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Media release: Of course I want the best person for the job, as long as they are just like me

A new study shows that male hiring managers prefer male job candidates and female hiring managers prefer female job candidates, but when it comes to making the final hiring decision a man is more likely to be hired.

In the study by recruiting experts Hays in conjunction with diversity and employee survey specialists Insync Surveys, 515 hiring managers were asked to review the CV of ‘Susan’ while another 514 reviewed the identical CV but for one notable change – the name was altered to ‘Simon’. The hiring managers were then asked how well 20 attributes described ‘Susan’/’Simon’.

Female respondents who received the CV of ‘Susan’ said she matched 14 of the 20 attributes extremely well. In comparison, female respondents who received the CV of ‘Simon’ said he matched 6 of the 20 attributes extremely well.

Male hiring managers also demonstrated bias; they said ‘Simon’ matched 14 of the 20 attributes extremely well, while ‘Susan’ matched only 6 of the 20 attributes.

Such bias is known as affinity bias, or in other words, hiring managers have a preference for more highly rating the candidates most like themselves.

Implications for the world of work

“A hiring manager is unlikely to openly come out and tell us they want to hire someone who is just like them,” says Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director of Hays in Australia & New Zealand. “But affinity bias is the reason that many people unconsciously rate higher the candidate who is the most like them.

“At Hays, we witness thousands of selection and hiring decisions every day. We undertook this research with Insync Surveys to look at the way these decisions are made since gender diversity has yet to be achieved in Australia/New Zealand. We wanted to look at the part gender bias plays in the process, and were curious to know how hiring managers would decide between two equally qualified candidates, one male and one female.

“It seems that gender beliefs bias a range of decisions, including when we recruit. When the majority of executive positions are currently held by men, affinity bias is an obvious barrier in women’s ability to achieve such positions in equal numbers to men. It affects our perceptions and makes a difference when we’re rating candidates.

“But when it comes to making a hiring decision, it is gender bias that affects the outcome.  Our study also found that both genders were significantly more likely to interview and hire ‘Simon’ rather than ‘Susan’. This shows that the ‘think leader, think male’ bias comes into play for both male and female recruiting managers,” he said.

“The results have been insightful, and we hope will spark continued dialogue about gender diversity in Australia.”

Nicholas Barnett, Insync CEO says: “Affinity bias is a desire to be part of the ‘in-crowd’, it involves being surrounded by colleagues who make us feel comfortable because they are like us. For the ‘in crowd’ respect is automatically given, opportunities are granted and obstacles are removed. Unfortunately in a male dominated environment women with similar skills have to earn respect before it’s given. In a hiring sense, the affinity bias revealed in our Hays/Insync Surveys study means that males will continue to hire more males than females unless those hiring understand the unconscious biases they hold and implement strategies to overcome them.”


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