What is confirmation bias?
Confirmation bias is our tendency to focus on and look for evidence that confirms our existing beliefs of a candidate, rather than information that refutes this belief. These existing beliefs can be framed either by, for example, the halo or horns effect. To learn more about confirmation bias in hiring, we spoke with Organizational Psychologist Mari Järvinen.
When asked to define confirmation bias, she explained that it happens when people make a quick first impression and then look for information that confirms their impression, while ignoring other facts or contradictory evidence.
P.S. You can listen to the full podcast episode with Mari below!
Where in the recruitment process is confirmation bias the most prominent?
Mari pointed out that the hiring process is particularly vulnerable to confirmation bias from the start. She mentioned that even looking at a candidate’s CV can set confirmation bias -amongst any other biases – in motion.
Examples of confirmation bias in hiring
- For example, if a hiring manager sees that a candidate went to a prestigious school or worked for a well-known company, they might overlook other important factors, such as their fit for the job.
- For example, a hiring manager might feel a connection with a candidate who went to the same university or has the same interests and then subconsciously ask questions that confirm their impression during the interview.
- For example, an interviewer may assume that a female candidate is less competent than a male candidate and then look for evidence to support that assumption, even if it’s not actually there.
- For example, if an interviewer thinks that a candidate is nervous during the interview, they may focus on that impression and overlook other evidence that shows the candidate is actually highly qualified for the position.
What are the implications of confirmation bias when it’s triggered?
Confirmation bias can have several implications, especially when it’s triggered in the hiring process. Here are some of the implications:
- Reduced diversity: Confirmation bias can lead to a lack of diversity in the workplace. Hiring managers may unconsciously seek out candidates who fit their own background or beliefs, leading to a homogeneous workforce. This lack of diversity can lead to groupthink and a narrow perspective, limiting creativity and innovation in the workplace.
- Missing out on talent: Confirmation bias can cause hiring managers to overlook qualified candidates who do not fit their preconceived notions. This can result in missed opportunities to hire highly skilled and talented individuals who may bring new perspectives and ideas to the company.
- Increased turnover: When confirmation bias is triggered, hiring managers may make poor hiring decisions that result in high turnover rates. If a candidate is hired based on their perceived fit rather than their actual qualifications and abilities, they may not be a good fit for the role or add to the company culture, leading to a short tenure.
How can you minimize the impact of confirmation bias?
- Structured interview process. Mari notes that the more structured and objective the interview process, the less likely it is for confirmation bias to influence the decision-making.
- Focus on multiple factors. Use multiple tools and methods to evaluate candidates, including psychometric tests to gain more objective insights into the actual abilities of candidates.
- Introducing assessments early on in the process. Introducing assessments earlier in the hiring process could help reduce the impact of confirmation bias. However, introducing assessments alone is not enough, and that it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the roles being hired for and the criteria for evaluating candidates. As Mari says “this takes time and effort, but is essential for finding the best person for the job”.