Cornell study examines how bias affects hiring practices

bias-in-hiringRemoving bias from the hiring process presents challenges for the hospitality industry and other service industries that want a qualified, diverse workforce. New research from Cornell University shows that HR managers’ awareness of competence among job applicants and managers’ attitudes toward affirmative action programs help reduce prejudice in recruitment.

The study, “Do you look like me? How bias affects affirmative action in hiring,” is available from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research. It was written by Alex M. Susskind, an associate professor at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration; Ozias A. Moore, an assistant professor of Management at Lehigh University; and Beth Livingston, an assistant professor at Cornell’s School of Industrial Labor Relations.

The report suggests that for organizations trying to improve the diversity profile of their workers, knowing the race of an applicant may help HR managers create a pool of desired applicants. But caution is required to prevent same-race bias or cross-race bias from becoming part of the hiring process. One approach to offset this effect is to recruit diverse candidates and add a blind evaluation component to the evaluation to ensure that race is used to include, rather than exclude, qualified minority applicants, the researchers note.

The researchers investigated hiring practices with two samples involving business college students and HR managers at a full-service national hotel chain. Their findings highlight the importance of making all hiring managers aware of the potential for bias when race is included in the hiring process. Because the same-race bias they revealed has negative consequences for both those who are hired and those who are passed over, a better understanding of the factors influencing hiring bias provides opportunities to counteract bias, the report states. “In our multicultural workplaces, employers must ensure that hiring procedures are free from evaluator bias,” the authors note.

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While it is now common for employers to use social media sites to research the background and view the photos of job candidates during the hiring process, the report suggests that HR managers should consider the potential bias associated with viewing job candidates’ photos and examine carefully the applicants’ credentials during screening and hiring decisions.

This study also shows the importance of personal attitudes about affirmative action, demonstrating that HR managers’ bias depends, in part, on individuals’ views of affirmative action policies and practices. As a result, negative attitudes about affirmative action may reduce the positive effects of such programs and policies. Training programs should clearly define the organization’s policies to ensure that a positive message regarding affirmative is delivered. “It may be difficult to change entrenched views of affirmative and diversity and inclusion programs, but managers and organization leaders should pay greater attention to their own attitudes (and those of their HR decision-makers) and reduce evaluator bias throughout the hiring process,” the authors state.

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