Identify and Eliminate Interview Bias

As an executive recruiter, we are very aware of interview bias. All companies rely upon the job interview to evaluate and predict the performance of a candidate who will ultimately be offered the job. Most interviewers prepare a list of questions and make their hiring decision based upon job related criteria equally applied to each candidate. However, recruitment decisions are made by human beings and are therefore vulnerable to subjectivity, bias and other unintentional influence.

When we become aware of how the subjective factors can influence us, we can take steps to counteract or eliminate them and focus on objective job related criteria. The following are some common biases that can be eliminated:

1. Stereotyping: The interviewer can be influenced and form a generalized opinion by quick and superficial evaluations including level of attractiveness, race and gender.

2. Inconsistent Questioning: Unless the interview is structured, the interviewer may ask different questions to different candidates based upon their generalized opinion.

3. First Impression Negative or Positive: The interviewer may make certain judgments based upon either a positive or negative first impression that can then influence the entire interview. For example, the interviewer may assume a graduate of a certain university has a high level of knowledge, skills or abilities or may give more weight to negative first impressions from something like improper attire.

4. Politically Correct Responses: The interviewer should be aware that they may rank a candidate higher if that candidate responds with political correctness. For example, if candidates are asked how they feel about accepting a position with less managerial authority, the candidates who responds with a politically correct response such as “I am fine with that” may be perceived as a better candidate than the candidate who responds truthfully but politically incorrect such as “This will be an adjustment for me.”

5. You Are Just like Me: The interviewer may feel a bond with a candidate who shares something in common like a hobby or children of a similar age.

6. Comparing/Contrasting Candidates: The interviewer may subjectively rank the candidates by comparing and contrasting them rather than ranking them against objective job related criteria. If the interviewer ranks each candidate relative to the other candidates who also interviewed that same day, a candidate may appear more qualified if their interview is at the end of a day filled with weak interviews and may appear less qualified if their interview is at the end of a day filled with strong interviews.

Candidates are likely to be influenced by subjective factors upon which they may form opinions about their interviewer or the company rather than making a decision based upon objective job related criteria. In addition to the foregoing list, candidates may have intuitive beliefs and not set an interview right before lunch because of the belief the interviewer may be hungry and impatient, not set an interview at the end of the day because the interviewer may be tired and may believe that whether they come before or after a particularly strong or a particularly weak candidate matters. Again, once we are aware that subjective factors are influencing us, we can refocus from subjective to objective decision criteria.

The candidate or the interviewer who has a sense there is a possible bias can embrace their differences and incorporate it into the interview as a strength that will be a value. For example, an older interviewer can effectively communicate embracing technology and best practices to stay ahead of the market to overcome any potential bias based upon age.

It is absolutely necessary that the candidate and the interviewer each take the time to be adequately prepared for the interview. Preparation will improve the interview process and help both sides of the table to make better decisions. After all, it is important that both sides of the table make the right decision.

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