October 6, 2023

What is the affinity bias in recruitment?

As recruiters, our main objective is to find the ideal candidate for each job position. For that purpose, it’s important to offer the same treatment to all applicants throughout the recruitment process. However, often that process is hindered by our own biases. Even worse, many times we are not aware of the many biases we have. What do we do when we are victims of an unconscious bias? 

That is the case of the affinity bias, which affects many recruitment processes. Are you familiar with it? T2W is a recruitment company with extensive experience in the field. Throughout the years, we have seen this problem, and we know how to deal with it. In this article, we’ll delve into the affinity bias and how to prevent it from affecting your processes. 

What is the affinity bias? 

Also referred to as the similarity bias, this is a cognitive bias that appears when we deal with a person with whom we share similar characteristics. These similarities tend to create a preference in us, which significantly affects any attempt at impartiality. As you can imagine, this is not acceptable in a recruitment process. 

The affinity bias in recruitment 

Affinity bias in hiring is one of the worst enemies of modern recruiters. It can cause recruiters to lose objectivity. Unconsciously, they could favor a candidate over the rest for reasons that have nothing to do with the suitability for the position. It’s estimated that the similarity bias affects about 78% of recruitment decisions.  

There are many different factors that can ignite the affinity bias: physical appearance, lifestyle, clothing, gender, origin, beliefs, and so on. More often than not, recruiters don’t notice the similarities between them and a candidate. Sometimes, these similarities can create rapport and recruiters can notice a certain sympathy for an applicant, but they fail to identify the reason. 

How to avoid the affinity bias? 

1. Recruiters aware of biases 

The first step to prevent any bias is to be aware of the problem. For example, do you know how many types of biases there are in recruitment? Those are factors all recruiters must be familiar with. Therefore, the first step is to be aware of the biases that could affect the process and the way they work.  

The next step is to perform a self-assessment to identify the biases each person is prone to show. These are not the same for everyone, so it’s important to get to know them well. This way, the next time you interview a candidate, you’ll be able to notice if you are being really impartial. 

While all recruiters must be aware of the biases they have as a personal initiative, companies must pay attention to this aspect too. Each organization must focus on training its recruiters and helping them grow professionally. After all, this can only optimize the processes as well. 

2. Blind recruitment 

Blind recruitment, also known as anonymous recruitment, is one of the most effective methods to avoid the similarity bias and offer a fair process. This is a recruitment methodology that overlooks certain pieces of candidates’ personal information. Some information such as the name, age, gender, address or university are not relevant for any position. 

In fact, these are factors that can trigger many biases. By omitting all these in the resumes, recruiters can focus on the aspects that really matter in the position, such as skills or knowledge. This way, you can have impartial processes that are free from bias. 

3. Standardized interviews 

Also known as structured interviews, these are a great way to help recruiters to keep the same interview process with all the candidates. A standardized interview sets a series of fixed questions that recruiters must follow accurately. These questions are usually linked to a rating scale based on the candidate’s suitability for the position. 

This way, all candidates will face the same questions. In many cases, the spontaneous questions are the ones that deviate recruiters from the main purpose of the interview, which leads to personal similarities among recruiters and applicants. Standardized interviews help us focus directly on the relevant aspects for the job position and reduce the space for biases.  

4. Skills assessment 

Another great way to leave behind any subjective aspect is focusing more on the candidate’s skills. That can be achieved through skills assessment. This type of recruitment test helps you know if candidates have the skills and knowledge necessary for the position or not. This minimizes the contact and the possibility of the similarity bias affecting the process significantly. 

Not all skills assessments are the same. For example, thanks to the new trend of gamification in recruitment, now it’s possible to analyze the skills candidates have in a gaming environment. This takes away a certain level of stress for applicants. In addition, since they are in a gaming context, away from a regular recruitment process, their answers tend to be more sincere. 

Now you know what affinity bias is and the way it works. Take these factors into account and implement the necessary actions to prevent biases from affecting your recruitment processes. 

At Talent2Win, we strive to align your company’s business objectives with the best Talent Acquisition strategies available. If you want to learn more about the services we offer, do not hesitate to contact us.  

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