Discrimination in the Hiring Process REALLY Deserves Your Full Attention

No matter where you intersect with the hiring process, you need to be keenly aware of potential discrimination. First, because we’re all evolved humans here that don’t want to allow our bias to effect the hiring process or continue centuries-long oppression against certain groups, RIGHT?! But secondly, because even unintentional discrimination can put your company in major hot water, including huge lawsuits and nobody wants that.

(BTW if you haven’t checked out the rest of the Hiring 101 series, click here for writing attractive job descriptions, click here for free screening tools to find the right candidates, click here for our top ten interview tips to hire the right talent, and click here to learn the reason why you HAVE to do assessments for any position you hire.)

Unconscious Bias

First you need to learn about, acknowledge, and keep your unconscious bias in check. We all have it! It does not mean you’re a bad human, it means that you are in-fact just a human. We aren’t perfect no matter how hard we try. Because our minds have to make shortcuts to function quickly and efficiently, it means that our brain LOVES grouping which can easily turn into unconscious bias which can make its way, unintentionally, into the hiring process.


The thing with unconscious bias is that it is in fact UNCONSCIOUS – so you have to do work to uncover these potential biases. Harvard University’s Project Implicit has numerous tests you can take to identify your own biases. I highly encourage you to take these tests here – you might find some surprising info. However, take these without judgment of yourself but rather with the intention to be better and consciously work on these unconscious issues. YOU ARE NOT A BAD PERSON FOR HAVING BIAS. Yes, I realize I’m repeating myself.

If you want to learn a bit more before you take the tests check out this Fast Company article about a group of millennials that took the Project Implicit tests and what they learned.

Protecting Your Company

So I come from good ol’ California, probably the state with the most employment law in the entire country. It’s a great thing because employees are protected, and SO HARD as a manager and leader to keep up. And while I’m not an attorney and cannot give you any legal advice, be aware that ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING said, done, written, and implied throughout the hiring process can be used in a discrimination lawsuit.

For example, let’s say you’re walking a candidate from the lobby to the interview room and you’re just having a little chat – small talk stuff. Let’s say you ask the candidate, “How’s your day going so far?” and the candidate responds, “FANTASTIC! I just came from the doctor and found out our baby on the way is a BOY! We have 2 girls and we’re praying for a boy, so we are thrilled! It’s my lucky day!”.

There is NO problem with a candidate sharing this information, but how you respond is CRUCIAL. If you dig deeper on the topic of the candidate being pregnant, a parent, a mother, etc. and then the candidate does not get the position, they may believe that you didn’t hire them because they were pregnant, a mother, etc. If you make assumptions that the candidate is going to have attendance issues or flexibility issues because of their parental status, or you don’t want to hire them because they are going to go on medical leave soon to give birth – that is 100% discrimination. But even if you don’t feel that way, and you dig in asking questions like, “When are you due? How old are your two girls? How do you do it all??” that candidate now stands the chance of having a solid hiring discrimination case, no matter the intent behind those questions.


That all being said, I highly encourage you to get training regularly from an HR professional on employment law and hiring practices AND ensure you have an annual session with an employment law attorney to ensure you are up to date on new laws each year (as is your employee handbook). If you’re strapped for budget – check with your local workforce development board to see what resources they have for businesses needing HR and legal advice.

Digging Deeper into DE&I

(First off, DE&I stand for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.)As a leader, don’t just take this info and start walking on eggshells and live in fear of saying the wrong thing – actually dig into the DE&I in your company. What is the breakdown of gender, ethnicity, first language, etc. of your staff? How about the breakdown at different levels of leadership? What about the salary breakdown of these groups? If you can’t answer those questions, I implore you to find out. There is NO excuse to be a leader in 2019 without knowing the equity efforts and issues within your company and teams.

Again, having red flags come up in this research of your company does not mean your company is horrible, racist, sexist, etc. It means that your company is serious about equity and is doing the research so y’all can take ACTION. When you find that you have equity in your entry-level positions, but then find that only 1 in 10 c-suite leaders is a female, ACT ON IT. That doesn’t mean you fire people – it means that you recruit with targeted efforts and that you create internal programs to grow female leaders specifically. Be transparent, be proactive, and involve staff from all different backgrounds in this work.

Why does DE&I matter?

Check out this Forbes article that shares research showing that companies with more diverse management teams produce 19% more revenue due to innovation.

Or this one showing companies with more culturally and ethnically diverse executive teams were 33% more likely to see better-than-average profits.

Or this Clear Company article, “10 Diversity Statistics That Will Make You Rethink Your Hiring Decisions,”. 

So What Now?

Talk to your HR person about this article and share in the comments where the conversation goes. If you are the HR person in your company, or your a solopreneur, tell me in the comments what one thing you’re going to start NOW to increase DE&I efforts in your company.

PS – next week we start our next blog series, CHANGING COMPANY CULTURE! Talk to you then!

Talk soon,