How to Avoid Unfair Hiring Practices |

Recruiting new staff can be an exciting time for an organisation. The business is growing and developing and needs new people to come into the business to help it succeed. However, if there is one area where discrimination can take place unknowingly, it can be in the hiring process

In a recent study from Oxford University, people with ethnic backgrounds had to apply to an astonishing 80% more job postings than their white counterparts. This is a view that hasn’t changed since the 1960s, which shows just how far we need to go to develop fairer hiring practices. Another study has also highlighted that one third of job applicants have been turned down because of their age.

With employment law changing, and the need to have more diverse teams to better compete in a global marketplace, understanding what are unfair internal hiring practices and how to avoid deploying them is a business necessity.

In this guide today we are going to look at the different kinds of unfair practices, and what you can do to avoid them.

What are unfair hiring practices

Unfair hiring practices are often the result of the unconscious bias of hiring managers. This is not just a case of racial discrimination, but also including elements such as age, gender and nationality to name but a few.

Global research has shown that a more diverse workforce will be more likely to compete at a global level (35% better than the median) as well as present greater opportunities in terms of innovation and delivering better leadership throughout the organisation.

If a person is treated unfairly it can potentially be discriminatory. There are many court cases which require little research to see just how damaging to a business this can be.

There is also a further need to develop fair hiring practices and that is to create a moral need for fairness. This is essential in developing a more equally associated society and working life practice for future generations in the workplace as well.

Let's take a closer look at the different types of unfair hiring practises. 

Poor job descriptions

A vague or unclear job description which is not adequately specified may be misleading - and unfair to candidates. Job descriptions must be written clearly and encourage qualified and diverse candidates to apply. They must not discourage any candidates from applying based on a singular word which may denote the position only being for a specific person.

Overly strict job descriptions can cause a potentially good candidate to self-select in a biassed way - this means that they may exclude themselves as they think they are not suitable for the role based on the limiting criteria.

Poorly structured interviews

Using an informal, not structured interview process can lead to hiring the wrong person very quickly. From chatty conversations to open-ended and friendly questions, the results aren’t standardised across the board, they also provide the perfect opportunity for biases to creep in. Things like the interviewee sharing similar interests to the interviewer is nice, but is it relevant to the role advertised?

However, a structured and consistent interview process will provide better results and limit the amount of biases that could otherwise be displayed.

Hiring based on CVs or resumes

There has for too long been an over-reliance on CVs and resumes in the hiring process. Whilst having experience is great, the noted work history and qualifications of candidates is unfair to candidates who may have poorer CVs but are in fact a better fit for the role.

There is always another reason to not totally rely on a CV and that is, not all resumes are entirely accurate or complete.


We all understand that discrimination is bad, but there is also a legal component to the hiring process which we need to be made aware of. Discrimination is clearly unfair to those who are discriminated against.

Overly long recruitment process

It is widely accepted that a recruitment process can take a few steps such as a phone call, an assessment day and even a first and second interview. Fundamentally, the business wants to get it right so there is a sort of socially acceptable length of time for the recruitment process to take place.

However, a lengthy recruitment process is disadvantageous and therefore unfair to those with existing commitments - such as child care, caring for an elderly relative etc. Organisations must be aware of how long the process takes to hire and what can be done to shorten the process if required. 

How to avoid unfair hiring practices

One of the best ways to avoid unfair hiring practises is to have a need for objectivity in the recruitment process. This means being able to avoid things such as biases and fundamentally creating a fairer process that everyone can abide by. 

Whilst their is a clear moral obligation to avoid discrimination, it is equally important to avoid accusations of discrimination or favouritism. 

The best way to avoid discrimination and unfair hiring practices is by using a series of techniques which we will now cover. 

Raise discrimination awareness

There is a need for all involved in hiring and recruitment process to be fully acquainted with laws, regulations and specific areas of possible discrimination. Everyone in the process should be aware of the kinds of questions you can and can’t ask, such as candidates’ age, marital status, where they were born, and so on. 

Use blind hiring practises

Blind hiring involves obscuring the personal details of applicants that may influence hiring decisions, such as:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Personal details
  • Religion 
  • Place of birth 

Use standardised skills assessments

Using standardised skills assessments ensures fairness in skills evaluations. It does this by firstly making the hiring process a structured one, but secondly, it is the same questions for each applicant. There is no way that any kind of bias - conscious or unconscious - can creep into the decision making process. 

Ensure job descriptions are clear and accurate

You can create job descriptions which provide candidates with the information they need without prompting bias. You can be specific without being overly specific about the kind of person you are looking for or limiting the pool of potential candidates.

All of your job descriptions should remain consistent throughout the process for fairness. Don’t ask for 5 years experience when looking for a junior position and avoid words that have strong gender associations tied to them, such as “leader” or “dominate”. 

Avoid unconscious bias

Whilst there are plenty of unconscious bias training platforms and seminars that you can take up, understanding that unconscious bias is a tricky subject and that it can influence hiring decisions. There are many valuable tactics that can be used such as:

  • Training to recognise bias
  • Structured interviews
  • Consistent assessment criteria
  • Standardised, open, non-leading questions
  • Blind C.V. applications
  • Panel interviews in the later stages

Simplify the hiring process

As previously noted - overly long recruitment processes which require candidates to undergo multiple interviews, tests etc. can be unfair and waste time.

Being able to provide concise, consistent hiring processes that are identical for all candidates are more fair. Be aware that candidates don’t have as much time as the recruitment process may take - especially if they are currently in employment, have family commitments and are required to work long hours currently. Shorten the recruitment process time in order to facilitate a better level of applicants.

Derive employee feedback on fairness

One of the best methods to understand if your hiring process is fair is to actually get extensive feedback from your existing staff. The information provided can be invaluable over a period of time and make the recruitment process a richer, better solution for all involved. 

Fundamentally, you want the feedback to contribute to avoiding unfair internal hiring practices. If you discover that you are acting unfairly, address these concerns first, and even hold trial interviews with staff to see if the improvements are working and or better. 

Document hiring decisions

By documenting each step of the hiring process, you are building greater self-awareness and getting a better understanding of any potential unfairness or unconscious biases and helps you organise the hiring process better.


Hiring the right people is essential to develop and grow, that’s why the recruitment process is one of the most important aspects of a developing organisation. However, hiring the right person can also mean that the recruitment process can turn out to be unfair in some instances.

With employment law changing, and the need to have more diverse teams to better compete in a global marketplace, understanding what are unfair internal hiring practices and how to avoid deploying them is a business necessity. 

One of the best ways to avoid unfair hiring practises is to use psychometric assessments. The Thomas talent assessment platform not only helps you to identify candidates, but also provides fairness and removes unconscious bias from the decision making process. 

If you would like to learn more, please speak to one of our team.