What Are the Differences Between Bias and Unconscious Bias in Recruitment?

Unconscious v Conscious Bias

It might not be something we all care to admit, but there is no getting away from the fact that every single one of us has unconscious bias that lingers in the back of our minds. Yes, there have been laws imposed that advocate against the likes of discrimination but even when we adhere to these by the letter, it can be near enough impossible escaping that underlying influence that continues to impact the attitudes we have towards others.

Bias can manifest itself in our personal and professional lives. It is important that businesses take any and all steps they can in order to limit bias when they are recruiting new candidates. This article will talk in more detail about how bias can manifest itself in the recruitment process and what businesses can do to limit it.

The Difference Between Conscious and Unconscious Bias

Before we go any further, it is worth point out what the difference is between bias and unconscious bias.


If you look at the dictionary definition, you will see that it is a specific inclination, feeling or idea about someone that has been preconceived or is unreasonable. There are several characteristics a person can have which contribute to bias but, it manifests because of physical attributes such as gender, age and skin colour. Bias is unfair due to the fact these attributes are recognised almost immediately and have almost nothing to do with the individual in questions personality.

Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is a lot harder to determine and as such a lot harder to combat. It exists purely in our subconscious and is usually triggered instantly without us even knowing about it. Even though it is not at the forefront of our minds when it happens, unconscious bias still has an impact on how we perceive individuals and how we subsequently engage and interact with them. This can influence who we associate with and in terms of recruitment, can make a recruiter more likely to bring one individual in for an interview over another.

What Tends to Influence Our Bias

Pretty much every single aspect of our entire lives will have influence over our bias. These aspects stem all the way from our childhood to our family network, education, religion, nationality and so on and so on. We process so much information everyday and for the most part, we are capable of processing said information. We can’t do it all and our mind therefore results to snap judgements.

Once we have lived a full enough life, we will draw from past experiences to influence these snap decisions. This is where unconscious bias comes from. For instance, if you are recruiting in business and you are hiring for a role like what you do, you might be more inclined to lean towards a candidate who looks like you or has had a similar upbringing, because you see yourself in them.

How Can it Negatively Impact Your Business?

Bias can have a large negative impact on those who are being discriminated against for a few obvious reasons, including the fact that they do not have the same opportunities available to them that others have because of circumstances beyond their control. Unconscious bias can also have a negative impact on businesses though if they are not taking the steps necessary to limit bias as much as possible.

If you and your organisation do not have a diverse workforce then you are going to struggle to attract leading talent, lack overall innovation and will likely develop a negative reputation as well. It is clear when you consider this that there must be steps taken throughout the recruitment process to address conscious and unconscious bias and ensure you limit the impact it has as much as possible.

How Can You Address Unconscious Bias?

The first thing to do when it comes to addressing unconscious bias within everyday life and especially within the recruitment process is acknowledge that it exists. This means that you are making it, so the unconscious becomes conscious. In doing this, you are making the issue a lot more visible and as such, easier to combat. Of course, since we are hardly aware of our unconscious thoughts, it can be hard making it conscious. You can make this easier by recognising the different types, which include:

  • Affinity: Where you prefer someone because they remind you of you.
  • Attribution: This is the bias that achievements stem from luck whereas errors are the result of a lack of skills.
  • Beauty: This applies to how we treat someone else because of how attractive we find them.
  • Conformity: This comes about when the social circle we hang out with influences how we feel about an individual.
  • Confirmation: This is where we have already concluded about something and then will look for evidence which supports it. It means we stop looking for objective evidence.
  • Contrast Effect: This is where you compare two different things that have nothing to do with one another. Essentially, you are judging a fish on how well it can climb a tree.
  • Halo & Horns Effect: The halo effect is when someone has one great attribute and as such, that’s all you think about. The horns effect is the opposite when you focus on one negative attribute and then cannot concentrate on anything else.

Using Technology to Eliminate Unconscious Bias

As technology advances, the different ways that we can use it continue to develop. This means it can be used as a means to eliminate unconscious bias as you can implement AI and machine learning into the recruitment process to run checks which will find candidates right for the role, rather than having a human with unconscious bias searching for candidates. You are then able to use software such as that provided by Yoono to get information on candidates to see if they would likely be a good fit for your business. In doing this, you will be making your decision purely on objective results given to you by technology as opposed to the subjective opinion put forward by recruiters.

Eliminating it in Recruitment

It is important for your business that when you are recruiting candidates, you are not subject to any form of conscious or unconscious bias. This is because such bias could result in your organisation lacking in innovation and struggling to attract the top talent thanks to a negative impact on your reputation.

To eliminate such bias, you first need to address that said bias exists. You also need to make sure that you are utilising different means of technology available that will allow you to reduce the risk of unconscious bias as much as possible. Yoono can assist with this and if you have any questions on how so, do not hesitate to get in touch.

What Are the Differences Between Bias and Unconscious Bias in Recruitment?
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What Are the Differences Between Bias and Unconscious Bias in Recruitment?
Detail about how bias can manifest itself in the recruitment process and what businesses can do to limit it.
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