Are you bypassing top talent because of your prejudices?

We all bring our own biases (whether conscious or unconscious) to the hiring table. However our judgments could be resulting in top performing job applicants being rejected purely on our unsubstantiated beliefs or biases.

So the next time you manage a recruitment process, pay particular attention to any job applicants that fall into the categories below. Ask yourself and your team, whether these beliefs are true or valid, or simply your subjective judgment or biases.

Of course you need to hire rationally and ensure effective recruitment practices are in place. But don’t straight up disregard a job applicant, just because they fall into the categories we discuss below.

By keeping an open mind, you could take advantage of untapped talent that other organisations are ignoring, due to their own biases.


If a person has been unemployed for more than 6 months, there is a pattern of discrimination that becomes evident and has been confirmed by numerous academic studies 1.

While an employer or recruiter may infer that unemployment has some sort of correlation to performance, or that it is the fault of the unemployed person, this is not necessarily the case. Keep an open mind – there are multiple reasons why someone is unemployed that has nothing to do with performance.

Also keep in mind that being unemployed will chip away at their identity and some candidates won’t perform as well during the interview process. Accommodate this – as someone that has had a bruising time, could potentially be the ‘best employer of the year’.

A person made redundant

There is the assumption by many, that redundancy is simply an opportunity to get rid of ‘dead wood’. While this might be the case in a small portion of candidates, the reality is redundancy is simply a reflection of the new normal. Companies need to be agile, entire teams fold all the time, business units are no longer needed due to automation, restructures are common, and workforces are now transitioning to contingent workers, project teams and outsourcing.

Redundancy is the new normal!

You need to rethink how you view someone that has been made redundant. They are people who are self-confident if they have volunteered for redundancy, resilient for seeking out new employment opportunities, or just a person that has been dealt a rough card. Don’t judge them on the R word. Judge them on the qualities and skills they potentially bring to your organisation.

Interim jobs at a lower level

There are multiple reasons why a person has been working at a lower level. A graduate might have backpacked and picked up entry-level work that is not relevant to their qualifications. A candidate made redundant, or unemployed, filled in time with a lesser role to pay the bills. A parent used a lower level job, while being primary carer for their children.

Just because someone has worked at a lower level, does not mean they don’t have the capability to work in a position with more responsibility or seniority. Dig deeper, there could be a potential gem.

New migrant

New migrants face an up hill battle when it comes to employment opportunities in Australia. Australian employers, even when there is a shortage of qualified professionals, prefer staff with some work experience in Australia, or Australian based qualifications.

But are these expectations valid or necessary qualifier for top talent?  While issues such as written and oral communication in the English language, do pose a problem and are a major consideration, if they have excellent English communication skills – don’t assume that their qualifications or experience is of a lower standard than that obtained in Australia.

You also need to be aware of your unconscious biases. Is it racism? Is it insecurity over not being able to pronounce a name, is it unconscious, or is it an aversion to risk and cultural diversity?

Whatever it is, question it. Countless studies demonstrate the huge advantages in diversity in organisations. You could be missing out on real talent.

Older worker

Ageism is rife in Australia, in spite of the reality that the workforce is getting older.

Without even realising it, you might be holding onto unjustified biases that are impacting your decision process during recruitment. Are these statements true of every older worker?

  • Older workers are less productive than younger workers.
  • Older workers are less healthy than younger workers.
  • With age comes a natural decline in judgment and the ability to perform.
  • Older workers have higher salary expectations.
  • Older workers are rigid and inflexible.
  • Older workers don’t learn new technology, or are stuck in their ways.
  • Older workers are just putting in the time until retirement, so are not committed.

These statements could potentially apply to a small minority of older workers, but they don’t apply to all older workers and are simply gross generalizations (and more often than not, false).

Take the perception that with age comes a natural decline in judgment and the ability to perform. Science tells a different story, there is no single smartest age.

The point is, if you successfully identify an A type personality – whether that person is 25 or 55, you will end up with talent with drive and ambition.

So become aware of your biases, both conscious and unconscious. There is untapped talent to be had at a bargain, if you become more receptive to potential in job candidates that others ignore.

Reference list:

‘What can we learn by disaggregating the unemployment-vacancy relationship’ Rand Ghayad and William Dickens, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

‘How do people find jobs?’ R, Jason Faberman, Andreas I. Mueller, Ayesgul Sahin, Rachel Schuh, and Giorgio Topa, Reserve Bank of New York

‘Are the long-term unemployed on the margins of the labor market’, Alan B Krueger, Judd Cramer and David Cho, Princeton University

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