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Beating Bias in the Hiring Process

Hiring well is critical to the success of teams and organizations. I’m sure we have all experience the damage that hiring the wrong person can do! It is time-consuming, emotional, expensive, and impacts the morale of your team. I've sure experience my share! For the next few weeks, I want to help you with some tips to elevate your hiring process. And if you’d like some additional assistance in analyzing and elevating your process as well as training your interviewers to be most effective, feel free to reach out!

Let's get started by talking about bias. Did you know that we tend to make judgments about a person’s character during the first 7 seconds of an interaction? This applies to interviewing as well. If we don’t check ourselves, we can make snap judgments that impact our hiring decisions. In addition, there are a number of biases that can creep in and impact the objectivity of the hiring process. The problem is that the large majority of our biases are unconscious, meaning we don’t know they are there.

This list isn’t all-inclusive but includes some of the most common biases that impact interviewing.

  • First Impression Bias – This occurs when a candidate’s behaviors and presentation in the first few moments of an interview impact the remainder of their interview and the hiring decision.

  • Contrast Effect Bias – This happens when an interviewer compares a candidate to the person who interviewed before them. For example, if a strong candidate interviews after someone who is less qualified, it might magnify the interviewer’s perception of the stronger candidate’s abilities.

  • Recency Bias – When more recent interviewees are perceived more positively than earlier ones because the interviewer remembers them better.

  • Stereotyping Bias – This occurs when an interviewer’s perception of a candidate is based on stereotypes. For example, perhaps they think an Asian candidate must be smart because they have internalized a stereotype that Asians are smart. Or maybe they think that a Millennial candidate is entitled based on the stereotype that there is a sense of entitlement amongst this generation.

  • Generalization Bias – With this type of bias, the interviewer assumes candidates’ mannerisms in the interview are part of their everyday behavior.

  • Halo/Horn Bias – This occurs when the interviewer allows one strong point about the candidate to overshadow everything else he/she says. It could be something that pleased him/her (halo) or something that didn’t (horn).

  • Similar To Me - This kind of bias (also sometimes known as an affinity bias) happens when the interviewer feels favorable towards a candidate that they believe they have a lot in common with – i.e., you went to the same school, or grew up in the same neighborhood.

  • Central Tendency - This kind of bias happens when an interviewer is holding out for the perfect candidate, and therefore finds fault with everyone else – classifying them as middle of the road.

So, what can you do about this? Here are the top 5 ways to overcome biases in the hiring process!

  1. Train your interviewers to understand and be conscious of these biases that might impact their hiring decisions.

  2. Use a structured interviewing process using the same questions and process for all candidates for a position.

  3. Focus on job-related criteria and develop a rubric to evaluate candidates.

  4. Involve 3-4 people in the process to get a rounded perspective.

  5. Take careful notes.

In conclusion, the first step in beating interviewer bias is knowing that it exists and being interested in correcting it. Then you can formulate a plan for all company interviews, so that they are standardized across candidates minimizing the likelihood of bias creeping in.

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