Tapping Talent Without Bias


People are the competitive edge in organizations. Winning companies are capturing the best talent, while others are falling behind because they can’t let go of their preconceived notions about hiring. By clinging to long-standing biases, leaders risk losing out on valuable employees who don’t fit the mold.

It’s time to think differently about talent—how we view it and how we value it. For example, it surprises me to see how many employers are still hyperfocused on those magical letters “B.A.” and “B.S.” We know that, for a growing number of today’s jobs, relevant experience is a much better predictor of success than a specific degree. But there is still an old-school bias toward this credential. Some might even call it snobbery.

How many qualified candidates are being overlooked because they are a semester shy of graduation or because they took a nontraditional approach to postsecondary education? You may think you’re playing it safe by requiring a degree, but instead, you may be locking yourself into hiring the same kind of people time after time. Bringing in people “just like me/you/us” comes at the expense of diversity. 

Screening for unnecessary qualifications also shrinks your talent pool. With unemployment at a 17-year low and falling, no employer can afford that.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is actively encouraging organizational leaders to change their hiring processes to focus primarily on skills and competencies without being distracted by less meaningful candidate characteristics and unconscious biases.

One simple strategy HR can initiate for minimizing the latter is to use “blind” hiring strategies. SHRM is also forming a working group of members that will explore how HR professionals can more effectively match job openings with the competencies needed for the positions and determine which credentials or licenses, if any, are essential. 

Don’t let hiring bias get in your way. In the war for talent, we can’t allow ourselves to fall behind.

We’ll be discussing talent strategies, winning the talent race and so much more at this month’s SHRM Talent Conference & Exposition April 16-18 in Las Vegas.

I hope you can all make it.


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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