6 Ways to Combat Interviewer Bias

We don’t need to open this blog with interview bias statistics to let you know that it’s scattered everywhere in the hiring process, but we will anyway. Did you know that applicants with white-sounding names receive 50% more job interview requests? Did you also know that 58% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are over 6 feet tall? Well, why does that matter? Only 14.5% of men are over 6 feet tall. Studies suggest a man’s perceived attractiveness increases with height. Princeton and Harvard researchers conducted a study to test gender bias towards men. When it came to holding auditions for symphony musicians, female musicians were 50% more likely to make it to the next round. All kinds of interview bias are hiding in every nook and cranny of every industry. Read our tips below (and more here) on how to reduce interviewer bias in your hiring process.

1. Define the Job, Not the Person

You’re looking to hire someone because a specific role needs to be filled. Instead of solely focusing on the candidate’s past experience, focus on what they will do in the role. It’s times like this where selection bias can come into play. Selection bias occurs when the hiring manager or interviewer chooses who will be interviewed from the application pool based on one specific thing. Cherry picking candidates based on what their resumes say or who they’re connected to is squashing the equitable interview process we’re striving for. Define the job needs first.

Meet with your team ahead of time to nail down what’s most important for the candidate’s success in the role at hand. Lay out a list of clear core competencies that all interviewers will keep in mind throughout the process. Some examples are: ownership, initiative, planning, motivation, honesty. Setting these competencies provides an objective rubric for each interview, so that subjective opinions don’t rule your decision-making. Find more examples in our ebook.

2. Judge Objectively

In the situation of an interview, “going with your gut” is code for interview bias. Going with your gut is subjective hiring. Hiring objectively means you’ve based your decision off of meaningful data about the candidate. You’ve judged the candidate against the hiring criteria that you created with your team in step 1. If done correctly, you took time to create that criteria. Similarly with your hiring decision, don’t make snap judgements. Analyze the interview process as a whole, not just off a sentence or even one interview. While it may require us to tap into our patience bank, this helps us actively avoid types of information bias, like recall bias and reporting bias.

Running and respecting an efficient and equitable interview process means allotting the appropriate amount of time to make that rockstar hire and feel confident about it.

3. Company Culture > Your Culture

Whether you’ll be working with this person directly or not, you’re hiring with the company’s best interest in mind. If you are really connecting with a candidate during your 30 minute interview so much so that you’d love to end the day having a beer with them, that’s great, but don’t hire solely because of it. Being a part of a team is wonderful, but it means decisions are made by the team, for the team, and for the overall success of the company. Instead of hiring for a culture-fit, hire for a culture-add or a values-fit. You’re working to create a diverse powerhouse of a team, not a clique of the same lunch table.

4. Use a Behavioral Assessment to Evaluate Skill

A behavioral assessment is used to objectively evaluate a candidate’s skill. There’s our favorite word again: objective. This is a visible, tangible piece of work that you’re able to judge the candidate off of. It can come in the form of a test or work sample, or even be used in a live, two-way interview (these are questions like, “Tell me about a time when…”). A helpful way to gather these answers or results from the candidate is to keep a grading rubric close by to continually drive objective review of the project and process. Not to mention, the rubric helps to keep you and your team accountable.

Assessments are a good way to reduce interviewer bias in candidate research. Let the assessments speak for themselves, judge them based off of your core competencies set early on in the process, and evaluate thoughtfully. More tips on running a behavioral assessment here.

5. Don’t Sway Colleagues

The interviewer effect is when a candidate distorts their response to a question based on the social style (gender, age, social status, body language) and personality of the person they’re talking to. Among many others, this is a reason to resist the urge to provide color-commentary on candidates throughout the interview process. Candidates may react or answer differently depending on who’s asking the questions. Graduation ceremony rules apply here: holding all comments, applause, and exclamations until the end is encouraged during the interview process. Let colleagues form their own objective evaluation of the candidate. It’s more efficient to discuss everyone’s thoughts once everyone has had their time with the candidate.

6. Study Your Own Unconscious Bias

How can you change something if you don’t know the source of the problem? Let’s all walk over to the mirror together. Each of us brings bias to the table when we’re hiring. In fact research-ers have identified up to 16 different types of bias that can subtly impact our decision-making. Every team member in your organization should do the hard work of self-evaluating for their unconscious biases. It’s every organizations’ responsibility to run a training, take a class, read a book—whatever it takes to become aware of your bias. This type of change within the hiring process is essential, but this type of change personally, within each of us, is necessary for a more equitable world. Yep, we went there.

If hiring without bias was easy, this blog wouldn’t exist and we wouldn’t be here. Hiring without unconscious bias takes time, effort, and most feared, change. Let’s stare it in the face, change the norm, and expect better from companies today. Download our ebook here for the full 12 Steps to a More Equitable Interview Process.

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