The emergence and reduction of bias in letters of recommendation



Despite the widespread use of letters of recommendation (LORs) in selection systems, research has largely failed to consider the potential emergence of bias in interpretations of LORs. The present study fills this void by examining both race and gender bias in evaluations of LORs and assessing the efficacy of elaboration as a strategy for reducing such bias. Undergraduate students (n = 423) rated four LORs that varied with regard to applicant race and gender. Results suggest that bias does exist in evaluations of LORs, but that requiring raters to expand on their evaluations (i.e., elaborate) reduces this bias. Implications include elaboration as a strategy organizations can implement to reduce bias from emerging when relying on LORs as a selection tool.