Unconscious Bias in Recruiting – The Australian Pipeliner


The energy sector is one of the lowest ranked in terms of the representation of women in leadership positions. As such, the industry is currently facing an aging workforce and a demand for new skills, with declining appeal among young people.

Kate Cuic is the Recruitment Manager at Peter Norman Personnel (PNP) – an industry specific recruiting specialist. She sat down with The Australian Pipeliner on the role of unconscious bias in the workplace and how best to overcome it.

“Unconscious bias is a human problem and its neutralization will require industry-led action beyond rules and policies,” said Ms. Cuic, who has worked for PNP for over 20 years.

“When it comes to employment, unconscious decision-making is the ‘gut feeling’ based on underlying attitudes and stereotypes that we intuitively attribute to a person or group. It then affects how we understand them and engage with them.

Unfortunately, when a dominant group is tasked with maintaining a corporate culture, talented people who don’t fit the mold can fall through the cracks.

“A lot of research shows that because our brains are hardwired to patterns and similarities, we use stereotypes all the time to recruit, promote and manage performance through our subconscious bias prism,” says Cuic.

This bias is something that often seeps into business recruiting processes.

“The results are a lack of opportunities with far-reaching consequences, not only from an internal workplace relationship perspective, but also through hiring, retention and promotion trends. “

Unconscious bias causes enormous damage to the industry, as well as to individuals, in terms of untapped talent and limited opportunities.

“Unless resolved, this will remain the proverbial backbone that will continue to undermine diversity and inclusion efforts and negatively impact results. “

Examples of unconscious bias are common in the pipeline industry.

“The naturally obvious example is low gender diversity, which has been driven by prejudices of affinity or similarity, where the tendency is to connect with other people who share similar interests, experiences and backgrounds. “, explains Ms. Cuic.

“This can be seen when hiring for a particular ‘cultural fit’. This is reinforced by the gender stereotypes embedded in each of us. “

Ms Cuic says the idea of ​​a “cultural fit” is inherently problematic, with employers subconsciously leaning toward candidates who will carry on a legacy that hasn’t necessarily been driven solely by talent.

“This has created an easier environment for a persistently lagging gender diversity in a sector facing an aging workforce and an unattractive public profile for future generations,” she says.

But thanks to continuous and open discussions, the situation is starting to improve.

“As a frontline agent in an ever-changing employment landscape, we aim to create opportunities where they may be lacking. We are in a unique position, between the hiring manager and the job candidate, to raise awareness and work with the parties for better hiring results.

Ms Cuic says there are practical steps businesses can take to lessen the role of unconscious bias.

“For us, it starts at the job design and specification development stage and continues throughout the lifecycle of a hiring process. We incorporate processes and frameworks to “encourage” inclusive behavior.

“Employers can do the same by starting with the questions and conversations that lead to increased awareness of diversity gaps. Initiatives can then be targeted based on the desired outcome, such as increasing gender diversity at every stage of recruitment, retention, promotion and leadership, ”she says.

During a recruitment process, consider what can be done to make it more conducive to female participation through a simple overhaul like anonymizing and standardizing applications. One of the main obstacles for women applying is feeling underqualified.

“By understanding how women interpret questions relating to employment opportunities and applications, it is possible to make adjustments to deal with the reluctance that may prevent them from accepting a job. “

Ms. Cuic says she has been impressed with initiatives such as APGA’s Women’s Leadership Development (WLDP) which encourages professional development, advocacy, training and networking among women in the industry. She is also a former student of the pilot program.

“I am delighted that APGA has ignited the flame of gender diversity through a program like WLDP, as it has provided an industry-wide channel and platform to encourage participation and engagement. increased representation of women. “

Ms. Cuic says the skills she learned in the course are applicable to everyone in the workplace.

“Although the initiative was established from a women’s leadership development perspective, the principles of the program are universal and build on the strengths of our differences to change the way we understand and engage in leadership. “

Affirmative action, she says, is essential for the inclusion of marginal groups in the industry.

“Initiatives such as leadership training, job surveys and diversity awards are major steps leading to the development of best practices in line with industry standards and company-wide change. industry. “

Ms. Cuic encourages employers to advance the conversation about unconscious bias and fair representation. She hopes we can make neutrality the new normal and strive to change the workplace, one face at a time.

For more information, visit the PNP website.