Have you ever made the wrong assumption about someone after meeting them the first time? Maybe they reminded you of someone who bullied you as a child or had the same name as an old coach, teacher, or an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend you didn’t like. Or the reverse – you like someone because they remind you of someone else from the way they look or talk. Then, you hire them based on that “feeling” only to regret it later. If we learn how to identify and reduce our screening and hiring bias, we will be able to more confidently hire the best candidate for the job.
Humans are far more likely to favor and trust people who are similar or familiar to us in some dimension. In one interesting study, researchers gave participants a morphable image that could look more or less like their own face. The study found that the greater the facial similarity, the more they trusted the person in the image. The theory that we tend to trust people who look like us potentially stems from the idea that we believe they could be related to us. Other research supports this, showing that we have a strong tendency to like and trust people who are members of our own social group over outsiders or strangers.
As humans, we can’t help but be drawn to those who feel or look similar to us. This goes back to our tribal nature, where familiarity with people and places was critical to our personal safety. Unsurprisingly, we use this same thinking when evaluating candidates to place in our practices and care for patients.
Hiring managers benefit when they reduce or eliminate screening and hiring bias in candidate evaluation. Understanding our personal and institutional biases could propel us to make more thoughtful, innovative hiring decisions that boost our dental teams and practices. Research shows the benefits that teams and businesses obtain. A diverse work team represents a variety of life experiences, social styles, backgrounds, associations, knowledge, approaches to problem solving, talents, and strengths that are useful in a wide variety of situations. For example, how likely are you to come up with innovative solutions to problems if everyone on the team has similar experiences and backgrounds and thinks in the same way? How likely are you to attract a culturally diverse clientele if everyone on the team is the same as you?
Additionally, the more diverse a business is in terms of its people, the more financially successful it is. It makes sense even in dentistry. Think about your dental practice. During the pandemic, schools shutting down kept many female clinicians at home with no childcare. Here, a lack of gender diversity on the team certainly played a role.
In addition to the benefits of team diversity, examining our own biases around hiring is attractive to the newest dental professional generation entering the workforce who has more expectations of fairness when it comes to themselves as candidates or when evaluating potential co-workers.
In today’s challenging labor market, dental employers can no longer expect to do the same old things to attract applicants. Now is the time to set aside stale hiring habits and mindsets and start thinking and doing things differently! When you do, you expand not only your mind but your candidate pool, too.
Our biases can (and often do) get in the way of hiring the best people for our teams and businesses. Rather than go on our gut instincts, which can often mislead us, we instead can focus on the skills and personal qualities essential to being a dental professional and on those traits that balance out and bring harmony to our teams. We can grow or we can seek out the familiar, and stay where we are, and hope that it is enough. I personally don’t feel good running my business on hope.
Taking a good hard look at our hiring biases and how ingrained they have become in our hiring process will help us reduce bias and find the best candidates, the right candidates that will keep dental teams and practices healthy and thriving. The goal of unbiased screening is to identify and reduce potential bias in screening, and shortlisting candidates so you don’t bypass an ideal, potential candidate who you may have otherwise dismissed.
Have you ever considered your own personal biases when it comes to candidate evaluation? If not, why not give it a try? We are in a constant state of judgment whether we realize it or not. It’s ingrained in our humanity and is there for a reason. It’s a safety mechanism. Example: Without thinking or realizing it, we ask ourselves “Is this tea hot or not?” Then, we think to ourselves, “Well, there’s no steam so it must not be.” We do this with people all the time.
Bias creeps in when it comes to gender, age, ethnicity, race, and appearance. It creeps in for things as simple as a candidate’s name or your preference for certain colleges or universities. As a dental practice owner, manager, or department leader involved in hiring, constantly self-check your internal leanings. Are you being objective? Identifying biases and intentionally working to evaluate all candidates with objectivity takes effort and sometimes courage. However, I believe that it will make us stronger in the long run.
But we can’t hire what is not there. Our dental schools and programs need to be more reflective of the demographics around us, offering the industry a pool of more diverse dental clinicians. This is not an overnight process, but we must start somewhere.
DentalPost is committed to doing our part to support best hiring practices and build better dental teams. That’s why we have launched SmartView, our new blind screening feature that helps to reduce unconscious bias during the screening process to help dental hiring managers and employers focus on the right things first, including skills, experience, and assessment insights. SmartView helps dental employers screen smarter and expand their candidate pool while helping dental job applicants level the playing field and let their professional experience shine. Check it out here!