimination. Unconscious racism, ageism, and sexism play a big role in whom we hire. Iris Bohnet, Director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, argues that “implicit biases can shape a company’s culture and norms, and managers have to learn to de-bias their practices and procedures.” Below are a five strategies to implement to avoid discrimination in the hiring process.

1. Seek to Understand

 Managers should look into providing workers with education and training concerning implicit biases and discrimination. Many employers do not realize that Title VII liability extends beyond overt discrimination acts to more subtle discrimination. Courts have held certain employment decisions as discrimination even absent explicit intent to discriminate. The issue turns to whether they disparately impact a protected group.

  So when does a disparate impact actually exist? The answer is generally in statistics. The EEOC often relies on the “four-fifths rule of thumb.” 29 C.F.R. § 1607.4.D. That analysis explains that a “selection rate” for a protected group of less than four-fifths (or 80%) of the most successful group’s selection rate is evidence of discrimination. If a policy or practice affects members of the protected group disproportionately, the courts can infer discrimination from that impact.

  Companies should seek to understand the laws surrounding discrimination in the hiring process. Awareness training creates an organizational conversation that allows employees and employers to recognize that everyone possesses unconscious biases and can also help spark ideas on how to minimize them.

2. Rework your Job Descriptions

 Job listings provide the first impression of a company’s culture. Masculine language like “competitive” and “determined” has shown that women tend to perceive that they would not belong in that work environment. Contrastly, words like “collaborative” and “cooperative” tend to have the same effect on men. Carefully choosing the vernacular in job listings can help reduce implicit bias and discrimination.

3. Blind Resume Reviews

 Some employers will choose not to interview a candidate solely based on an opinion formed about an applicant’s name. As explained above, this can create a disparate impact against protected classes that may have ethnic or unique names that are difficult to pronounce. By completely removing the name while reviewing resumes, employers can level the playing field and compare applicants by their qualifications instead of demographic characteristics.

4. Standardized Interviews

 Asking each candidate the same set of defined questions can standardize the interview process and minimize bias by allowing employers to focus on the factors that have a direct impact on performance. Unstructured interviews that lack defined questions can make it more difficult for an employer to make unbiased decisions about their candidates.

5. Set Diversity Goals

 Diversity goals can be beneficial as they make the issue front and center. A growing body of research suggests that diversity in the workplace results in significant business advantages as it encourages those involved in the hiring process to keep diversity and equality at the top of their mind.


The materials available on this page are for informational purposes only and not for providing legal advice. If you still have questions about implicit biases and discrimination, it would be best to contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to these issues or problems. Use and access to this website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship.

Sources Used: 


About Us:

Walton + Brown, LLP takes pride in having a successful serious personal injury and civil rights practice, unafraid to step into a courtroom and litigate cases to the fullest extent necessary. With over 440 lawsuits filed and over $14 million in settlements or verdicts won for our clients, Sean and Chanda bring a record of success. Sean and Chanda have been awarded Top 100 and Top 40 Under 40 designations as trial attorneys.


Walton + Brown, LLP

395 E. Broad Street, Suite 200

Columbus, OH 43215

614-636-3476 (Office)

614-636-3453 (Fax)