What are biases?
The brain has limited capacity to assess every new piece of information it encounters. As a result, it has developed quick decision-making mechanisms for people, situations, and objects. These mental shortcuts are vital for survival, but they can also lead to biased opinions when we make hasty judgments without careful evaluation.
Types of interview biases
When conducting interviews, it is important to strive for objectivity, but it is possible for biases to unconsciously influence the process. To prevent this from happening, it is crucial to understand and recognize the various types of biases that can occur. Below are seven common interview biases that you should be aware of and actively work to avoid.
Stereotyping is a tendency to form a fixed and often oversimplified opinion about a certain group of people. It is based on a limited set of characteristics that we believe are typical of that group.
This can be a serious issue during interviews, as the interviewer may draw conclusions about a candidate that are not based on their skills or abilities, but on their initial prejudiced perceptions.
Gender or racial bias refers to the belief that certain genders or races are not suitable for a particular job, held by the interviewer.
It's important for interviewers to remain unbiased in their hiring decisions, not only from an ethical standpoint but also to avoid legal consequences for discrimination based on gender or race.
During an interview, confirmation bias may lead the interviewer to ask questions or make suggestive statements that confirm their preconceived beliefs about the interviewee based on their CV or application.
People tend to pay more attention to information that confirms their beliefs and prefer to interact with like-minded individuals while being unwilling to consider different perspectives.
It is crucial to avoid hiring people solely based on their agreement with their line managers' views, as this practice can impede innovation and growth throughout the company.
Recency bias occurs when interviewers tend to favor applicants who were interviewed more recently.
When you conduct multiple job interviews in a single day, it can be easy for the candidates to blend together, making it difficult for you to remember each one distinctly. As a result, you may fall prey to recency bias, leading you to subconsciously prefer candidates who were interviewed near the end of the day. However, the issue with this bias is that the best person for the job may have been interviewed earlier in the day or even in the middle of the interview process.
Similarity bias, also known as affinity bias, occurs when an interviewer makes hiring decisions based on a candidate's physical attributes or shared interests.
An interviewer may ask the potential employee about their weekend. For instance, the interviewer may ask if they had a good weekend and the interviewee could reply by sharing something like, "I did, thank you. I went for a hike with my dog." If the interviewer also happens to be a fan of hiking and dog owning, then the candidate is likely to be viewed more positively, even before any skills or work-related information has been obtained.
It is said that halo bias occurs when one positive characteristic overshadows all the other traits of an individual. For instance, during an interview, if the interviewer notices that the candidate went to a prestigious university or worked for a reputable brand in the past, they may tend to focus on these positive aspects and overlook any negative traits that the candidate may possess.
Sometimes, interviewers might have a bias that prevents them from seeing a candidate's positive qualities. This is known as the "horn bias". It can happen when a negative characteristic, like a spelling mistake on their CV, overshadows all the good skills and abilities the candidate has. Unfortunately, this means the interviewer might not give the candidate a fair chance to show what they are capable of.
How to avoid bias when interviewing
When conducting interviews, ask each candidate the same relevant questions and accurately document their responses to avoid bias.
It is crucial that interviewers undergo diversity and inclusion training and develop the ability to recognize and eliminate their own unconscious biases. This will ensure that the hiring process is fair to all job candidates and assist hiring managers in identifying any hidden biases they may possess.
It is important to ensure diversity in the group of interviewers when there are multiple interview stages or a group of interviewers is involved. This helps in making a more balanced decision as each interviewer has their own biases. When the group is diverse, the bias is lowered as each member will have different perspectives and opinions.
When greeting an interviewee, limit small talk to avoid similarity bias.
Create a standard rating scale for interviews to ensure fairness in assessment.
If conducting remote interviews, record and replay them in different orders to avoid recency bias (with the candidate's consent).