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Unconscious Bias in Nonprofit Hiring: Strategies for a Fairer Recruitment Process

In the nonprofit sector, where organizations strive to create positive social change, it is crucial to ensure that the hiring process is fair, inclusive, and free from unconscious bias. Unconscious bias refers to the automatic and unintentional biases that influence our decisions and actions, often based on stereotypes or preconceived notions. Addressing unconscious bias in the hiring process is essential to building diverse and effective teams that can better serve the communities they aim to support. In this blog, we will explore the impact of unconscious bias on nonprofit hiring and provide tangible strategies to mitigate its effects.

Unconscious bias can manifest in various ways during the hiring process. For example, hiring managers or recruiters may unknowingly favour candidates who share similar backgrounds or experiences, leading to a lack of diversity within the organization. Additionally, biases can influence the evaluation of resumes, interviews, and overall candidate assessments, potentially excluding highly qualified individuals from underrepresented groups.


1. Educate and Raise Awareness
Start by educating yourself and your team about unconscious bias. Understand the different types of biases that can affect decision-making, such as affinity bias, halo effect, and confirmation bias. Affinity bias often shows up in the hiring process, as we search for candidates that are a good “fit” for the culture of the organization. For example, a hiring manager may gravitate towards a candidate because they went to the same school. By raising awareness, you can begin to recognize and challenge these biases in your own thinking and actions.

2. Implement Structured Hiring Processes
Develop structured interview questions and evaluation criteria that are directly related to the job requirements. This helps ensure that all candidates are assessed fairly and consistently, reducing the influence of unconscious bias. Use standardized scoring systems to evaluate candidates objectively, focusing on their skills, qualifications, and potential contributions to the organization.

3. Diversify the Hiring Team
Include individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives in the hiring process. Multiple perspectives can help identify and challenge biases, leading to more inclusive decision-making. Encourage team members to share their perspectives openly and challenge any biases they may observe.

4. Blind Resume Screening
Consider implementing blind resume screening, where personal information such as names, gender, and age are removed from resumes before they are reviewed. This approach helps to focus solely on the qualifications and experience of candidates, reducing the potential for bias based on demographic factors.

5. Provide Implicit Bias Training
Offer training sessions on implicit bias to all staff involved in the hiring process. These sessions can help individuals recognize their own biases and provide strategies to mitigate their impact. Encourage ongoing learning and reflection to ensure continuous improvement.

6. Engage in Outreach and Networking
Proactively seek out diverse candidates by expanding your recruitment efforts. Engage with organizations and networks that focus on supporting underrepresented groups. Attend events and conferences that promote diversity and inclusion in the nonprofit sector. By actively seeking out diverse talent, you increase the chances of building a more inclusive team.

Addressing unconscious bias in nonprofit hiring is an ongoing process that requires commitment and effort. By implementing these strategies, organizations can create a more equitable and inclusive recruitment process, leading to diverse teams that bring a wide range of perspectives and experiences. Embracing diversity in the nonprofit sector not only aligns with the values of social justice and equality but also enhances organizational effectiveness and impact. Together, we can build a sector that truly reflects the communities we serve.

Michelle Okere, CFRE, is Principal of Okere & Associates and a Search Advisor at crawfordconnect. You may reach her at michelle@okereandassociates.com.