How to Fix Hiring Bias in Pharmacy

Hiring the best candidate isn't easy, but it's one of the most important aspects of running a successful pharmacy.

Imagine that a pharmacy offering infusion services is looking to hire a pharmacist to fill a vacant position.

The first candidate is a male in his 50s with 10 years of intravous infusion experience. The second candidate is a female with no infusion experience who shares the same cultural background and alma mater as the female hiring manager.

The female candidate is hired. Six weeks later, she decides to go back to retail and the hiring cycle begins again, leaving the current staff frustrated with the extra workload.

This may not happen as often as it used to, but hiring bias still persists in companies of all sizes, including pharmacies. Unfortunately, it is instinctive to show preference for new hires who share similarities with us in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and alma mater while rejecting those with characteristics that differ from ours.

When we see our personal qualities mirrored in an individual—in this case, a job candidate—we tend to like that person. The problem is that if you keep hiring employees who are just like you, you’ll soon have an organization of those who think and act similarly, according to Madan Pillutla, who researches trust and fairness in interpersonal interactions at the London Business School.

Hiring managers may also be wary of anyone perceived as a threat to their status in the organization. They may feel reluctant to bring on someone who is more competent than them, especially if they feel less confident in their role. It is difficult to act against your own self-interest by hiring someone who could outdo your skillset.

A hiring manager may make decisions based on superficial characteristics such as physical attractiveness, rather than important ones such as skills relevant to the position. Managers who are not aware of the influence of their bias in the hiring process risk wasting resources on training, low productivity, decreased morale, and loss of current pharmacy staff. They may also see the need to terminate the new hire at the end of the initial probation period.

Here’s how can hiring managers make sure that relevant skills, rather than personal characteristics, determine who gets the job.

1. Put diversity training into action.

The first step is to sit at a computer and complete the required diversity training module that your employer presents to you. It is a leap to engage management and staff in a dialogue about diversity in the workplace and how bias (both conscious and unconscious) affects the hiring practices within your company.

Having these open conversations can help everyone become more conscious about their decisions and lead to actual changes.

2. Stick to a specific hiring process.

The best way to prevent hiring bias is to prevent preconceptions from influencing hiring decisions in the first place.

In a perfect workplace, a hiring manager would evaluate job candidates based exclusively on their professional qualifications. In reality, many other factors come into play.

Often, hiring biases are developed through our own personal and professional experiences, and yet we aren’t always aware that they are influencing our hiring decisions.

Before reviewing a candidate’s qualifications, identify the key competencies necessary for the position. Outline the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for the job.

By doing so, the power of biases is reduced and applicants can be measured using specific impartial criteria. Likewise, stick to a structured, standardized interview process in which the same questions are asked of all candidates.

3. Be accountable for hiring decisions.

Everyone involved in the hiring process needs to be held accountable for their hiring decisions and be able to explain his or her top choice from the candidate pool.

Human resources and corporate personnel need to be aware of the hiring patterns of their managers because the company may be at risk of ignoring the best candidates if bias exisst. Biased decisions can also be costly and pose undesirable legal consequences for the company.

4. Engage current pharmacy staff in the hiring process.

Ironically, the hiring manager often spends the least amount of time with the new hire once he or she is on the job. Getting current staff involved in the hiring process may sound unconventional and time consuming, but such a collective approach can help identify existing biases among the group.

Engage staff pharmacists to confidentially review applications or be part of the interview process. Have the top candidates return for a second interview where they can interact with the staff and observe day-to-day operations. The staff can give feedback to the hiring manager and offer an impartial and balanced perspective of the candidate.

Hiring the best candidate isn’t easy, but it’s one of the most important aspects of running a successful pharmacy. Recognizing and fixing bias in the hiring process can only improve retention rates and strengthen diversity in the workplace.