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When you are looking to add to your network, you want to ensure you connect with the people who can assist and add to your influence. Sometimes, though, unconscious bias may be there and skew your decision. Whether you prefer one person or company over another because they share your political views, your social beliefs, or you allow gender stereotypes to steer your decision. It’s essential to recognize that bias can impact your hiring decision.

If you and your company are committed to diversity and inclusion, there are some ways you can work to eliminate bias from your networking process.

You should cast a wider net when looking for people to meet. Sometimes you can skew the candidate pool without even knowing it. If you look for people on the same websites, social media sites or networking events, you are not doing much in terms of diversity. Instead, look for places you will meet people from a broader range of sources. You will be surprised at the number of strong candidates you get simply by looking in new places.

You should take another look at who you want to connect with. Removing bias starts long before you reach out to others. Look at the screening process of who you look to connect with. For example, studies show that women often do not connect if they do not believe they are perfect fit, yet men will reach out if they feel any sense of connection. Try to avoid creating criteria, as this may keep valuable relationships from forming.

You should never use shortcuts. In the current economy, many leaders are inundated with connection requests. Many leaders use artificial intelligence to determine who to connect with. Yet this practice can do more harm than because biases can emerge when not truly getting to know one another. To create authentic relationships, get to know other people

You should look to learn the skills of others. When you want to avoid unconscious bias in your networking process, use objective assessments to get a feel for how potential connections would handle real-world challenges and issue. See how people respond to common objections to your values. This gives your insight into how people would deal with the day-to-day aspects of their purpose.

You should learn how to have an unbiased first meeting. If you typically just roll with networking events, you could be unknowingly inviting bias into the process. That is because research shows that people naturally set a casual tone for those, they feel are part of their in-group. To avoid this, try creating a list of relevant questions in. And make sure you casually add these questions to the conversation.

Without even knowing it, you may be shutting out some amazing people due to snap judgments and unconscious bias. You can work to identify and remove potential biases by widening your net when searching for people to connect with, reviewing your criteria, removing shortcuts, and testing people’s skills and talents. By becoming aware of your potential bias in networking, you can work toward developing a more diverse network. And thrive.

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