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Bias Interview Questions

We hear the term "bias" a lot these days. "Conscious bias," "unconscious bias."  But what is bias?

At its core, bias is simply a preference for one thing over another. Most often it isn't sinister in the mind of the person extending judgment, but bias always has an impact.

In the context of an interview, bias can play out in several ways. The interviewer may have a preconceived notion about the "right" candidate for the job and then ask biased interview questions designed to elicit answers that confirm that notion.

Unfortunately, this can also work in reverse. If an interviewer has an unconscious bias toward a particular group they may negatively bias the interview process or give the candidate lower scores. This can skew interview results in favor of a candidate who may not be the best fit for the job.

So how can you combat bias in interviews? The first step is to be aware of your own potential biases. Harvard offers a great free implicit bias test you can take to get started.

Once you know where your biases may be lurking, you can take steps to counteract them. For example, if you have a bias toward extroverted candidates, make sure to ask introverts questions that will help them open up and show their strengths.

And always remember that interviews are just one part of the hiring process. Use other tools like work samples and standardized tests to help reduce the impact of bias in your hiring decisions.

Going into an interview with a list of semi-structured questions you ask every single candidate is a good place to begin. This will help ensure that you're focusing on each candidate's individual merits and not letting bias cloud your judgment.

Check out our guide, How to Remove Bias from Interviews to learn about the types of bias you'll face and how to remove them from the interview process. It'll also walk you through the 7 steps to improving candidate experience by reducing bias.

By being aware of your own potential biases and taking steps to counteract them, you can help ensure that you're making the best hiring decisions for your team.

Interview intelligence software can also help. We often view interviewing as hard.

Pillar's interview intelligence software uses data to help you optimize your interviews and identify patterns of bias. That way, you can be sure that you're making the best hiring decisions for your team - without letting bias get in the way.

Unconscious Bias Interview Questions

Avoiding unconscious bias in interviewing is important to ensure you're making the best hiring decisions for your team.

Mindset matters when it comes to unconscious bias. If you enter the interview with the firm belief that it's all about finding the ideal applicant for the position, it's far easier to set aside unconscious bias in interview questions and stick to those that evaluate each candidate on their individual merits.

The first step is always self-awareness. Once you know where your potential biases lie, you can take steps to address them. For example, if you have a bias toward candidates who are similar to you in some way, make sure to ask questions that will help you get to know the candidate as an individual.

When it comes to unconscious bias in interview questions, begin with the understanding that there are some questions you should never ask in an interview. Here's a comprehensive list.

One of the most common biases in interviews is stereotyping. This happens when we make assumptions about a candidate based on their appearance, background, or other factors. For example, if you're looking for a customer service representative, you might automatically assume that someone outgoing and bubbly would be a great fit for the role, which is not always the case.

Stereotyping can lead to first impression bias which is the tendency to form an opinion of someone based on our first interactions with them. This bias can be especially dangerous in interviews, where first impressions can easily cloud our judgment. One of the most popular forms of first impression bias is Affinity bias. This is the tendency to prefer people who are similar to us. This bias can manifest itself in interviews in a number of ways. For example, you might be more likely to hire someone who went to the same school as you or who shares your hobbies and interests.

To avoid these first forms of bias, it's important to have structured interview questions and answers that will allow each candidate to shine on merit.

Another type of bias that we seldom consider, but which deserves our attention is contrast bias.

The contrast effect bias is the tendency to judge a candidate more harshly if they interviewed immediately before or after another candidate who was particularly strong (or weak).

This bias can be mitigated by taking breaks between interviews so that you have time to reset and clear your head before meeting with the next candidate.

An interview intelligence platform can also help by providing data-driven insights into each candidate so that you can make more informed hiring decisions and remove bias. Pillar's interview intelligence software uses data to help you optimize your interviews and identify patterns of bias. That way, you can be sure that you're making the best hiring decisions for your team - without letting bias get in the way.

How to Avoid Bias in Interviews

How can bias affect a job interview? Let's take a look at an all-too-familiar scenario to better comprehend the impact of unconscious bias in hiring.

Imagine you've hired the wrong candidate. They're two years into company tenure and have fallen short of sales goals, missed team targets, derailed the product roadmap, brought down morale, and hurt company culture. The entire team is now in panic mode, working around the clock to try and make up for this one bad hire.

This scenario is all too common. In fact, 46% of newly hired employees fail within 18 months, and the cost of a bad hire can be up to 30% of that employee's first-year salary. Quite a cost, especially for a start-up.

Now, let's replace this scenario with the right candidate.

You're two years into this employee's tenure and they're a force multiplier. Your team loves them, they hit goals, communicate openly, encourage people on their team and across the company, and show up to work motivated and with a positive attitude. You haven't regretted this hire for a second.

There are a few key ways to reduce bias during interviews.

The first is by using data. Look for patterns in a candidate's experience and skills that match up with the job requirements. This will help you to identify qualified candidates, regardless of their background or appearance.

Next, use semi-structured interview questions and avoid biased interview questions. By having a set list of questions that you ask each candidate, you can compare objectively.  This will also help to ensure that you're not accidentally introducing bias into the interview process.

Finally, take your time when making a decision. After each interview, take some time to reflect on the candidate and their qualifications. This will help to ensure that you're not letting first impressions or other forms of bias influence your decision-making.

Pillar's interview intelligence platform helps you to avoid bias in interviews by providing data-driven insights into each candidate. That way, you can be sure that you're making the best hiring decisions for your team - without letting bias get in the way.

Standardized Interview Questions

Standardized interview questions are those that are asked the same of every candidate. This helps to ensure that each candidate is judged on their own merits, rather than being influenced by the appearance, background, or personality of the other candidates.

Using standardized, semi-structured interview questions also allows you to compare candidates more easily. This is because you can objectively assess each candidate's answer to see how it stacks up against the others.

If you're not sure where to start, here are a couple of examples of structured interview questions that you can ask:

Tell me about a time when you faced a difficult challenge at work. How did you address it?
When was the last time you had to work with a difficult team member? How did you manage the situation?
Have you ever dealt with a difficult customer? How did you achieve a mutually beneficial result?

Asking each candidate the same unbiased interview questions makes it easier to compare their answers. These structured interview questions and answers will help you set a baseline to assess each candidate objectively.

Unconscious Bias in Recruitment Examples

It's well established that bias limits the potential for creating a diverse, inclusive, and high-performing company culture.

Bias can enter the equation at any stage of the interview process. Interviews are notoriously susceptible to bias because they're often based on first impressions and snap judgments.

Unconscious bias interview examples can include making assumptions based on:
The way a candidate looks,
Their background,
Their family,
Their education & school they went to,
Their previous work experience,
Their hobbies or interests

These can show up in the recruitment process before we ever get to an interview.

Unconscious bias in recruitment examples are:
Only looking at candidates who went to the same school as you,
Only considering candidates with similar work experience,
Preferring candidates who are recommended by someone you know

All of these things can play a role in shaping our impression of a candidate.

So where should we begin when tackling unconscious bias in hiring practices?
Take a test to identify your own implicit bias.
Share the test link with anyone interviewing a candidate to help them identify their types of unconscious bias.
Work with your hiring manager to create a list of semi-structured questions that will help a candidate showcase their best skills.
Create a job post that accurately represents what you want a new hire to accomplish in their first 12 months.
Interview with an open mind.
Use interview intelligence software to help you compare candidates objectively.
Prepare a scorecard to review post-interview. 

This is far from an exhaustive list, but it's a good place to start.

If you'd like more information on creating an unbiased interview process check out our step-by-step guide: The Ultimate Interview Checklist.

So you're face to face with a candidate and it's time to figure out if they're the right fit for your team. How can bias affect a job interview?

First, the questions you ask may make the candidate feel like they are not being judged on their merits, but rather on their appearance, background, or personality. This can impact the way the candidate sees themselves, you, and define whether or not they want to work for the company.

Second, the interviewer's own personal biases can influence the way they perceive the candidate. The interviewer may be more likely to remember the candidates whom they personally relate to or who fit their idea of the "perfect" candidate. This can lead to the dismissal of great candidates who don’t happen to be like the interviewers.

Third, bias can impact the way interviewers score candidates. If interviewers are not aware of their own biases, they may give higher scores to candidates who share their own characteristics, or who they perceive as being more likable.

As we’ve shown above, it’s imperative that you discuss the issue of unconscious bias in recruitment and interviews with your team. Show them examples of how bias can enter the equation at any stage of the interview process. Offer tips, resources, and tools to avoid bias in interviews.

Pillar's interview intelligence software can help you overcome these biases in your interviews and make hiring decisions based on data, not gut feeling. Our software includes interview question libraries, video-based interviewing, and post-interview scoring.

Request a demo to see how Pillar can help your team make better hiring decisions today!