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Unconscious bias in hiring can negatively affect interviews in a number of ways.
It can impact who gets interviewed in the first place, as well as how those candidates are evaluated during the interview process. This can lead to talented candidates being overlooked or penalized because of factors that have nothing to do with their qualifications or ability to perform the role.
We know this, but what can be done to actively mitigate the effects of bias in hiring?
1. Be Aware of Your Own Biases
The first step is to be aware of your own biases. It's hard to admit, but we all have them, and it’s important to recognize that they can impact our decisions, even when we don’t realize them.
If you're unaware of your biases, a great first step would be to take Harvard's Implicit Bias test to recognize ways you can offer an equitable interview experience for every candidate.
Some examples of interviewer bias to be wary of include:
Confirmation bias: This is the tendency to seek out information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs. For example, if you believe that a certain candidate is not a good fit for the role, you may inadvertently pay more attention to things that support that belief and overlook information that contradicts it.
Stereotyping: We all have stereotypes, or assumptions, about certain groups of people. For example, you may hold a stereotype that women are not as good at math as men. If you meet a woman who is applying for a math-heavy role, this stereotype may impact the way you view her qualifications, even if there is no evidence to support it.
Information Bias: This is the tendency to seek out more information, even when it doesn’t impact the decision that needs to be made. In an information bias example, you may feel the need to ask a candidate about their personal life in order to get to know them better, even though this information is not relevant to their qualifications for the role.
In fact, many questions about a candidate's personal life are off limits and included in our list of, "What Not to Ask in An Interview."
Interview bias psychology dictates that we're more likely to trust information that agrees with our personal experience, even if it's inaccurate.
Replication bias: This happens when we overemphasize information that supports our own traits. Simply put, we hire people exactly like ourselves.
This leads us to our second point:
2. Diversify Your Interview Panel
One way to mitigate the effects of bias is to have a diverse interview panel. This means including people of different genders, races, ages, and backgrounds.
Diverse panels are more likely to catch red flags that a single interviewer might miss. They can also help to balance each other out, offsetting the effects of any one person’s bias.
3. Prepare Semi-structured Questions and Stay on Script
When it comes to interviewing, it's often more comfortable to "fly by the seat of our pants" than it is to plan ahead. However, this can often lead to interviewer bias, as we touched on earlier.
One way to avoid this is by sticking to semi-structured questions. This means having a list of predetermined questions that you ask every candidate, regardless of their qualifications or your assumptions about them.
Not only does this help to ensure that everyone is given a fair chance, but it can also help to surface qualities that you may have overlooked.
Let's talk about how to reduce interviewer bias in research, beginning with a real-world example:
Have you ever been browsing LinkedIn and noticed that someone "open for work" went to the same school as you? Or that someone you're interested in hiring worked at the same company as you, just a few years ago?
These are seemingly innocent biases that are often overlooked when researching candidates to interview, but they have a huge impact on the candidate's future.
In the world of interviewing, this can translate to giving priority to candidates who went to the same school as you, or who have worked at the same company.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with wanting to interview someone with a similar background — but it's important to be aware of the impact that bias can have on your decision-making.
But if you're not careful, bias can creep into your research and impact the pool of candidates that you ultimately decide to interview.
Interviewer bias in semi-structured interviews goes way down.
When you use a pre-planned interview guide, it helps to keep the focus on the candidate's qualifications, rather than on personal characteristics that may trigger bias. This is because the questions are predetermined, and everyone is asked the same ones in the same order.
Interviewer bias statistics show that when we're faced with two equally qualified candidates, we're more likely to hire the one who is most like us.
However, interviewer bias in semi-structured interviews goes way down. So, if you're looking for a way to reduce the impact of bias in your hiring process, consider using a semi-structured interview guide.
Another way to reduce interviewer bias is using interview intelligence software. Interview intelligence platforms use semi-structured interview questions and AI to help you identify the most qualified candidates, regardless of their background.
Bias can have a huge impact on the candidate's future, so it's important to be aware of the impact that bias can have on your decision-making.
The primary types of bias in interviews are confirmation bias and unconscious bias.
Avoid bias in interviewing by using a pre-planned interview guide, which will help to keep the focus on the candidate's qualifications, rather than on personal characteristics that may trigger bias.
You can also use interview intelligence software, which uses semi-structured interview questions and AI to help you identify the most qualified candidates, regardless of their background.AI will also show you areas in which your team may have an unconscious bias in interviewing.
Once you're aware, you can decrease bias in panel interviews by ensuring that everyone on the panel is familiar with the candidate's qualifications, and by making sure that each panel member asks at least one question.
As we mentioned earlier, interviewer bias statistics show that when we're faced with two equally qualified candidates, we're more likely to hire the one who is most like us.
However, you can decrease the impact of bias in your hiring process by using semi-structured interviews and interview intelligence software. By keeping the focus on a candidate's qualifications, these two options will help to prevent personal bias from creeping in. This is because the questions are predetermined, and everyone is asked the same ones in the same order.
So far, we've discussed the impact of bias in interviews, and we've given you some tips on how to decrease bias in your hiring process.
Check out our ebook, "How to Hire Great Salespeople." It's your complete guide to creating an effective, efficient, and equitable hiring process.
Now, let's take a look at some specific practices to reduce bias from the beginning.
Avoiding unconscious bias in interviewing starts way before you talk to a candidate. It starts with the job description.
When writing a job description, it's important to avoid using gendered language, as this can discourage qualified candidates from applying. For example, instead of saying "he or she," use the plural pronoun "they.
"It's important to be aware of the words that you're using, as some may have a negative connotation.
"The Ultimate Checklist to Hire Great Teams" is a great place to start. It will guide you through the process of writing job descriptions, creating a candidate screening process, and beginning the interview process.
Make sure that you're also using an inclusive job title. For example, "Developer" is more inclusive than "Software Engineer.
"By ensuring that your job description is free of bias, you'll be able to attract a more diverse pool of candidates and hire better.
Bias in hiring statistics shows that the workforce is becoming a more diverse and inclusive place.
A study by LinkedIn found that from 2014 to 2018, the number of job postings that included the word "diversity" increased by 51%. The same study shows an increase in words like, "inclusion," and "belonging."
This is likely because companies are beginning to understand the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
While this is a step in the right direction, there's still more work to be done.
If you're screening or interviewing candidates to join your team, it starts with you.
You are the first line of defense against bias in hiring.
Lou Adler has 45+ years as a recruiter. His LinkedIn article titled, "10 Ways to Reduce Interviewer Bias," notes a surefire way to eliminate interviewer bias. "Don't make snap judgments... force yourself to wait 30 minutes before making a yes or no decision..." he says. Interviewer bias examples can show up in many forms but the most prevalent one we haven't yet covered is contrast bias.
Contrast bias examples are seen most often when an interviewer has two candidates back-to-back and one candidate seems significantly better than the other.
The first candidate may not have done anything wrong, but they will be compared to the second candidate, who seems perfect in comparison.
This form of bias can be minimized with something as simple as taking breaks between interviews.
As we dig deeper into interviewer bias statistics, many things can be done to reduce bias in an interview, and most are very simple to identify and implement.
Using Interview intelligence software can help to identify and reduce bias by providing semi-structured questions that are proven to predict success in a role.
It can also help you to keep track of your hiring progress and ensure that every candidate is being treated fairly.
Using Pillar's interview intelligence platform will give you an edge in today's competitive job market while helping you to build a better, more equitable workplace. Request a demo, today!