Reduce Unconscious Bias — and Expand Your Talent Pipeline — with the Second Look Rule Authored by Laura Hilgers August 30th 2021 Linkedin

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For many recruiters, the resumes are piling up faster than they can read them. There are more requisitions from hiring managers than seem possible to fill. And the pressure to work fast — and faster — is greater than ever. But there’s one simple habit that recruiters may want to cultivate now, which is . . . to slow down.

Even though this may seem counterintuitive, it may be just what harried recruiters need. By slowing down, you can actually expand your talent pool, which might lead to quicker hiring and a more diverse workforce.

That’s the advice of Joe Burridge, a senior recruiter at Epic Games in the United Kingdom, in his recent video “One Tip to Improve Diversity Hiring: The Second Look Rule.”

“In today’s video,” Joe says, “I’m going to talk about a small tip that has the potential to have a big impact . . . and that this is what I like to call ‘The Second Look Rule.’” We’ll look at the rule — what it is and how to implement it — and explore some other suggestions for creating a more equitable hiring process.

Assess your own unconscious biases and take steps to address them

“Everyone has unconscious bias,” Joe says, “you can’t escape that. But what you can do is implement rules and frameworks to help offset that.”

Joe recommends checking out the Harvard Implicit Association Test to assess your own implicit bias, whether it’s about race, age, gender, religion, or sexual preferences. “The preparation starts before you even begin to review applications,” he told the LinkedIn Talent Blog recently. “You must understand your unconscious biases first.”

In the video, he notes that there are two ways to combat unconscious bias: with hard and soft strategies. As an example of a hard strategy, Joe points to the Rooney Rule, which the National Football League implemented in 2003. When it was created, the Rooney Rule required that at least one member of an underrepresented group be interviewed for each head coaching position that became available. The rule was updated in 2020 to require that clubs interview at least two external candidates from underrepresented groups for head coaching jobs and at least one person from these groups for any offensive or defensive coordinator job. Many companies have adopted similar approaches.

Hard strategies generally include a rule, target, or quota. Soft strategies are, well, softer and require people to make subtle changes in their habits.

Adopt the Second Look Rule to mitigate your personal biases

The Second Look Rule is a simple one. “When you come across a CV or resume,” Joe says, “or when you’re interviewing someone, if they’re not similar to you, just consider them again. Give their profile a second look.” The same applies to job applications. Before you hit “reject” for an applicant who doesn’t look like you or like your previous hires for this kind of role, give the application a second look and serious consideration.

How exactly does the Second Look Rule make a difference? First, you need to understand that when you look at an application, you’ll most likely favor people who are similar to you or who are similar to people whom you’ve successfully hired into related roles in the past. To counter this, force yourself to look at an application, pause, and look again.

The idea behind the Second Look Rule is that it slows you down long enough to examine — and counter — your unconscious bias.

“I think where unconscious bias creeps in really easily for recruiters and into the hiring process,” Joe says, “is that recruiters often need to get through job applications as fast as possible.” He’s worked for big-name brands, including Epic GamesElectronic Arts, and Hudl, and one of the issues he’s seen is that “we get hundreds and thousands of applications and speed can really be key and can be great for being a top-performing recruiter.”

To implement this new rule, you’ll need to block more time for application review. “And it’s possible that even after a second look, your decision is still ‘no,’” Joe says. “But your ability to stop, even just for a moment, and think about that decision is powerful.”

Reset the expectations of your hiring managers

Joe told LinkedIn that, for the rule to work, you need to set expectations with your hiring manager that you’ll be sending a variety of candidates for them to review. Explain your thinking and your goal — that you’re trying to build a diverse team — at the start of the process to avoid pushback when you send a candidate through that doesn’t have all the desired hiring requirements.

“If you can slow things down a little, implement the Second Look Rule, reconsider applications, and just have that thought to think, ‘Does this person deserve a chance?’” Joe says, you’re likely to attract more diversity into your organization.

Final thoughts 

Unconscious bias plays a huge role in who gets hired and who doesn’t. In a University of Wisconsin–La Crosse study, researchers sent more than 9,000 fictitious resumes to online job advertisements, using family names that signal race. Their research found that applicants with Black-sounding names received 14% fewer interview offers than their otherwise identical white counterparts.

This kind of bias hurts organizations and companies — and literally affects the bottom line. According to a study by the American Sociological Association, a 1% rise in a workforce’s gender diversity results in a 3% rise in sales, while a 1% rise in racial diversity leads to a 9% rise in sales.

Diverse teams win and that’s a compelling reason to slow down and take a second look at candidates who don’t match your ideal. And if everyone across the organization does this, Joe says, “it can have a huge, huge impact.”

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