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Unconscious bias ...

... affects us all! Two students tell us about their experience with the course „voice.of.diversity“.


Why did you apply for voice.of.diversity?

Fabian: I applied to voice.of.diversity with the primary goal of assessing my compatibility within the Austrian job market. Recognizing the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion, I sought an opportunity that embraced a debiased approach to recruitment. The ethos of voice.of.diversity aligned seamlessly with my values, and I believed it could provide an environment conducive to evaluating my skills and experiences without the interference of unconscious biases.

Ambika: Being an international student from India and aiming to build my career in Austria, I found the ‘voice.of.diversity’ course to be particularly intriguing. My main goal was to gain a deeper understanding of unconscious biases and equip myself with the knowledge to identify and address them effectively. This course provided a well-rounded approach with both theoretical aspects and a practical preparatory workshop, which was immensely helpful. Moreover, I was keen on learning about the intricacies of the recruitment process in Austria and sought assistance in having my CV reviewed by experienced professionals. However, what truly piqued my interest was the DEBIAS chat tool, designed to anonymize certain aspects of the recruitment process.

Have you ever had to deal with unconscious biases in the application process?

Fabian: While it is challenging to quantify precisely, I have been made aware that my surname, which is perceived as „interesting,“ may have inadvertently introduced unconscious biases into previous application processes. This awareness has prompted me to seek platforms like voice.of.diversity, which actively address and mitigate such biases, ensuring a fair and equitable evaluation of candidates based solely on their qualifications and capabilities.

Ambika: As a woman working in the field of computer science, which has traditionally been dominated by men, I’ve applied for IT positions in the past. Unfortunately, biases often become apparent in how people perceive my technical skills, creative problem-solving abilities, and leadership potential. These biases can lead to specific roles or tasks being assigned to me that may not align with my actual capabilities, ultimately limiting the opportunities. In this context, applicants often find themselves needing to put in extra effort and emphasize their qualifications to overcome these biases when applying for positions. I, for instance, had to go through three rounds of interviews in one of the previous companies. They wanted to be extra sure and extensively test my technical skills. In contrast, my male counterparts seemed to go through a faster and less rigorous recruitment process. Cultural biases also play a significant role in shaping perceptions. For example, some tend to associate traits like docility and unassertiveness with a lack of confidence and weak leadership skills. Women from Southeast Asia, who are often known for their politeness, might be misinterpreted as overly sensitive or lacking resilience. Additionally, biases related to accents can arise, with some mistakenly linking an accent to professional competence, even though it’s not necessarily accurate.

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How were you prepared for your anonymous audition?

Fabian: In preparation for the anonymous audition, I strategically emphasized my career skills and accomplishments on my application, allowing my resume to serve as a comprehensive representation of my professional journey. During the audition, I focused on letting my qualifications and experiences speak for themselves while ensuring that my personality naturally shone through. This approach resulted in enjoyable and meaningful interactions that transcended biases and fostered a genuine connection.

Ambika: Before the anonymous audition, we participated in a full-day workshop. In the workshop, we were introduced to the concept of ‘unconscious biases in recruiting’ during the theoretical session with diversity expert Sabine Caliskan. The most eye-opening part was when she presented us with various pictures and asked if we would like to go out to lunch with the individuals in the photos. These pictures featured people from different ethnic backgrounds and genders. In just 10 seconds of looking at each photo without any context, we found ourselves forming opinions about these individuals. It made me realize how quick and biased I could be in forming judgments based solely on visual appearance. This experience made me more conscious of my own biases. In the second part of the workshop, we had a more hands-on experience. We discussed how to create effective CVs, what aspects to highlight, and how to structure them. We delved into specific discussions about Austrian recruiters and what they typically look for in CVs, and we learned how to refine our own CVs accordingly. For the one-on-one interviews with each company, we had to answer four questions. This prompted me to reflect on my choices, priorities, my past work contributions, and what I take pride in professionally. It helped me gain insight into what companies value and want to know from potential employees.

What was your personal benefit from the Debias Chat?

Fabian: The Debias Chat provided me with a profound personal benefit by highlighting the intricate complexities of individuals involved in the recruitment process—both interviewers and interviewees. It underscored the importance of acknowledging and understanding biases, paving the way for a more informed and equitable assessment.

Ambika: The Debias tool really intrigued me, especially because of my background in human-computer interaction. The concept of having technology to help combat biases was fascinating to me. During the anonymous auditions with the participating companies, the chat tool worked very well for me personally. I tend to get quite anxious in the first few minutes before interviews, however, with the chat option, I didn’t experience this anxiety, and I felt more in control. I noticed that I was much calmer, more focused, and genuinely enthusiastic about the in-person interview compared to my previous experiences.

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Which job interview did you remember and why?

Fabian: The job interviews with the BOC group and Uniqa are particularly memorable due to their interactive and engaging nature. These interviews offered a vivid glimpse into the respective workplace cultures, allowing me to assess not only the job requirements but also the dynamics and values of the organizations.

Ambika: I had a great experience with Uniqa. The recruiters gave me some information about the company’s products and services. During the interview, they showed a lot of interest in my current work as a PhD student and asked me some interesting follow-up questions. One of the strong points of the interview was being able to discuss technical details. Based on our discussion, they told me which department/unit within their company would be the best fit for me. They also mentioned a partner company they collaborate closely with and gave me information on how to find more details about it.

What would you like to see in the future of the job market?

Fabian: My aspiration is to witness a more conscious and deliberate approach in talent scouting. I hope for a shift towards recognizing and valuing diversity in skills, experiences, and backgrounds. Embracing a more inclusive mindset in the recruitment process will not only enhance the quality of talent acquisition but also contribute to the creation of workplaces that celebrate diversity and foster innovation.

Ambika: I envision a future job market that prioritizes fair job opportunities with equitable roles offered to individuals, irrespective of their gender, race, or class. Companies should actively work towards eliminating biases in their hiring processes and promote diversity and inclusion. This entails ensuring that all employees have access to equal opportunities for career advancement. Also, it is essential for companies to support equal pay and pay parity. This involves transparent salary structures and policies that prevent wage gaps. Moreover, I hope to see a more collaborative work environment that fosters teamwork and knowledge sharing. Such an environment should support growth by offering mentorship programs, skill development opportunities, and a continuous learning culture.

You want to learn more about voice.of.diversity?

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