8 ways to avoid interviewer bias & make better hiring decisions

8 ways to avoid interviewer bias & make better hiring decisions

After doing a lot of research and writing multiple blogs about how unconscious bias affects the hiring process, I came to a painful realization…

What people often tend to forget about is the importance of preventing bias from creeping in during the interview process. The unconscious biases that affect your interview process can leave the most horrible, unerasable negative consequences. Lack of diversity within teams, increased turnover, negative employer brand reputation. And even potential legal consequences of having a biased recruitment process

In this blog, you will find out all about:

  1. Why job interviews can be like first dates
  2. What is interviewer bias
  3. The 5 most common interviewer bias
  4. 8 ways to effectively avoid interviewer bias

The good, the bad and the ugly – why job interviews are like first dates

Job interviews can be just like first dates. You’ve chatted with this person for a while and checked out what they post on social media, so you know some things about them. There are some expectations of what they will be like in person, and when you meet them you form a first impression of this person. In a matter of seconds. And most likely your first impression tends to stick with you for a while. And sadly, in most cases – this initial judgement is heavily influenced by your own unconscious biases.

When it comes to the hiring process, the only difference is that instead of checking out someone’s social media (e.g. LinkedIn), you’ve likely taken a look at their CV and motivational letter. And perhaps had a short exchange of emails with them. So there has already been some room for bias to creep in and to an extent shape your judgement of this person. Whether it be in a good or bad way.

However, that’s not where it ends. In fact, the interview process is where most of our very own unconscious biases tend to cloud our judgement of a candidate.  This is what is referred to as interviewer bias.

What is interviewer bias?

So, what exactly is interviewer bias? Long story short – interviewer bias refers to both the conscious and unconscious judgement of an interviewee. A judgement that is not based on things that actually determine their fit for the job role or their skills. 

It can be either positive or negative. However, it eventually leads to a candidate evaluation that is entirely subjective, thus leading to a final hiring decision that is based on gut feeling.

For example, if someone you’re interviewing shares the same hobbies as you and went to the same university, it’s likely that you will perceive this person as more suitable for the role. Or in contrast, negative bias can make you unconsciously perceive an interviewee as less suitable for a role just because of the way they talk or present themselves. Or perhaps even just because they previously worked for a company that you do not have a good opinion about.

The point I’m trying to make is that neither positive nor negative factors like this should be used as the basis of making hiring decisions. Let me first tell you which are the 5 most common types of interviewer biases!

The 5 most common types of interviewer biases

Interviewer bias can present itself in many different ways. Each is dependent on the person who is conducting the interview, the interviewee, as well as the overall situation in which the interview is taking place. 

However, there are 5 most common types of interviewer biases that you should be aware of before conducting the next interview:

  1. Contrast effect
  2. Similarity/Affinity bias
  3. Halo/Horns effect
  4. Conformity bias
  5. Stereotyping bias

(Read more about 10 types of unconscious hiring bias causing unfair screening)

Here are 8 ways you can avoid interviewer bias

Does it come across as if avoiding interviewer bias is an impossible task? It doesn’t have to be though. By incorporating some of the few techniques and tips outlined below, you are guaranteed to make the right steps towards fighting any bias that might be messing with your interview process.

Tip #1 Collect valuable insights already before the interview

It goes without saying that an interviewer should be prepared and have all the right information about a candidate before an interview. There are multiple ways this can be done. However, the most common way is through resumes and motivational letters. These leave a lot of room for biases, such as contrast effect, similarity/affinity bias, horns/halo effect, conformity, stereotyping and many more bias to creep in

That’s why many recruiters have chosen to use pre-employment tests as means of collecting valuable insights about candidates already even before the interview process. A pre-employment assessment allows you to (i) collect the exact same data for everyone and (ii) let the tool interpret the data for you already. 

Tip #2  Focus on skills rather than experience or education

Experience and education. It’s something most companies still (desperately) rely on when hiring someone because it feels like the safest indicator of hiring success. However, that is not always the case.

Let’s say you believe that people who graduate from a specific university will be very successful employees. If you are interviewing a candidate from that university you’ll most likely ignore the irrelevant things that they say (how they used to never go to class and hated education) and pay attention to the positive things because they will confirm your bias (this is the conformity bias). 

Or for example, if a candidate went to the same university as you, it is likely that you will automatically perceive this one thing as an indication of other aspects of the candidate being positive too (halo effect).

To avoid this, make sure before and during the interview process, you focus on the candidate skills. These include aspects related to one’s character, ability to work with others, communication skills and any other skills, such as emotional intelligence, that are way more indicative of someone’s future job success than education or experience.

Tip #3 Shortlist candidates for an interview

On average, 20 to 40 people apply for a single job. And each job interview lasts between 45 minutes and 1 hour.  When your ultimate goal is to hire someone new for your team, the last thing you would want to happen is accidentally leaving someone awesome out of your shortlist. Or in contrast, include people in the shortlist that are not a fit with what you are looking for.

To ensure that you shortlist candidates for an interview in a bias-free way, try to follow these three steps:

  1. Define the essential and desirable criteria, consider eliminating other factors
  2. Create interview scorecards based on these criteria
  3. Don’t determine the maximum number of candidates for your shortlist

Reading tip: 3-step guide to shortlisting best candidates for an interview

Tip #4 Structure your interview process 

So what do I mean when I say you should structure your interview process? I mean that the interview process should have the same structure for each and every candidate. If the interviews are unstructured, your final decision is more likely to be impacted by personal bias, such as the similarity/affinity, conformity bias and halo/horns effect

Why is it easier to avoid personal bias from creeping in when using a structured approach to interviewing? Well, the answer is quite simple – if there is a standardized list of questions and/or assessment methods that are used to evaluate candidates, it’s also easier to draw comparisons between the candidates you’ve interviewed as there is less room for bias, such as similarity/affinity, conformity bias and halo/horns effect to impact your final hiring decision. (Reading tip: Download Your guide to setting up a structured interview process)

Tip #5 Stick to the scorecards

As part of creating a structured interview process, you will also likely be creating interview scorecards. Using scorecards throughout the interview process will only improve your ability to objectively compare potential candidates with one another.

The more clear the scoring criteria, the more effectively you will be able to reduce the extent of interviewer bias.

Important! Just creating these scorecards won’t do it, if you don’t actually use them in every single interview. That’s why make sure to note down the corresponding score during the interview (while the memories still are fresh in your mind).

Tip #6 Use a diverse interview panel

Once there are more people involved in the interview process, that should mean that there is more bias, right? Actually, that’s not the case. There are a few reasons why having more than one interviewer is actually better:

  • If there is more than one interviewer, the chances of the interview going down a path of asking questions that confirm (conformity bias) their personal bias is reduced. 
  • A diverse interview panel allows observing different aspects of the candidate’s behaviour and skills, as there are multiple interviewers, each being able to perceive a certain aspect of the candidate more vividly than others might.
  • In fact, panel interviews lead to hiring decisions that are made more collectively, meaning that the overall evaluation of the candidate is more thorough and objective.

Tip #7 Ensure an effective remote-interviewing process

Where conducting interviews in-person can already result in a lot of bias & subjective interpretations, this danger becomes even more evident when interviewing remotely. 

Especially when conducted in a remote setting, the sensitivity to the context in which the interview takes place has the potential to heavily influence an interviewers’ opinion of a candidate.

For example, a candidate’s background during the video call might lead to a biased first impression – if their room is messy, you might think of them as less put-together and less professional (horns effect). 

That’s why it is of utmost importance, that if you’re interviewing remotely, that you do it right. Don’t worry – we’ve prepared a blog for you that will help you ensure that you are conducting remote interviews successfully and in a bias-free way.

Tip #8 Don’t trust your gut feeling

Bias is inherently human nature, yet there are a few things you can do to remove the bias when it comes to the interviewing process. 

Perhaps the most important thing to pay attention to if you’re looking to minimize (or completely eliminate) interviewer bias from your hiring process – don’t ever trust your gut feeling. Just because you feel like a specific candidate might be the best fit for a job, does not automatically imply that they will be. 

Here’s how Equalture can help you

At Equalture, we have developed scientifically validated gamified assessments for objective hiring that are based on neuroscience. When it comes to removing interviewer bias from the hiring process, we can help you in three main ways:

Set the right hiring criteria. By letting your teams complete a set of games measuring cognitive abilities, personality and behaviour, you will be able to define your hiring criteria based on team insights instead of basing them on your gut feeling.

Help you gather valuable insights about candidates before the interview process. After candidates complete the gamified assessments, you will receive a candidate profile containing insightful information about their cognitive abilities, personality and behaviour, this way getting the right first impression in a bias-free way.

Provide you with interview guides for the interviews. Based on the results each candidate gets in the games, you will be provided with interview guides that are based on these individual results. Not only will this save you time preparing interview questions yourself, but also allow you to focus on further exploring qualities of candidates that matter.

Are you ready to begin the journey to making your hiring process unbiased? 

Get in touch with us & we’ll gladly tell you more about how to get started!

Cheers, Anete

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