Your Hiring Managers Are Biased!

Every day, we make hundreds, if not thousands of decisions. One of them was whether to read this article or not. We make decisions so frequently that most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it. The way we make decisions is largely shaped by a variety of unconscious biases…how we were brought up, our exposure to diversity in society, etc.

In an ideal world, the decision to hire a candidate would be based solely on their ability to do the job well and would be free from unconscious bias. But…we don’t live in an ideal world, and I guarantee that your Hiring Managers are biased.

They’re hiring candidates that are just like them…went to the same school, like the same football team, etc….or they’re hiring the person they interviewed last because they remember them as the best. This is worrisome. Why? Because the best companies are built by the best teams, and hiring the wrong people leads to turnover, costing your organization up to double an employee’s annual salary. It also hinders a diverse workforce. 

The good news is, for the first time ever, you can actually see what’s happening in interviews, and with this transparency, biases disappear very quickly. Here’s how: 

1.) It’s Time to Record Your Interviews

Interviews have always been a black box. Maybe you have a CTO who is only hiring male engineers or a Director of Sales who is only hiring candidates who graduated from Indiana University. How will you ever know why this is happening or what your Hiring Managers are saying in their interviews if you aren’t recording them? Is every candidate getting a similar experience, a fair chance? Recording interviews presents a unique opportunity for hiring teams to catch bias in interviews and provide coachable moments to interviewers so that these same problems don’t persist.

2.) Establish Awareness on Why Diversity Matters

It’s important to establish awareness with your Hiring Managers on why diversity in the workplace is beneficial. I could go on & on about the benefits, but here’s a few:

  • Sparks innovation > per the Harvard Business Review, companies with high diversity have 19% higher innovation revenues
  • Boosts profitability > according to McKinsey, ethnically and culturally diverse companies are 33% more likely to be more profitable 
  • Cuts down on turnover > a Corporate Leadership Council piece showed that diverse and inclusive organizations have employees that are 19% likelier to stay 

Establishing awareness isn’t easy, but there are a number of ways you can teach diversity awareness within your company: mentoring programs and diversity training. The most effective way is for an interviewer to ‘see it for themselves’ in clips from their interviews and learning from colleagues who interview candidates in fair and equitable conversations.

3.) Interview Scorecards = 👍

When you review Hiring Managers’ feedback, ask yourself…is this related to the skills required for the role? Using interview scorecards that grade candidates’ responses to each question ensures you’re making hiring decisions based on data, not gut feeling. You should also establish a rule that interviewers need to score candidates during the interview or immediately after while their memories are still fresh AND that they complete their scorecards before they see other people’s evaluations. This helps to avoid issues with both recency and conformity bias...ensuring that they don’t select one the candidate that is freshest in their memory or the candidate that everyone else likes.

4.) Interview Guides…They're Key 

During our January webinar, Matt Charney mentioned that the biggest issue teams face with quality of hire is lack of standardization. Unstructured interviews which lack defined questions are unreliable for predicting job success. Structured interviews where each candidate is asked the same set of questions minimizes bias by allowing the interviewer to focus on the skills that are most relevant to the role and makes every interview comparable. Bottom line — use interview guides for each and every interview (it’s actually reasonably easy to do!).

5.) There’s More to a Candidate Than “Culture Fit”

“He/she just isn’t the right culture fit”. How many times have you heard this? Well, in reality, hiring for “culture fit” is dangerous. Many companies that believe they are hiring for culture fit are actually just hiring people they identify and “click” with, which is once again…biased. This is why I recommend screening candidates for the attributes and qualities that make your culture and your business successful. Instead of thinking, “Would I get along with this person?”, ask yourself, “Are they exhibiting the traits that are important to our company as defined by our company values?”.

As I always say, people are the most important part of the business, and if you’re not training your Hiring Managers on their implicit biases, you're severely hindering your organization's ability to grow. If you’re struggling with where to start on anything I’ve mentioned above, drop me a line here, and I’ll let you know easy ways to get started.


Mark Simpson
Founder & CEO 

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