To avoid bias when hiring or assigning roles, imagine a green square

To avoid bias when hiring or assigning roles, imagine a green square

I believe I am sharing a helpful technique here and hopefully not revealing something embarrassing about my inner thought processes.

Visualize a hospital consultant, an executive assistant, an airline pilot, an American security guard, a seasonal fruit-picker, a chef in a Chinese takeaway, a primary school teacher…

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The immediate image you have is embedded through years of bias and conditioning. We know this of course, and because you are smart, and because it’s 2020, and because of the title of the article; you caused yourself to stop and modify the initial image.

Good unconscious bias training makes us conscious of our biases and creates us the opportunity to challenge our own thinking. Here is my trick for reminding myself to do that.

Matthew Treagus - To avoid bias when hiring or assigning roles, imagine a green square

When I am hiring in or making assignments I imagine the role being filled as a green square. A green square – literally a green geometric shape. In the mental image; stood at the whiteboard, at home on Teams, or whatever the context of the role is replace the person with the green square.

I know what characteristics I want the green square to have. These are all in the brilliantly written QA’ed role description. Or for an internal project I know what Long Term Goal, behaviours and tasks I need.

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So then the question is just Which of my candidates will be best as the green square?

I picked a green square because it has no human characteristics. It may be that just the silliness of getting into the habit of this causes me to stop and think about the green square and the person that might become the green square. That is probably helpful enough.

Important to note: this is not about dehumanising the candidates. They will all have wonderful (or not) human characteristics and capabilities to be ruthlessly assessed. It’s the role you imagine as the green square, not the candidates.

I shared this technique with a co-interviewer once. They built on the idea and suggested we pick Mr Men characters instead for each role. Don’t do that. They are all men and each tends to massively over-index on one particular character attribute; this will likely lead to interesting books for children but very poor hiring decisions.

Successful digital transformation is a matter of know how and access to the best talent. We connect you to both.Click for more.

Obviously, if you want to get hired by me, you now know how to dress at an interview.

(If you are reading these to research me prior to an interview: Please; just don’t do it!)

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