How to avoid unconscious bias in hiring processes

Karla Romero

Karla Romero People Lead


How to avoid unconscious bias in hiring processes

Unconscious bias in hiring is a challenge I’ve taken seriously throughout my experience as a People Lead. This is what I’ve learned through my personal experience and some of the things we do at Belvo during the hiring processes to avoid it. 

When we go to interviews we prepare for them, we look up advice, we search for the top 10 things you should avoid, how to dress, where to look, the kind of hand-shake you have to make… Even though hiring is what I do all this for a living, when I started my process to become part of Belvo I was predisposed to all of this, but it was a process like no other.

I applied to Belvo in July 2020. The pandemic was all over the place, I saw the position and immediately thought “this is me!”. I was beyond excited when I did my first interview with Maria, VP of People. Then, I did another interview with Pablo, Belvo’s co-founder, and co-CEO. After that, I was asked to prepare a challenge about what I would do during my first 30 days at Belvo. Finally, I did another interview where I presented my challenge (and admit I was extremely nervous!) to Maria and Pablo. 

After a three-week process, I got a call from Maria saying they were making me an offer. 

Seems like a pretty standard process, however, I’ve learned that there’s a ton of invisible work that we put into managing a hiring process without bias and making this an essential part of a company’s culture. There are all sorts of things we do to achieve this when we’re looking for talent. Because talent can be anyone, anywhere! 

These are some of them: 

1. Avoiding gender and age bias 👭

The first thing we do is to pass all of our job descriptions into a gender decoder, so we don’t get any inclination towards a particular gender. No he or she: they. 

We also have a benchmark for every position at Belvo, so every salary is according to the responsibilities of the position, not gender or age. 

2. Make it equal and standarized for everyone 💌

The hiring process is standard for every position, no matter the area they are joining. Whether it’s People, Product, or Engineering, every candidate has the same experience. We open a position when we have the job description, the funnel ready and a test created. 

The first meeting is always with someone from the People team. Then, you have a challenge; if your test matches the criteria and qualifications then you present it to the hiring team. Then, the final step is a meeting with Uri and Pablo. 

3. Involve multiple people (and train them!) 👀

We have different steps and make an explicit effort to involve multiple people in the process so we don’t get any bias when interviewing someone. All of them have had training on how to interview, what questions to ask and how to remain objective. 

Hiring is a shared decision, every person involved in the process has to agree to continue with the candidate, and every decision to continue or to turn down a candidate is based on the criteria for that position, pros and cons, and the cultural fit with Belvo. 

4. Focus on objective facts 🎯

The tricky part is to know if a candidate matches or not with things you can’t quantify. We don’t make binary questions, such as age or if they have family or a partner –it’s up to the candidate to share this information if they want during interviews. 

We focus on the people’s experience. For example, we see if someone has experience recruiting tech profiles, or with Django Rest Framework, or launching a SaaS product. How do you manage an underperforming team, what has been your hardest sale, the KPIs or OKRs you have, or how do you evangelize the documentation. These are just a few questions we may ask during an interview that tells us your experience, style of leadership, and metrics management.

5. Avoid bias also during performance reviews 📈

Avoiding bias is something that people managers need to keep thinking about even after the hiring process. That’s why we also have a standard performance appraisal process focused on avoiding bias. All the hiring managers share their best practices when doing performance tests and focus on giving feedback without bias. 

We also have a process to evaluate engagement with standard questions for everyone, this allows us to obtain the same metric for everybody, regardless of the department, team, or even the country where they’re at. Some specific questions about performance can be: “am I doing ok?”, “what can I improve?” Then, the manager has to answer the same questions about the employee. 

After this process, everyone’s salary is reviewed according to responsibilities, seniority, and the benchmark of every position.  

Overall, at Belvo we’re looking for people who have the experience we need to keep growing our team, product, and company – and who also share our values and mission. We avoid positive discrimination because we focus on bringing the best people in spite of gender, age, nationality, or preferences of any kind. 

Karla Romero, People Lead at Belvo

We’re looking for people who get things done, who love and have fun doing what they’re best at, who have a relentless curiosity to keep improving, and believe that our talent and knowledge have no boundaries and can grow exponentially!

If you wanna join our team, take a look at our open positions


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