How to reduce bias in the recruitment process

Sam Bradshaw, Astute’s Head of People, shares advice on reducing bias in the recruitment process.

What is gender bias?

Gender bias refers to the inclination to favour one gender over another, manifesting as a subconscious bias. 

This bias arises when individuals unconsciously assign specific attitudes and stereotypes to a particular group of people.


Gender bias in recruitment

Total Jobs analysed almost 77,000 job adverts over a six-week period to assess the frequency of gender-coded words in UK recruitment.

Within these job adverts, they found 478,175 words that carry gender bias, an average of 6 male-coded or female-coded words per advert.


What recruiters are doing to avoid bias

Some recruiters utilise the anonymous CV formatting technique, where names and gender insinuation are omitted from the CVs before they submit them to hiring managers. 

Others use blind skill assessments and you can also take out any mention of hobbies or family commitments that may cause bias. 

My advice to recruiters is to use your common sense from the start of the process. 

Qualify your job role in depth with the hiring manager to challenge and guide any potential unconscious or conscious bias at the start of the process. 

Ask what the interview process is and if this will be the same for all candidates. 

Some clients will even give the candidates the interview questions beforehand which can support equity in neurodiverse interviewees, reducing bias in the recruitment process.


How to avoid gender bias in job adverts

It is important to check your job adverts for non-bias descriptions, something we actively encourage our team of Recruiters at Astute to undertake with every role.

Use AI tools to support with your advert bias if you’re not sure such as Total Job's Gender Bias Decoder or Your Dandi's Gender Decoder

When reviewing applications remember to offer options to your client. 

That rainbow coloured unicorn your client wants might not always be out there, so be open with your candidate selection and widen your chance of making a placement. 

When speaking to your candidates, ask short open questions which can be asked to all candidates for benchmarking purposes and be open to the responses. 

Don’t cut them off because they might not fit ‘the mould’ you think you’re looking for or asking completely different questions to every candidate for the same role. 

If your candidate isn’t right for this role due to experience, they may be right for the role coming your way at a later point! 

Research by the University of Waterloo and Duke University highlighted words which socially, historically and culturally carry a stereotypically weight towards a particular gender. Image Total Jobs

The 5 most commonly used male-gendered words in UK job descriptions:

  1. Lead 

  2. Analyse 

  3. Competitive 

  4. Active 

  5. Confident 


The 5 most commonly used female-gendered words in UK job descriptions:

  1. Support 

  2. Responsible 

  3. Understanding 

  4. Dependable 

  5. Committed 


A proactive approach to avoiding gender-bias at every stage of the recruitment process is not only the right thing to do, it is crucial in attracting and retaining the best talent.

Data from Sage shows that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to financially outperform their competitors. 

About the author

Sam Bradshaw is Astute’s Head of People and joined the company in 2017.

She has extensive recruitment experience, a Chartered member of the CIPD and a Level 7 qualification in HR Development, Talent Management and Employment Law. Sam has great knowledge and skills within the human resources and recruitment sector.