Be Careful: Bias May Bite Before You Ever Land an Interview

How severe is bias in hiring? According to one source, hiring bias may cost professionals some 40 percent of the roles they’re qualified for.

In an interview with Girl Geek X, CEO Aline Lerner suggested that 40 percent of the hires her company made in the past two years have been people who were qualified for jobs at other companies, but rejected based on some form of bias. Learner doesn’t assume why that bias occurs, but notes it’s not always about image:

The most compelling bias or, I guess, the strongest signal of bias that we’ve seen has been against people with non-traditional educational and work backgrounds. If you didn’t go to a top school and you didn’t work at a top company, it’s going to be really, really hard for you to get in the door.

This speaks to the dichotomy of bootcamps and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). While those who go through these programs’ accelerated training feel more prepared for work than those graduating university, there’s data suggesting they have more difficulty actually landing jobs.

The hiring bias may not even be entirely human: Bots are increasingly used to screen résumés. As Lerner points out, many companies discover that, after interviewing anonymous candidates, the person was already in their system, and had been rejected before a human interacted with them: “What we’ve seen repeatedly, and this is the thing that blows my mind, is with some of the bigger customers that we have where they get a lot of inbound applications, people have applied, they’ve gotten rejected at the résumé screen, so before anybody ever interviewed them.”

And as a recent Dice survey suggests, up to 68 percent of Baby Boomers don’t apply for jobs because of age, with 40 percent of Generation X-ers chiming in that ageism is affecting their ability to earn. A full 80 percent of tech pros 46-49 years of age think that ageism at companies will affect their careers.

Bias extends beyond age: Another 21 percent of respondents to Dice’s survey report gender bias at work, and 11 percent report a political stance has proven detrimental to them or a coworker.

All this information serves a common narrative: the tech hiring process is broken. Experienced, qualified candidates don’t get jobs, and older professionals with a long tail of on-the-job know-how feel as though a few grey hairs will prevent them from being able to work effectively. Crafting a better résumé can help, and targeting the right job is always important. We also suggest reading our piece on traits that keep older tech pros working, as it has some handy tips on staying relevant in an ever-changing tech landscape.

6 Responses to “Be Careful: Bias May Bite Before You Ever Land an Interview”

  1. Not only that,there is a discrimination based on your national origin and religious beliefs.Hardly any public media discuss that ongoing issue that troubles sagnificant amount of foreign born people living for many years in the USA.

  2. I’d just caution using the “feelings” about how prepared a person believes they are. It’s shown for example that undergrads rate their mastery if a subject as higher than grad students. Just because someone thinks they are prepared doesn’t mean they are. I’m not staying they are less prepared either, just that the crux of this article hinges on bad stats.

  3. I think many companies have unrealistic expectations. Recently, I interviewed for a position where one of the interviewers said, you’ve only been in your current position for 3 years, why are looking. Just because they are with their company for 10 or 15 years doesn’t mean that works for everyone. It’s nice when your goals and company’ goals are in lockstep and you can have longevity at a company.

    I do feel there are age and gender bias. It’s subtle in many cases but it’s out there. And, it can also exist on the job. I have definitely had to deal with gender bias in a past position and now, I feel as though I am having to deal with gender and age bias with my current manager.

  4. I think what we’re seeing in the job market is a clash of antiquated hiring processes with what’s actually going on in the world. People are finding more accessible ways to master skills – like MOOCs mentioned in this article – yet entry level positions still often list Master Degrees as a requirement.

  5. With so many applicants, I get that we need to cull the list, but when experienced professionals can’t even get an interview, we see that there is a problem in the process (, the data suggests it (I’d say 40% is significant with so many looking), the media says there’s a shortage of tech talent, but all kinds of people with the skills are unemployed and the author still refers to it as a “serving a common narrative” that the system is broken, what’s the point of the article? You should work harder on your resume?

  6. Jeff H Silverman

    I’ve often thought that a standardized resume format, in XML or JSON, would go a long ways towards leveling the playing field. Such a resume would have an objective section, a list of skills and competencies, a work history, an education history, and then a free form text for anything additional the candidate might wish to say. Then, the discussion about what font to use, maximum page length, margins, formatting, all of that would go out the window. Also, you could post the resume on a web site and instead of recruiters handing around resumes in .DOCX or .PDF formats, they could hand around URLs. That way, as the resume changes over time, the recruiters need not update their databases.
    Alas, the industry seems fundamentally unable to go there. You are correct: the process is broken. I see no way to change it.