By: Rebecca Deering

While companies are making strides to diversify their workforces and focus on these efforts internally, there are new challenges being brought to the forefront, much because of social media, such as LinkedIn. This begins when a recruiter or hiring manager reviews potential candidates for an open position, and unconscious bias may influence decisions using criteria completely irrelevant to the job.

I spoke with Simon Evans, President @Orchard, LLC to understand a recruiter’s point of view into LinkedIn and unconscious bias.

Simon Evans has worked in the talent space for many years and has owned a recruitment firm for over a decade. With this tenure, he has experience with and without social media, including a time when candidates put pictures on their resumes. Of course, explicit discrimination was an issue, but unconscious bias may not have been acknowledged or even recognized.

Simon became a LinkedIn member in the early 2000’s, and soon after, it gained traction quickly. LinkedIn began as a professional networking tool. It focused on sharing professional backgrounds, job opportunities and fostering business centric conversations. However, present day, it can be difficult to distinguish from other social media platforms with individual’s profiles similar to Facebook and Twitter, said Evans.

As LinkedIn use continues, whether we realize it or not, unconscious bias has become a vast issue. Every human being holds biases as our cultural and individual experiences shape who we are and how we view the world we live. This could be something as small as someone in their profile picture looking unkempt, to something much larger, such as their race, gender, or religion.

These biases may start with the recruiter not contacting a pool of candidates that have the job qualifications but have other ‘non-preferred’ features. This could spread outside of a candidate’s picture and the way they look, to avoiding ethnic-sounding names or a specific college or hometown. Evans notes many recruiters may be subtle about it – if they are uncomfortable with the way someone looks, they may find a different reason not to move forward with their candidacy, such as a small detail in their background. Some candidates may not update their LinkedIn picture, because they worry about age discrimination. Evans has personally contacted candidates, strongly encouraging them to take an incriminating or unflattering picture down from a social media site.

This assumes that even a professional social media platform can be a large disadvantage to a candidate from the beginning of the application process and getting an interview, to even getting the offer they deserve.

Several companies are attempting a blind application process, where all obvious candidate identifiers are stripped out from the applicant tracking system, and the employer strictly sees only their relevant qualifications. Evans stated, we are beginning to see this practice on the west coast and it is possible it will be utilized by more companies as recognition of these biases are more widely acknowledged. This may be the way of the future and the only way to eliminate unconscious bias in the hiring process.


About the Author

Rebecca Deering leads the talent function at Taiho Oncology, Inc., based in Princeton, NJ. She has extensive experience in talent acquisition and talent management working in the pharmaceutical and retail industries. Rebecca holds a BA from James Madison University and MBA from Temple University, with a concentration in Human Resources. Rebecca is also a member of Philly SHRM’s Thought Leadership Team.’s Disclaimer: The content and opinions expressed in the article above are my own, and don’t necessarily reflect those of my employer.


Volunteer Editor For This Article: Dennis Paris