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The purpose of looking at resumes and interviewing job candidates is to assess their skills and abilities, their competence at doing a particular job. Another purpose is to assess their soft skills and fit with the company.

But hiring managers are human, and sometimes they form opinions about job candidates based on impressions and prejudices, almost always at a subconscious level — the hiring managers are not even aware they are doing this. But human beings make judgments about others very quickly, a practice formed by evolutionary adaptation. It goes back to prehistoric times when humans were hunter-gatherers, living in tribal communities. When someone encountered a person from another tribe, that person had to decide quickly whether the stranger was friend or foe because his life may have depended on it.

One of the ways our prejudice manifests itself is making judgments about others based on their speech patterns. Even after exchanging just a few words, our perceptions of a person are colored by the person’s speech patterns. And this includes our judgment about the person’s ability to do a certain job.

Most hiring managers would never admit that socioeconomic class plays a role in their decision making. But in reality, a recent study has shown that hiring managers are making assumptions about a job candidate’s social class after just a few moments talking with the person.

And these assessments do influence hiring decisions, tending to work against those assumed to be from a lower social class, as you might expect. Some managers have become aware of this, describing how they excluded those deemed to be from lower social classes out of concern that they would not be a good fit at a company, rather than looking at the person’s skills and abilities.

What to do About It

To counteract this bias, the first step is to become aware of it. You need to understand that we subconsciously assign higher socioeconomic class to people who speak what is known as Standard English, what you would hear from Siri, for example. Pronunciation of words is often enough to fix a person in a certain social class.

But in the United States pronunciation can vary a great deal. Some 24 different dialects have been identified in the country, based on geography. But where a person has grown up does not correlate at all with that person’s ability. When evaluating candidates, do all you can to screen out or ignore a person’s background and focus on their skills.

If your company is looking for the best job candidates, contact Winston Resources. We do our best to find the right person for the job, so your business gets the people who can really add to the bottom line. Give us a call today. 


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