Avoiding Interviewer Bias

March 2018 | Article

By Christina Ranasinghe

In order to hire the best possible talent, organizations must strive to have a fair and inclusive hiring process. One key element of the hiring process is the interview. Interviews allow the hiring team to meet, connect with and evaluate candidates. Creating a fair interview process can be more difficult than most organizations realize.

We all have implicit biases (whether they are slight or strong) that affect the way we view and interact with the world. Due to these biases, organizations should actively work to create an interview process that helps to counter and remove the impact of potential interviewer biases.

The first step in addressing interviewer bias is understanding its most common forms. Below are four common biases that can affect interviewers:

  • Confirmation bias – an interviewer’s tendency to look for information supporting a pre-conceived notion about the candidate
  • Affective heuristic – decisions are affected by quickly evaluated and superficial items such as race, age, weight, gender, etc., which are not relevant to the position
  • Expectation anchoring – one initial piece of information builds an expectation of the candidate without consideration of other factors – for example, a candidate with a high expectation anchor is determined to be suitable (often based on an arbitrary measure) so all following candidates have a lower expectation anchor and are thus viewed less favorably
  • Intuition – since interviewers often cannot gather enough information to objectively test every area of fit or job qualifications, they may focus on their intuition which is not reliable because it’s more susceptible to bias and affected by emotion, memory, etc.

Once common biases are identified and understood, an organization can put into place a variety of simple process improvements to help minimize the impact of these biases. Reviewing your current process and making pointed updates will also help demonstrate to hiring managers and interviewers that your organization is committed to fair hiring practices. Some process improvements to help counter bias include:

  • Understand your needsDetermine the key requirements for the position and create a rubric. This helps interviewers avoid placing emphasis on one area and helps balance all the key areas to review.
  • Create Standardized processes
    Create standard questions for a position and utilize a similar interview process if possible (all in-person interviews versus some candidates interviewing via phone, etc.) to create an equal experience.
  • Time is key
    Ensure there is enough time for interviewers to review interview materials (standard question guides, resumes, etc.), as well as to write notes and complete feedback forms.
  • Take notes
    Encourage interviewers to take notes during the interview and capture the candidate’s actual answers as well as writing final thoughts post-interview (to avoid relying on memories that stand out).
  • Discuss
    After interviewers review their notes and provide feedback they should discuss the final candidates together so input can come from multiple contacts.
  • Accountability
    Interviewers should be using thorough notes and have their names on feedback forms to ensure the reasons behind every hiring decision is justified and documented.
  • Review your process
    Organizations must continually review their hiring process to ensure it is up to date, being followed appropriately and so improvements are always being discussed and implemented when necessary.

While we cannot eliminate bias altogether, being aware of potential biases and implementing practices to avoid them in the hiring process are a necessity for organizations looking to hire the best candidates for their positions.

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