Avoiding Unconscious Bias In Interviewing

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Avoiding Unconscious Bias In Interviewing

Bias in interviews occurs when an interviewer allows their personal inclinations, worldview, and prejudices to influence the hiring process while evaluating a candidate. These biases can have a positive or a negative effect on the interview outcome for one single candidate, but overall they create disadvantages for the rest of the applicant pool and skew company hiring data.

"Unconscious bias" is the term used to reference when a person's brain makes an automatic, instant, or "snap" judgment about people and situations based on their background, cultural environment, and personal experiences. These biases come from thousands of years of human evolution when a branch snapping in the forest meant the difference between life and death. This is known as "The Saber-tooth Tiger Effect."

Today, we have far less to fear -  but, unfortunately, our brains still make snap judgments that have a massive effect on the lives of others, in this case, our candidates. These biases infiltrate the hiring process, despite our best intentions, leading us to favor some candidates over others for reasons that have nothing to do with their skills or qualifications.

This is why avoiding unconscious bias in interviewing is critical. And, it's the first step toward creating a fair and objective hiring process that promotes diversity and inclusion on your team. Understanding and avoiding unconscious bias in interviews requires a ruthless commitment to self-awareness and a deep look into our own assumptions.

Assuming a candidate's ability to successfully perform a role based on their name, address, the way they dress, or more overt traits like their age and religion, are unconscious bias in recruitment examples that should be eliminated from the hiring process as they are illegal, but not all biases are this straightforward. Confirmation bias is another example that can impact the interviewing process. This is when an interviewer seeks out information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs about a candidate and ignores any evidence to the contrary. Affinity bias is similar, but it occurs when an interviewer favors candidates who are similar to them in terms of background, personality, or interests. There's also the halo and horn effect, where an interviewer's overall impression of a candidate, either positive or negative, influences their evaluation of specific traits. All of these biases can lead to unfair and inaccurate assessments of candidates.

The way to mitigate or even eliminate these biases is through unconscious bias training. This training helps hiring managers, HR, and interviewers recognize their biases through tests and awareness training, then shows them how to implement solutions and tools to reinforce their learnings. Tests like Harvard's Implicit Bias test are a great place to start as awareness is key to change. Then, solutions like interview intelligence with interview insights can be implemented to ensure a fair, consistent, and objective candidate evaluation process.

Unconscious Bias: Implications In Recruitment

Unconscious bias fundamentally shapes the landscape of today's workforce and limits team diversity. Examples of unconscious bias in the workplace are homogenizing (meaning "to make the same") teams reducing cultural diversity and stifling innovation. In fact, a study of the most innovative companies in the US showed that diverse teams were 45% more likely to increase market share, 70% more likely to capture new markets, and 19% more likely to generate higher revenues, according to Forbes.

According to Glassdoor's 2020 Diversity survey, 76% of applicants said a diverse team was important to them when evaluating a company or job offer. Meaning, unconscious bias implications in recruitment could reduce your access to talent by a huge margin.

Consider, for instance, an example of unconscious bias in workplace settings where recruiters favor candidates from prestigious or Ivy League universities, inadvertently sidelining potentially more capable candidates with diverse educational backgrounds. This is but one of many unconscious biases in recruitment examples that illustrate how biases can have a profound and lasting influence on hiring decisions.

Strategies to Avoid Unconscious Bias in Interviewing

So how do you avoid unconscious bias in interviews? The first step is recognizing that biases exist and being open to addressing them. Here are five strategies you can implement to help mitigate unconscious bias in your interviewing process:

  1. Use structured interviews: This approach involves asking standardized questions to all candidates, eliminating any room for subjective evaluation of responses.
  2. Diversify your interview panels: Make sure panel members come from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences to avoid affinity bias.
  3. Blind screening: Remove personally identifiable information from resumes to eliminate any unconscious biases related to names, addresses, or schools attended.
  4. Focus on skills and qualifications: Instead of placing emphasis on superficial traits like age or fashion sense, concentrate your evaluation process on a candidate's abilities and accomplishments.
  5. Implement training and tools: As mentioned earlier, unconscious bias training and tools like interview intelligence can help raise awareness and provide practical solutions for mitigating biases in the interviewing process.

Being proactive in addressing unconscious bias goes a long way. Using these tactics, training your team, and creating interview best practices will help you create a more inclusive and diverse workforce that promotes equality and fairness for all candidates.

How To Reduce Bias In the Hiring Process

In our quest to assess how to reduce bias in the hiring process, it's vital to recognize and address the variety of types of unconscious bias that can infiltrate decision-making and affect candidate's futures. Here are some less common unconscious bias examples:

  • Attribution Bias: This occurs when we unjustly attribute people's behaviors to their character rather than to external factors. In the recruitment process, this might lead us to overlook a candidate's potential based on a single action or response, without considering the context that led to that behavior.
  • Conformity Bias: This type of bias is influenced by peer opinions. In a hiring context, it happens when an interviewer's judgment is swayed by the collective opinion of others, leading to a preference for candidates who conform to the majority's views rather than those who truly stand out based on merit.
  • Name Bias: This subtle yet pervasive bias involves making assumptions about a candidate based on their name, including their ethnicity, gender, or social background. It can significantly impact the fairness of the screening process as individuals with names perceived as "less familiar" or "difficult to pronounce" may be unjustly overlooked.
  • Ageism: Ageism in hiring is the prejudice against candidates based on their age. Younger candidates might be deemed lacking in experience, while older candidates might be seen as not being in touch with current technologies or methods, regardless of their actual skills and capabilities.
  • Beauty Bias: This bias suggests that more physically attractive candidates are perceived as more capable, likable, or qualified for the job, despite their actual qualifications or professional experience being on par with or less than those of other candidates.
  • Contrast Effect: The contrast effect occurs when a candidate is unfairly compared to others in the pool, rather than being evaluated on their own qualifications and fit for the role. This can lead to skewed perceptions based on relative differences, rather than objective criteria.
  • Affect Heuristic: This bias arises when an interviewer's feelings or emotional responses to a candidate influence their judgment. It can lead to decisions based more on personal likes or dislikes rather than on a rational evaluation of the candidate's qualifications and abilities for the position.

In conclusion, hopefully, you've seen that there are many ways biases can affect the hiring process. Understanding each unconscious bias example can help you stay sharp and guard against its interference in candidate assessments. This foundational understanding can lead to more comprehensive strategies on how to avoid unconscious bias in interviewing, ensuring a level playing field for all candidates.

Overcoming these biases takes a multifaceted approach including revamping recruitment strategies to prioritize skills and qualifications over potentially biased criteria, implementing blind screening methods to focus solely on a candidate's aptitude, and diversifying interview panels to bring multiple perspectives to the candidate evaluation process.

It's also beneficial to use training programs and tests for raising awareness about unconscious biases, coupled with practical tools like interview intelligence software, to empower hiring teams to recognize and counteract their biases. With these strategies in place, you can create a fair and inclusive hiring process that values diversity and promotes equality for all candidates.

If you've seen the effects of bias on your hiring process and you'd like to see how interview intelligence can help you drive meaningful change, book a demo today! Our team would love to show you how we've helped customers eliminate bias and increase diversity hiring by more than 40%.