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How to Avoid Bias When Hiring Pharmacy Staff

How to Avoid Bias When Hiring Pharmacy Staff

November 5, 2019

Inside: To hire the most effective, diverse pharmacy staff, confront biases you may not even realize you have.

Everyone harbors biases, but they aren’t always recognizable. Most biases are unconscious, which can make hiring and recruiting difficult, especially if you want to cultivate a diverse workplace. Even if you don’t consciously intend to exclude certain people, you may have a gut-level reaction to people with certain educational backgrounds or people with a certain hairstyle that influence the way you treat them.

When biases limit the kinds of people you hire, it limits your pharmacy’s potential.

The good news is that recognizing that you have these unconscious biases is the first step to curbing their influence.

Be Aware of These Biases

Different types of biases manifest in different ways. Here are some common biases to be aware of that may cloud your judgment when you’re hiring a new member of your pharmacy staff.

Confirmation Bias
Another way to describe confirmation bias might be “wishful thinking.” It’s when you want something to be true, so you look for any sort of evidence to justify that it is true. When you’re hiring, you might assume that a candidate has great attention to detail before you’ve even started the interview. So, to justify that assumption, you only ask them questions that will confirm what you already believe.

Halo and Horn Effects
The halo and horn effects are biases that begin with your first impression. The halo effect is when your first impression of an interviewee is positive, so you ignore any negative traits that might surface during the interview. On the other hand, the horn effect is when you ignore anything positive because the interview started on the wrong foot.

Ingroup Bias
When people have a tendency to favor members of a group they are a part of, it’s known as ingroup bias. This can manifest in especially pernicious ways, like racism or sexism, but it can also have smaller scale influences. If you pick one candidate over another because they went to your alma mater, you’re giving in to ingroup bias.

Overconfidence Bias
As a recruiter, you might feel like you know exactly what you are looking for in a candidate. But that’s a textbook case of overconfidence bias. If you go in with this approach, you could get tunnel vision and miss out on a great candidate because they don’t meet your exact qualifications.

Take Bias Out of Your Hiring Process

Because biases can sneak up on you, it’s difficult to know how much it’s affecting your hiring practices. But there are steps you can take to ensure bias doesn’t infiltrate your workplace.

Standardize your interview process
Having a conversational, unstructured interview might be more comfortable and fun for you as an interviewer, but it’s not necessarily the best way to find the right candidate.

In order to eliminate bias, you have to make sure that every job candidate gets the same treatment during the interview process. That means asking all the same questions, even if it feels rote. This way, you won’t feel tempted to give someone a job because you share a love for scuba diving.

Harvard Business Review notes that feel-good “getting to know you” type interviews aren’t as effective as more structured interviews. Not only do they take bias out of the equation, but they serve as better predictors for on the job performance.

Use blind resume reviews
Unfortunately, studies have shown that resumes with “white-sounding” names get more calls for interviews than those with “ethnic-sounding names.” Other information that’s available on a resume—like how old a candidate is, where they went to school, or their gender—can also affect whether they get called to come in for an interview.

To sidestep these biases, many companies are adopting a practice of blind recruitment, which is when personal information is removed from resumes. This way, you can focus solely on an applicant’s professional accomplishments.

Rethink your job descriptions
Your job descriptions may be discouraging excellent and diverse candidates from even applying for an open position.

Certain language can telegraph that you want a particular type of candidate, even if that isn’t true. Gendered language in job descriptions is a particular problem. Some language is coded as “male” and some as “female,” which means you may get an uneven balance of men and women applying to a position.

Words like “decisive,” “confident,” and “independent,” tend to be associated with men, while words like “cooperative,” “affectionate,” and “dependable” are associated with women.

To achieve gender parity in your pharmacy’s workforce, go through your job description’s language with a fine-tooth comb.

Stop worrying about culture fit
Culture fit is a recent hiring buzzword—it’s when you look for candidates that will adapt easily to the company culture and fit in with the pharmacy’s current staff members.

But hiring for culture fit could just be unconscious bias by another name. To decide whether or not someone will jell with your existing culture, you have to use a whole lot of subjective intuition. Plus, worrying about whether they will “fit in” will cause you to look for a candidate similar to your current employees, which means you’ll gravitate to someone with a similar background.

Both of these practices invite bias into your hiring process.

Don’t ask these illegal questions
Personal details like whether a candidate has children or whether they are married might seem innocuous, but they could cause biases to flare up.

To prevent this from happening, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has set standards for interviewing to prevent employment discrimination. If you ask job candidates about certain topics, it could result in a lawsuit or and investigation from the EEOC.

Remember these questions as off-limits to avoid coming under fire for discrimination:


Some questions may be considered discriminatory in some circumstances but not others. This guide can help you navigate your individual circumstances.


An Independently Owned Organization Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The company is a member-owned organization that serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.

PBA Health, an HDA member, operates its own VAWD-certified warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.

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