Insights / Candidate

What is Unconscious Bias in Recruitment? 50:50 Future

Unconscious bias is something we all inherently have. Although it is most likely harmless, it can influence decision-making and perpetuate systemic inequalities, making it important for individuals and organisations to actively recognise unconscious biases to foster a more inclusive environment.

What is Unconscious Bias in Recruitment? 50:50 Future


Tech Talent Engine


Everyone has a natural bias and subconscious brain – it’s part of what makes us human.

Whether it’s how someone looks, the job you expect them to do or their hobbies, we all have a natural judgment about someone. While it’s a good idea to listen to your instincts from time to time, in the world of recruitment, it’s about time we started giving all candidates a level playing field.

When it comes to the statistics, most employers are biased when it comes to hiring, meaning not all candidates with the same experience have equal chances of getting a job.

Lyndsey Britton-Lee and Lynsey Harbottle, co-founders of 50:50 Future, are champions of diversity and inclusion. Using their position, they aim to empower a generation of employers, entrepreneurs and candidates who care about making a difference.

Who is 50:50 Future?

50:50 Future Ltd is a diversity and inclusion training and consultancy company that aims to provide solutions to break down barriers.

Driven by a passion, they both recognised the gap in the market and wanted to use their voice to make a difference, providing training to employers who needed it and empowering individuals to speak out.

The 50:50 Future model operates on three distinct areas – training, strategy and a diversity and inclusion leadership programme. This myriad structure gives HR leaders the tools to build high-performing teams.

With diversity and inclusion the number one HR practice with the highest impact on business performance, there’s no reason to avoid making small steps today.

So, what is one thing employers can do to support diversity and inclusion?

Unconscious bias in recruitment

Recruitment has evolved dramatically over the years, and we are witnessing more changes than ever before in the workforce.

Although the 1960s caused a trend in measuring candidates for cultural fit, in today’s world, there’s a huge shift towards cultural add, i.e., what can someone add to the team?

Recognising applicants at face value, including the skills and traits they bring to the table, allows employers to add more value to teams, gaining a broader range of perspectives.

Lynsey Harbottle believes this strategy is key to growth,

Generally, as humans, we like someone because they remind us of ourselves. However, one of the best things an organisation can do is to hire people with a variety of perspectives and backgrounds.

If you hired a room full of the same person, you’re not leaving much room for alternative perspectives. There is so much richness in a diverse workforce, allowing everyone to benefit.

Reflecting on the statistics, organisations with inclusive cultures are twice as likely to meet their targets and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

What are some examples of unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias is a recurring issue in job applications and recruitment processes and various statistics and studies shed light on the prevalence of this bias. For instance, a 2016 report by the Fawcett Society revealed a stark disparity in the treatment of fathers and mothers in the workplace.

According to the study, fathers’ requests for flexible working arrangements were denied at an alarming rate, nearly double the rate at which mothers’ requests were declined. This discrepancy underscores how preconceived notions about traditional gender roles can influence decision-making during the hiring process.

Even in the recruitment process, numerous studies have highlighted the impact bias has on people’s judgment of names. For example, some research has shown that CVs with ‘familiar-sounding names’ tend to receive a significantly higher number of callbacks for interviews compared to non-familiar-sounding names.

This highlights how unconscious bias, rooted in the familiarity of names, can lead to uneven opportunities for job seekers from diverse backgrounds.

How to tackle unconscious bias in recruitment:

Now you understand a bit more about unconscious bias and how it can occur, let’s discuss how you can make the workplace more inclusive.

1. Awareness

The first step towards making a more inclusive space is having an awareness of the difficulties many individuals and groups are faced with. When people grasp the negative consequences of exclusion, they are more motivated to make a change.

Additionally, when employers and leaders become aware of their own biases, they can take personal responsibility for addressing them, empowering individuals to be part of the solution.

Ultimately, diversity and inclusion training isn’t something that happens overnight – it’s a long-term strategy, says Lynsey Harbottle.

Education and awareness are perhaps the most important thing you can do. That way, you can begin having conversations internally and make key changes. It’s important to put yourselves in someone else's shoes before making any changes.

2. Rewrite job descriptions

Tailoring job descriptions to promote inclusivity is a crucial step in attracting a diverse range of candidates and creating a more equitable hiring process.

In the case of promoting inclusivity, simple adjustments to language and terminology can make a huge difference.

In a study, it was discovered that women tend to hesitate to apply for a job if they feel they don’t meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men are more likely to apply even when they meet 60% of the job requirements.

Similarly, language plays a huge role in attracting audiences. For example, research has shown that the word ‘manage’ encourages more men than women to apply for the role, as opposed to the word ‘develop’.

Using gender-neutral language and avoiding culturally biased terms in your job descriptions helps to broaden the talent pool by appealing to a more diverse range of individuals.

3. Employer branding

To be an inclusive employer, authenticity is key. Your statements should align with the actual procedures and structure you’ve established, or else it risks coming across as insincere and hypocritical.

A strong employer brand that emphasises diversity and inclusion make your organisation more appealing to a broader range of candidates. This includes attracting individuals from different backgrounds who are specifically seeking inclusive workplaces.

Further, a reputation for being a diverse and inclusive employer can contribute to employee satisfaction and retention. Employees from underrepresented groups are more likely to stay when they feel valued and included, reducing the costs associated with high turnover.

Lyndsey Britton-Lee recommends listening to your colleagues and taking the time to understand their preferences,

We’re not asking everybody to understand everybody’s lived experience. We can’t do that. But what is powerful is to listen to your workforce and colleagues and try to understand their challenges.

4. Regular audits

If you’ve had the same recruitment procedure for the past 10 years, the team at 50:50 Futures are here to tell you that it’s outdated.

Every six months or so, it’s important to perform regular audits to uncover any existing biases in recruitment processes, such as disparities in selection rates. Additionally, regular audits create accountability for recruitment teams and hiring managers.

When the data reveals disparities or areas where bias may be present, it encourages teams to take corrective action.

An organisation may believe that they have implemented the correct strategies to reduce bias and promote inclusivity and audits can assess the effectiveness of these interventions.

5. Access help from experts

Fostering diversity and inclusion is not just a moral imperative, but a strategic advantage. As the demand for tech talent continues to rise, the need for a diverse range of perspectives is key.

If you would like to find out more about anything you’ve read in this article, then do not hesitate to reach out to the 50:50 Future team at

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