The hiring process is a crucial first step in building a diverse and inclusive workplace. Without awareness or proper training in place, bias will inevitably leak into this process and unintentionally filter out women and other minorities -- derailing a company's efforts to create a welcoming culture. 

I recently spoke with Whitney Bennett, VP of talent and culture at CallRail, who shared some tips on how companies can work toward eliminating bias in hiring. With nearly a decade of HR experience, Whitney built CallRail's HR department from the ground up, giving her unique insight into how HR processes work at a rapidly growing tech company. 

In Whitney's experience, bias most often occurs during the screening stage when a candidates' appearance or first impression can influence the rest of their interview.

5 hiring strategies for eliminating bias

It's important to note that it doesn't strictly fall on the HR department to create a diverse and inclusive culture. Ultimately, culture is something that needs multi-level buy-in just as much as the product or service a company is selling.

Whitney offers five key strategies for HR leaders to implement in an effort to create a fair hiring process.

1. Provide talent managers with annual unconscious bias training.

Regular unconscious bias training is the best way to ensure talent managers know the types of bias likely to occur at different stages in the hiring process and address discrimination during the screening stage specifically. This is where bias will most likely occur based on a candidate's appearance, name or address.

Along with educating talent managers and interviewers on where bias is likely to show up, annual unconscious bias training will increase self-awareness of their own biases and how to recognize when these biases affect their judgment of potential hires.

2. Have a diverse interview panel in the room.

When a candidate comes onsite for a job interview, it's essential that the interview panel is comprised of people in the organization with different voices and backgrounds. Each person's unique personal and professional experience will influence how they view whether a candidate is the best fit for the job, and ultimately, a cultural fit for the organization. These diverse perspectives will help the candidate receive fair treatment by preventing one person or group's opinions and biases from dominating the hiring decision.

3. Shoot for diversity goals.

Goals provide a tangible way for HR and company leaders to create a more diverse and inclusive organization. Keeping these goals top-of-mind throughout the hiring process will help HR leaders better understand where gaps are in the company, both in terms of diversity and the job roles themselves.

Take, for example, Facebook's goal of raising the number of women and minorities in its workforce from 43% to 50% over the next five years. This is a great example of having a goal in mind to strive toward. 

4. Strive for your C-suite to reflect the diversity of employees.

A company that is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive culture will reflect this from top to bottom, including ensuring that senior leaders are more representative of all employees (and potential hires). Even if a company says it values diversity, it'll be hard for employees to take that seriously if all executives look the same.

5. Audit your pay scales.

Eliminating bias in hiring extends all the way through the official offer -- this is where conducting a pay scale audit comes in. Companies should perform these audits to make certain there aren't any disparities in employee pay because of gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion or sexuality. As a company becomes more diverse, it becomes increasingly important for your HR leaders to regularly conduct pay scale audits as a measure of preventing discrimination in the workplace.