How to Reduce Bias When Hiring a New Procurement Team Member

Having the best intentions around equality won’t help in the face of unconscious bias! Here’s how to remove bias from the hiring process

For many years (and for some, many decades), companies have had good intentions when it comes to diverse hiring. However, unfortunately, good intentions don’t always equal good results: only 38% of all hiring managers in procurement are female, and the gender pay gap persists in procurement as well, with a gap of up to 28% in some regions.

While it’s inexcusable that good intentions haven’t equaled good results, it isn’t inexplicable. 

A lot of managers (or, moreover, people) suffer from what’s called affinity bias, where they hire someone similar to them as they feel they will fit in. Accepting and attempting to address one’s own affinity bias is a great first step when it comes to reducing bias (and is often the focus of unconscious bias training), but it certainly isn’t enough. 

Here are three other ways to reduce bias when hiring a new procurement team member: 

Continue your learning journey 

While it’s difficult to pinpoint why – when it comes to diversity – change hasn’t been as fast as society hoped, one reason that researchers mention again and again is that many people approach diversity with a ‘set and forget’ mindset. 

That is: they see some ‘diverse’ people in their procurement team, and then believe the job is done. 

This, unfortunately, couldn’t be further from the truth. 

If you’re a hiring manager looking to diversify your procurement team, then learning about diversity and bias needs to be a constant learning journey for you. 

Ensure that you continually seek out new resources. Some useful ones may include: 

Ask yourself: “Where might bias show up in this decision?” 

When hiring someone new for your procurement team, a critical question to ask yourself is: “Where might bias show up in this decision?” Ask yourself this question throughout every stage of your hiring process. 

For example, was someone’s strength their ability to build relationships (with suppliers and stakeholders), or were they just particularly good at building a relationship with you, given your shared interests? 

Did you assume anything about their negotiation ability based on their characteristics? 

And finally, did someone else’s opinion of that particular candidate bias you? 

Having someone else’s opinion influence your judgement is particularly common, so when looking to hire a new procurement team member, don’t share your opinion of a candidate with a colleague until it comes time to make a final hiring decision. 

Use the ‘would this universally apply?’ test 

One difficult part about unconscious bias is that it’s just that: unconscious. And even if we have become experts at the concept of unconscious bias, sometimes it’s difficult to challenge our own preconceptions. 

Consider the following situation: 

A woman of colour has applied for a senior procurement position at a company. At the first interview, one of the interviewers realises that she’s worked with this particular candidate before, yet didn’t initially recognise her as she’d changed her name due to marriage. 

The candidate performs well in the interview, and the interviewer that knows her recommends that they skip any further interviews and go straight to making an offer. Given her history with the candidate, she’s extremely confident that she’s a top performer. 

The other interviewer in this situation, however, says that skipping straight to the offer stage would be ‘unfair’ to other candidates and that they should continue with the process, even though this has been a common practice in previous hiring situations within the company.

In this situation, the immediate response would be that the process is the process, no matter what. However, the interviewers, and more broadly, the company needs to ask themselves if this ‘process is the process’ thinking is universally applied. 

That is, if other candidates have been referred and hired without due process before, then there’s no reason that this shouldn’t apply in this situation. Moreso, we need to understand why our colleague may be pushing back against changing the process in this instance.

Reducing bias in hiring in procurement is difficult, but worthwhile. Are there any tools or techniques that you use to do this? Let us know what’s worked in the comments below. 

Join the BRAVO! Women in Procurement program in your region now! Find out more here.