Cognitive Biases in the Hiring Process

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Cognitive Biases in the Hiring Process
James A. Butler

University of Maryland University College

Cognitive Biases in the Hiring Process

When hiring for open positions within a company, an employer may want to investigate an applicant’s past history through a process known as a pre-employment background check. This check or process is used to screen applicants to find quality employees. Employers want to know who they are working with before hiring a potential applicant. The background check will verify the credibility of the applicants resume’ and to evaluate if the applicant will be a potential threat to the company. The practice of obtaining a proper background check is oppressed with difficulties that vary from state to state and even county to county. The most definitive background check is accurate, comprehensive, consistent, timely and of course legal. The background check must abide by all laws and regulations to ensure the hiring process is fair and unbiased. This includes hiring based on criminal record, gender, race, age, national origin, disability, credit scoring, and by search of social media. All hiring processes should be within accordance to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin.

Employers conduct background checks because they want to reduce the chances of hiring undesirable employees. Some applicants feel intimidated when employers announce that a pre-employment screening will be conducted. Applicants may feel that they have something in their background that will potentially be counted against them. Background checks discourage applicants who also have something to hide. Employers are mandated to conduct background checks thoroughly. If background checks are not performed by the employer before hiring an employee, the employer may be partly responsible in case that employee later take part in any criminal actions towards co-workers, consumers, or others. “And with our country’s War Against Terrorism, certain employers are under even more pressure to obtain and use criminal history check (Howie & Shapero, 2002).” A resourceful employment application offers information about an applicant and the applicant's employment history. The application not only gains information as to the applicant's qualifications, it can also uncover gaps in employment and uncertain short-term job positions that may have been the consequence of a termination for cause. However, an employer must be mindful that there are inquiries into an applicant's private life that are not permitted under state and federal law. “For example, although it is not unlawful for employers to obtain information on an applicant's criminal background, under federal and most state laws it is unlawful to inquire about an applicant's arrest record. In the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) compliance manual, it advises that using arrest or conviction records as an absolute bar to employment disproportionately excludes certain racial groups (Rosen, 2012).” There are some biases that affect the pre-employment screening process in the workplace. One such bias is the unfair practices of criminal background checking employers use in determining eligibility for employment. On most jobs, criminal background checks are necessary especially in cases in jobs such as nurses, childcare, police, teachers, and others. Employers have the right to select the most qualified applicant for a job. On the other hand, the employers do not have the right to discriminate based on race, sex, disability, national origin, religion, and age. Some employers have a problem with hiring an applicant that has a criminal background. They would like to hire trustworthy and dependable applicants but past convictions are not always a determinate of an applicant’s performance or behavior. Criminal record checks are applied to verify if the applicant has any...
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