Hiring Bias is Killing Your Company’s Growth

risk takers not allowed

I always found it interesting when I was recruiting how many generalizations were used when trying to filter out candidates. So often, a good candidate would surface but a recruiter or hiring manager would make an assumption about someone they didn’t even know. Someone they have zero backstory on. Someone they haven't even spoken to about why they were interested in that company or the role.

A common profile, for instance, is the person who decided to leave the corporate world and start their own company or become a freelancer or consultant. Hiring managers and recruiters think of a million reasons (consciously and subconsciously) why that person wouldn’t work out before even giving them a chance or taking the time to understand their motivation for making a switch.

Things like: “They won’t be satisfied with working for someone else.” “They must not have been successful if they’re looking to come back to a company.” “They’ll be too expensive.” “They’re too old and focused on their family.”

My favorite: "They'll leave after a couple of years." As if they're the only ones that will leave after a couple of years. Newsflash- that's pretty much everyone you hire nowadays. It's time to create an environment where people want to stay and maybe you wouldn't have to worry about that being an issue. But that's a rant for a different time.

It was always amazing to me that having the courage and desire to learn and experience something new was considered a ‘red flag.’ That playing it safe, staying in a box that was likely created for you by someone else was a sign of future success.

It still blows my mind how much bias, and mostly ignorance, exists around hiring decisions. Because the hiring manager or recruiter would never feel comfortable and have the courage to step away from their comfortable corporate role they then apply this logic and reasoning to the people they are looking to hire.

It’s a fatal flaw.

If you want your company to grow it’s important to build it with people who have a wide range of experience. People willing to go out on a limb and potentially risk everything to follow an idea, vision, or dream.

It takes guts, grit, determination, drive, desire, passion, and most of all a willingness to push the edge so far that you may fail to leave the comfort and security of the corporate world to try and make it on your own.

That sounds an awful lot like the job descriptions I see posted. Funny, that it all seems to be bullshit rhetoric. That when the rubber meets the road, they end up with play-it-safe, risk-averse, only-looking-out-for-my-annual-review-afraid-to-fail, won't-rock-the-boat clones of the people working there now.

When corporations try all kinds of phony tactics to create a ’start-up, creative atmosphere’ they miss big on the biggest component: hiring people who have actually lived it. People who now have an anchor for what it takes to fail and keep trying- because they had to. People who have been through the emotional rollercoaster of testing, failing, and succeeding (or never succeeding).

If your primary goal is to play-it-safe, to play the corporate game, then you will be uncomfortable with taking the risks needed to help the company compete with companies full of risk-taking, failure-accepting, people who are constantly pushing the edge and enjoying exposure to new markets.

It’s a cycle. If you’re a CEO and have thrown down the gauntlet on creativity and creating a “startup atmosphere”, or you understand the value of diverse perspectives, then the first place you need to start is with those in charge of hiring. Otherwise, your vision is destined to fail.


Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash