The interview process is the part of hiring that is the most susceptible to bias. Our brains naturally seek out patterns and default to stereotyping because it makes us feel safe and comfortable. Unfortunately, a high-stakes conversation with a stranger – like a job interview – is the perfect opportunity for these bias-prone mechanisms of our brains to creep in.
Luckily, there are concrete ways to counteract these natural tendencies. But not only do we have to control these tendencies in ourselves, but we also have to think about the other side of the table: the candidate and how to make an interview inclusive for them.
Dive into these seven actionable tips that will help you create an unbiased and inclusive interview process.
7 tips for an inclusive and unbiased interview process
#1 Structure your interviews
Honestly, we could end this article right here as this is the most essential tip for conducting unbiased and inclusive interviews.
A structured interview process leads to consistency between interviews, allowing you to better compare candidates. It also creates clarity for all interviewers on what you are evaluating candidates on. If you’re not aligned on what you’re looking for in a candidate, bias will run wild in your hiring team.
Creating structured interviews starts at the very beginning of your hiring process when you create a job brief. A job brief contains a list of the traits, skills and experience that will make a candidate successful in the role you’re hiring for. Per trait and skill, choose a number of questions that will help you find out whether a candidate possesses those traits and skills. Then try your best to ask every candidate these same questions.
There can of course be some flexibility in this, as you’ll want to ask relevant follow-up questions, but your interviews should all follow more or less the same blueprint, allowing you to more easily compare candidates and evaluate their skills and traits.
#2 Use scorecards
When it comes to evaluating skills and traits in your candidates during an interview, using scorecards can be a huge help to avoid unconscious bias.
A scorecard can be a simple list of the traits and skills you’ve chosen most important for the role and a rating from 1-5 for each one. It should also include a space for comments where interviewers can (and should) back up their rating with a description of something they observed during the interview.
If you or your team are unable to conclusively back up a feeling, you can add: ‘No signal’. This means that you can’t judge a certain skill or trait of a candidate and you’ll need more information.
A scorecard gives your team the structure for judgments to be shared (and most importantly) substantiated. If someone on your hiring team can’t back up a judgment with something the candidate did or said, then it shouldn’t count or even be shared at all.
#3 Evaluate candidates as a team in an ATS
Having your team record their thoughts and opinions in an ATS before sharing them with each other is a great way to avoid unconscious bias.
In a simple and easy-to-use ATS like Homerun (designed especially for small businesses), each interviewer can leave a star rating that can’t be viewed by others in the hiring team. The star rating gets averaged out allowing the hiring manager to easily compare how well candidates have done in their interviews.
When choosing an ATS, it’s important that your entire hiring team can use it intuitively. Some ATSs are packed with complex features and are only meant to be used by pro-recruiters or extra-large corporations. So be sure to assess which ATS is right for your hiring needs, budget and company size.
#4 Do your best to put candidates at ease
This is where inclusivity comes into the picture. Inclusive interviewing is all about making candidates feel welcome and comfortable so that they can be their full, authentic selves.
Here are 3 ways you can put candidates at ease:
- One way to do this is to prepare candidates well for the interview. For example by explaining what they can expect during the interview, e.g. how many interviewees will be there, what topics are likely to come up in terms of questions and so on.
- Another way is by offering accommodations for candidates who are neurodivergent and/or have physical disabilities. You can do this by asking ahead of the interview if there are any accommodations they might need. For example, someone may need details on how wheelchair accessible your building is, someone who is hard of hearing may need you to have good lighting in a video call so they can lip read, someone who is autistic may need to be interviewed in a quiet space to avoid sensory overload — the list goes on. The point is, you can’t predict what someone might need but you can ask and accommodate accordingly, which goes a long way in making your candidate feel comfortable and welcome.
- Lastly, plan enough time for troubleshooting (especially for remote interviews). Technical difficulties happen! Both you and the candidate should have the time to make sure you can hear and see each other so that these common issues won’t mess with the flow of an online job interview too much.
#5 Avoid small talk
While small talk can help to put a candidate at ease it’s also a breeding ground for unconscious biases (e.g. affinity bias, halo & horns effect, etc.).
A recent study shows that when men interview men, sports are brought up 63% more than when men interview women. This may seem harmless, but it’s an example of a lack of consistency between interviews which makes it really hard to compare candidates objectively. It should not be underestimated how much this can affect how candidates are perceived and evaluated by interviewers.
By avoiding this kind of talk and sticking to structured interviews you’ll go a long way in avoiding bias. So skip the sports, hobby or vacation talk. The weather might be a safe one if you must.
#6 Evaluate candidates in more contexts than just the interview
The interview shouldn’t be the only context within which you evaluate candidates. Expanding how you evaluate candidates helps you avoid first-impression bias that can impact your judgment. You want to make sure you’re giving candidates the chance to give you a second or third impression, resulting in an overall more authentic impression of them.
A short assignment or a pre-employment assessment completed by candidates prior to the interview is a great way to get a fuller, more complete impression of your candidates. Assessments can be biased too, however! So be sure to choose assessments that measure actual predictors of job performance like cognitive abilities and behaviours. Equalture provides game-based assessments that do just that.
#7 Set up a diverse interview panel
A diverse interview panel involves individuals of different identities, backgrounds and opinions. Such a panel can differ in many aspects — like race, gender, sexual orientation, skills and experience.
A diverse panel does two things: 1) it helps to put the candidate at ease if they can relate to someone in your interview panel and see that there’s room for people with a variety of different backgrounds in your team and 2) it allows for different perspectives and a more well-rounded evaluation. Someone with a different background than you may catch something you overlooked in an interview.
Long story short
If you take anything away from this article, let it be that structure is the key to an unbiased and inclusive interview process. This is true not just to your interviews but your entire hiring process. After all, bias can creep in at multiple moments throughout the hiring process.
Hiring software like Homerun can help bring this structure your team needs to make fairer and smarter hiring decisions. It allows you to organize your hiring, communicate with talent and review candidates as a team – bringing your hiring process together in one clear overview.