block bias - seven business professionals waiting for an interview - aviation personnel - recruiting

Have you heard of the ABCs of bias? And do you know that there are proven ways to block bias? It’s true. In fact, at the recent NBAA Leadership Conference, I discussed ways to block bias, especially as it relates to the hiring process.

What are the ABCs of Bias?

A = admit bias

B = block bias

C = count (measure) bias


What is Bias?

Bias often occurs outside our own awareness. The beauty of this statement is how it demonstrates that the cure is in the cause. That is, as the historian Michael B. Kitson explained, “If you have awareness, teach it, if you lack it, seek it.”

But what do we do about bias once we find it? When we see it, we have to admit or acknowledge it. After all, with awareness comes responsibility and choice. To me, that translates to a commitment for “action and change.”

So, with action in mind, how can you block bias as a leader or team member? Thankfully, there are numerous tactics you can employ. The most simple of them include educating, leading by example and enforcing an intolerance of bias. Inclusivity and acceptance must be culturally driven and modeled on a daily basis. My only caveat is to remember where you were before you gained the awareness. When you observe someone demonstrating bias, use it as a teaching opportunity. And treat them with respect and grace.

Of course, the aforementioned refers to managing existing team members. But you must also work to ensure impartiality when you’re recruiting new talent. The hiring process can be rife with unconscious bias. Other types include “confirmation bias,” “affinity bias,” the “halo and horns effect,” group bias and more.


Five Rules of Thumb to Block Bias

To combat these lurking, negative influencers, consider the following five simple changes to your hiring process.

  1. Exercise Gender Neutrality
    Begin at the beginning, and aim for a gender-neutral job description. For example, did you know the words “active,” “confident,” “objective” and “driven” have a masculine connotation? Similarly, the words “honest,” “interpersonal,” “loyal” and “understanding” are regarded as feminine. If you’re unsure about the objectivity of your job descriptions, try using Textio, OnGig, or a similar tool to test them.


  1. Go Blind!
    Ask a team member unrelated to the hiring process to omit names from resumes before your review of them. Are you aware that researchers from Harvard and Princeton found that blind auditions increased the likelihood that female musicians would be hired by an orchestra from 25 percent to 46 percent? That’s an impressive example of blocking what might otherwise be an unconscious bias.


  1. Practice Uniformity
    To ensure hiring standardization, provide all interviewers with a job-based interview template that is both measurable and uniform. People are less likely to rely on “gut feelings” when asking all candidates the same questions in similar order. This standardization allows for a direct comparison of responses. It’s the opposite of variance-based interviews that are driven by the “feel” or the dynamic between interviewer and interviewee.


  1. Invite an Outsider
    If there are multiple interviewers in your hiring process, it’s wise to include an “uninterested” party. By that I mean someone in your company who understands the company culture but wouldn’t typically have much interaction with your new employee. This interviewer’s viewpoint could prove to be vital, because he or she is evaluating the candidate free from the inherent bias of knowing or expecting a desired outcome.


  1. Limit “Groupthink”
    Finally, many interview teams debrief as a group, which is a breeding ground for group and confirmation bias. I recommend asking interviewers to submit their impressions individually, in writing, to the hiring manager before convening as a group. Even the most advanced and self-aware teams can succumb to peer pressure and “groupthink” when discussing talent prospects as a whole.


Think On It!

Admittedly, when we think about it, blocking bias may seem like a tall order. But bear in mind that this is a process in which small changes can have a really big impact. They can make a real difference. I’m confident that implementing one or more of the tactics I called out above will help you and your teams. Here’s to minimizing unconscious bias all-around, and particularly in your hiring process!

The ABCs of bias are focused on how to bring in more diversity through selection and recruitment. However, focusing on diversity by itself simply won’t do. We must pair it with “inclusion,” so that your team members feel valued for their individuality and also that they belong. True inclusivity removes all barriers. It’s is empowering, collaborative and allows diverse contributors to truly be themselves within the workplace.


Your Next Step

If I’ve piqued your interest in reducing hiring and workplace biases, I invite you to contact me or the API team to share or discuss any aspect of this important, aviation-related issue.


About the Author

In addition to serving as the VP of Aviation Personnel International, Jennifer Pickerel is the co-chair of NBAA’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) Committee. Learn more about Jen.



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