This Is Recruiting: How To Limit Bias In Tech Recruiting?

TIR - How to limit bias

Domina McQuade, Microsoft Azure’s Senior Recruiting Manager had some interesting things to share when it comes to recruiting, and all of its highs and lows. Confronting and limiting bias in tech recruiting comes with education and experience. In her early days of recruiting, Domina McQuade, Microsoft Azure’s Senior Recruiting Manager, recalls one such experience where an interview panel hiring for a female Sales Manager role had no women interviewers on the panel. She, too, was oblivious to the misstep until the candidate came up to her, and asked whether there were going to be any women on her team. 

It is instances like these that underline just how deeply our unconscious biases are ingrained within us. They also make us better at our jobs, if we take them as learning milestones. Domina has never made such an error again and always double checks to make sure the interview loop looks familiar to the candidate. She focuses on diversity, on whether the candidate will make a good fit with the loop, and irons out all flaws that she can perceive.

After all, says Domina, it is recruiters who are the gatekeepers of great talent. If we do not take our role seriously, and have brave conversations with hiring managers to call out bias, then there is no use of going through the motions of diversity hiring.

She lays a lot of emphasis on explaining the ‘why’ of things; especially when things are not headed in the right direction. In the case of diversity hiring, things are almost always not favourable to diversity hires, which is where Domina says recruiters need to step up and shoulder the responsibility of calling it out.

Here are some of the top questions we asked Domina on this episode of This Is Recruiting. There’s a lot to learn from her experiences, amigos!

#1 Are you guilty of ‘confirmation bias?’

Although COVID has thrown up a lot of underlying issues in the tech space, one of the biggest and most prevalent issues is that of bias in the hiring processes. According to Domina, while most recruiters have dealt with confirmation bias, its exact meaning keeps getting lost in translation.

Confirmation bias occurs when you marry your beliefs to the first impression of a candidate and ignore everything else. You do not probe too deep into any other details or if they don’t support your beliefs, you dismiss them.

As with any issue, the first step is to address the elephant in the room – ‘bias’. Acknowledge that you are biased and be aware of it. Domina says that as a recruiter, she puts in extra effort into avoiding making biased decisions by educating herself, and taking conscious steps to notice any red flags in her process.

Recommended read: Recruiters Vs Bias – Who’s Winning This War?

#2 How do you go about hiring Gen Z coders? 

Domina says: “What I’ve noticed when working with Gen Z developers is that they value authenticity. The company’s values and morals need to resonate with the Gen Z coders of today. They are very particular about who they’re working with. Is the organization fostering environmental friendly initiatives, or contributing to charity and so on. 

We, at Microsoft, are trying to go carbon negative as a company while the world is still trying to become carbon neutral. It’s little things like these that add to a Gen Z developer’s hiring experience and make it worthwhile for them.”

Here is the full episode:



#3 What are your views on inclusivity?

“Only when your organization believes in an inclusive work culture, at all levels of the hierarchy,  will it work out. Unless you practice what you preach, you can’t expect change.”

From my VP, I’ve learnt to lead with vulnerability and authenticity, says Domina. “He always encourages the team to be open about their flaws by sharing his own mistakes and learnings. When your manager sets the tone for the way forward, the team will replicate the same behavior”, she says.

She also adds that “Diversity doesn’t begin and end with one person. It’s a collective approach and my manager makes it a point to get to know each person on the team, create a safe space for them to speak out and let them be their complete selves at the workplace.

When you know that your manager and the entire team is backing you, that’s when you get to have courageous and uncomfortable conversations with the hiring managers and push back on sensitive topics like D&I. 

Bringing about change is difficult, especially when a team needs to give up control and do something in a different way. That’s when being persistent and making it relevant to them pays off. Being a recruiter is not a piece of cake. They are the ones that bring the people to the organization and we all know, people are the building blocks of any company. This is why you need to push and push hard, until you can convince the rest that this is the way to go.” 

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