When hiring managers meet a candidate they like and know they’ll get along with, it’s often because they share similar backgrounds or interests.
This is called affinity bias, which can be detrimental to your diversity hiring efforts.
What is affinity bias in the workplace?
Affinity bias means giving favor to candidates with a similar background (e.g., shared interests, college, religion, or social groups like sororities/fraternities).
Here are 5 common affinity bias examples in job descriptions:
1. GPA Bias
In many cases, for new graduates, their basis of getting hired is hitting a grade point average or GPA.
A SHRM article says companies requiring GPA scores above 3.0 in their job ads could lose many Black and Hispanic job seekers. Either they apply and get rejected or wouldn’t consider submitting their resumes if they see this requirement.
The same article cites a report from Georgetown University saying most low-income working students are disproportionally Black and Hispanic. These students spend more time working instead of studying. More hours of studying statistically correlate to a higher GPA, resulting in a socio-economic GPA inequality.
Setting a minimum GPA for early-career candidates creates an employment test that negatively impacts certain applicants. So, GPA requirements are often viewed as discriminatory.
And, some employers adjust the GPA minimum for specific schools. For instance, a 3.2 GPA for a “prestigious university” applicant would suffice, while a 3.4 GPA is required for graduates from less prestigious schools.
Here’s an example of a GPA bias in a job description for a Software Engineer:
The qualifications include a 3.5+ GPA and a steep grade to achieve, especially for engineering/math subjects.
In reality, GPA doesn’t fully measure someone’s abilities. An internship is more meaningful because it applies the knowledge and skills in real-life situations and allows students to learn even more.
2. College “Elitism” Bias
Qualifications and skills that make people good at their jobs are not always tied to the schools they graduate from.
But, some managers have an affinity bias towards applicants from top colleges. Especially if they attended a “top university” too.
Here’s an example of college elitism bias in a Jr. CTY Indexation Trader job posting:
In the example above, the employer requires the applicant to graduate from an engineering school, business school, or Ivy League University. But, the needed skills can be learned from other “less prestigious” schools, a boot camp, or other certification classes.
3. Sorority/Club/Membership Bias
Another one of the top affinity bias examples is when hiring managers choose a candidate because you both belong to the same sorority or membership group.
Sororities and similar groups provide a “sense of belonging” because you have similar values, goals, and aspirations.
It’s very common to gravitate towards people we like. And then hire people we share the same interests with.
But, doing this creates homogenous teams. And you potentially miss out on the benefits of a diverse group (e.g., innovation, creativity, improved decision-making, and performance.)
In this Administrative Officer job description, the educational qualification requires the candidate to be in a Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma XI, or the National Honor Scholastic Societies group. This qualification doesn’t always correlate to their day-to-day duties:
4. Religious Bias
Another type of affinity bias is religious bias. This is when a hiring manager favors an applicant because they share the same faith or religion.
Faith or spirituality are often core to people’s identities. And can influence their values at work.
But, employing someone because of religion limits some well-known benefits of an inclusive organization like higher employee engagement, employee retention, and increased profits.
Here’s an example of religious bias in a Registrar Data Analyst job ad:
The hiring manager requires the candidate to be a Christian. But, providing system and administrative support can be performed by someone with experience, regardless of faith or religious affiliation.
5. Location/Residence Bias
If you’re a recruiter, at some point, you’ve bypassed a qualified candidate because you discovered they lived far away according to their resume.
But, once you speak to a candidate, you might find they’re in the middle of moving closer to a location near your office.
Another scenario could be that the high cost of living in the area discourages a candidate from living in the city but wouldn’t mind traveling for work.
This example of “location bias” says the candidate must live or be near New York, without exceptions. But, there could be applicants from nearby cities (like New Jersey) who are qualified and willing to travel to NYC for work.
Why I wrote this?
Ongig scans your job ads so you can avoid these and other examples of affinity bias — to help you attract diverse talent. Please request a demo to learn more.
- Hiring as Cultural Matching: The Case of Elite Professional Service Firms (by Lauren A. Rivera)
- GPA Minimums May Be Spoiling Your Diversity Goals (by Roy Maurer)