Unconscious hiring bias: what candidates need to know

by Oct 20, 2021

The prospect of moving on from university and into the workforce can be both exciting and daunting. This time represents a meaningful milestone on the road to your ambitions. Yet, some aspects can prove to be difficult hurdles.

One hurdle still prevalent for many candidates is the presence of hiring biases. While there is some protection enshrined in Australian law against overt discrimination, the unconscious biases employers take into the hiring process can still be a concerning issue.   

The good news is there are concerted efforts to tackle the issues related to unconscious bias. The Victorian Government, in particular, has been trialing methods to help candidates and companies alike avoid biases influencing hiring decisions.

However, until such actions are standardised, it’s important to remain informed about how unconscious bias can impact your application. By taking some time to understand what forms these biases can take you can start to implement practices to minimise the negative potential impact.

We’re going to look at a few of the most prevalent forms of unconscious hiring bias.



One of the most common ways unconscious bias is present in the hiring process is age. When you’re preparing to leave university, this can occur in a couple of forms.

As a younger graduate, there is a tendency for businesses to assume you have a lack of experience — both professional and personal — to contribute to their business, and even that your age means they can pay you less.

If you’re a more mature student leaving university, then there can be issues surrounding assumptions of not being able to provide fresh ideas employers associate with younger applicants, or you may not commit as much time and energy to the company.

While this is certainly not a fair assessment of your value as an employee, there are steps you can take to limit the potential for this to impact your chances of a job.

Your first step is to make your resume age-neutral. There is no need to include your date of birth on your resume, and you can remove the dates of graduation and school attendance. If you’re an older applicant, you don’t need to include your entire work history; just include the most recent and relevant experiences.

The most age-related difficulty you’re likely to face is during the interview — there’s no making your appearance age-neutral. You can help to combat unconscious bias with a little interview preparation.

Practise talking about what you know both about their company and the industry at large — prepare to show them you understand the challenges they face and how to tackle them. Demonstrate that you have a working understanding of the technology they’re using and are cognisant of the direction it’s likely to head in.



There is no denying we as a society put a great deal of emphasis upon appearances. Unfortunately, this extends to hiring practices. There is a prevalent beauty bias informed by the conventional belief that those who are considered to be traditionally attractive have an easier time finding success throughout their lives.

This may impact your job prospects through unconscious forms of discrimination, the most obvious being those who meet certain beauty standards may be more likely to gain positions.

On the other hand, it is not unusual for employers to make negative intellectual or privilege assumptions about those who seem “pretty”. Appearance is a minefield of bias.

Overcoming this type of unconscious bias again begins with your application. Don’t include a picture of yourself on your resume. Many employers now consider this to be a negative approach to an application and it certainly isn’t relevant to your value as a candidate. If you’re applying through online platforms it can also be wise to forgo including an image on your profile.

One sensible way to overcome beauty biases is taking opportunities to draw attention to aspects of your value other than your appearance. During interviews, make sure you are fully engaged in the conversations; try to make them into more of an active and enjoyable discussion than a simple question-and-answer session.

When answering competency-based questions, actually talk through your thought process to show the intelligent consideration you’ve applied. Remember, image is rarely the only reason you may or may not be getting hired, so lean into serving the other elements under consideration.



One of the lesser-considered unconscious biases is that of status — particularly of the socioeconomic variety. To some employers, a university education from a less expensive school may be considered lower quality or suggest negative points about your background.

Even something as simple as wearing an engagement ring can be saddled with various outdated myths like the idea that 3 months’ salary will have been spent on it or a custom design was expensive. Indeed, some women have taken to removing their rings before an interview to avoid sexist assumptions about being high-maintenance.

Often part of the solution here is about considering what the assumptions of status are in advance of an interview and preparing examples to show you are more than your perceived status.

This doesn’t mean get immediately defensive — after all, this suggests assumptions of your own. Rather, draw focus toward what makes you an individual rather than a stereotype. You can also make your status part of the conversation, talking about how your experiences and challenges have provided you with insights, skills, and perspectives that are valuable in the role.


It is a sad fact of the world we live in that people are swayed by their unconscious biases. While this is common in the job application process, this doesn’t mean you are entirely powerless to respond.

By understanding what types of bias may apply to you, you can prepare measures designed to focus on your value as a potential employee. It shouldn’t be your responsibility to counter potential employers’ biases, but until neutrality becomes standard in interviews it can be worth taking preventative measures. 


Featured image courtesy of Pexels

Charlie Fletcher

Charlie Fletcher

Freelance Writer

Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. You can follow her work at charliefletcher.contently.com