We always hire the best person for the job. It’s not our fault that it is usually a man.

There is an idea that you simply hire the “right” person for a job and consciously hiring for diversity is not important. Some argue this is unfair… maybe even illegal. Diversity quotas are hotly debated. The quota argument is complicated and not likely to go away anytime soon. But the conflict rests on one simple flaw — a fundamental misunderstanding of unconscious bias.

When we say we hire the “best fit”, we are hiring people in our own image. This affinity bias attracts us to people we can relate to, who make us comfortable. But is hiring someone you want to hang out with after work the best choice for the growth of your organization? This doesn’t mean you reject people you can relate to. But being aware there is bias when you hire for “best fit” prompts a conversation about what is best for your organization as a whole. Is it more people exactly like you? Or is innovation and success dependent on new perspectives and ideas?

There is a wealth of information on how to minimize the effects of these biases. Some examples:

  • Look for people to add value to your team, beyond their ability to fill a specific role. This requires a more holistic view of the organization you want to build. What is your company vision? What is lacking from your team overall, not just skills?
  • Encourage conversation about diversity in your organization through informal and formal means. Offer diversity training, host lunch-and-learns featuring speakers from various backgrounds in your industry or focus on broader team building activities.
  • Expand the diversity of the hiring team. Invite employees to sit in on interviews who can ask questions and provide insights beyond skill assessment. Solicit feedback on the hiring process from your whole team to identify flaws and areas for improvement.

Emphasis on finding the best fit for your culture is slippery slope if not done thoughtfully. If everyone sitting around you looks, sounds, and acts just like you it’s time to challenge your hiring practices. Start with this test you can take on identifying your own implicit bias.

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