Bias During Interviews

Great teams start with great interviews.

By recording live interviews, our platform harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to help teams run a faster, better interview process.

Request a Demo

Bias During Interviews

Navigating the complex world of interviews is a bit like trying to find your way through a maze—blindfolded. Now, imagine if some of those twists and turns were unfairly determined not by skills, experience, or merit but by someone's own personal "gut feelings" about you. This invisible force could sway decisions away from objectivity and your qualifications and lean heavily on personal traits that had nothing to do with success in the role. But why, you ask, is this such a significant issue?

At the heart of it, biases during interviews are more than just minor missteps on the journey to building a great team. In fact, they're substantial roadblocks to fairness and objectivity. These personal judgments, often made unconsciously, can lead to overlooking talented candidates and they perpetuate homogeneity (sameness) within a workplace. Essentially, when biases cloud the decision-making process, organizations miss out on the rich diversity of ideas and perspectives that top talent from different cultures bring to the table.

Now, before we get into the biases themselves, you have to understand that there's a veritable "alphabet soup" of them. Depending on who you ask, there are somewhere between 4 and 19 types of bias in interviews, each adding its own flavor to the process. From confirmation bias, where interviewers look for information that supports their initial impressions, to affinity bias, which leans towards candidates who share similar backgrounds or interests, these biases skew the interview landscape dramatically toward the company's existing talent pool. This not only hurts the individuals applying to join the organization but also hampers the company's ability to innovate and thrive in a competitive market.

But, if you can recognize and get ahead of biases during interviews, you can cut them off at the knees before they run away with the hiring process. Step one to making this happen is acknowledging that biases exist and understanding how they can distort judgments. The best way to accomplish this is through implicit and unconscious bias testing that will help interviewers recognize and combat their biases before they have a negative effect on the interview. Step two is to implement strategies aimed at mitigating and even eliminating biases so you can curb their impact. This could be through structured interviews that standardize questions for all candidates, using interview intelligence software, or employing diverse interview panels to provide multiple perspectives on a candidate's suitability.

Next, train interviewers to combat bias. Online training, interactive workshops, and role-playing scenarios can be particularly beneficial for this- allowing interviewers to experience firsthand how bias can influence their decision-making and to practice strategies for minimizing its impact. By putting a spotlight on these biases and actively working to reduce their influence, organizations can ensure that the best talent shines through, based on merit, not mirrors and smoke.

Interview Bias Examples

You've likely heard horror stories of bias during interviews or, worse, found yourself questioning if you've shown biases or been on the receiving end of someone else's. Interview bias examples are not just fairy tales for modern activists; they are real and can significantly skew the hiring process. For instance, take affinity bias – a type of personal bias during interviews where the interviewer feels a positive connection to a candidate who shares their similarities to themselves. This warmth and camaraderie, although pleasant, can unfairly push this candidate to the top of the pool over potentially more qualified individuals - and for no other reason than the interviewer shared something in common with them.

On the flip side, negative biases can be just as impactful. Consider the potential impact of an interviewer holding a subtle yet sinister social bias against candidates with accents different from their own. This bias in job interviews can lead to qualified candidates being overlooked simply because they sound different, despite their skills and experience being a perfect fit for the role.

Personal bias during interview examples can range from the seemingly trivial, like unconsciously favoring candidates wearing glasses, perceiving them as more 'intelligent' than those that don't, to the more explicit, consideration of younger candidates for roles traditionally perceived as requiring 'energy', and sidelining older applicants who are equally or more capable- a concept called "ageism."

While discussing bias in job interviews, we must visit the concepts of Halo and Horn affect. The Halo Effect is a cognitive bias that leads us to think highly of someone in one area, and thus assume they are superior in all others. For example, if a candidate has excellent communication skills but lacks the technical expertise required for the job, interviewers may unconsciously overlook this flaw because of their perceived strength in other areas. The Horn Effect, in contrast, is when negative traits overshadow an individual's other positive attributes. This could happen if a candidate arrives late to the interview and this one small mistake becomes the interviewer's sole focus and negatively influences their perception of the rest of the candidate's qualifications.

As you can see, bias during interviews isn't a simple, one-time concern. It's an ongoing, complex issue of conscious and unconscious preferences that affects who gets access to opportunity and who gets left out.

Types Of Bias During Interviews

Opening up an internal conversation about the various types of bias during interviews can be discouraging and uncomfortable. As prevalent as these issues are in society today, people don't want to believe that they're discriminatory and face how that's affecting the lives of others. That's why subtly introducing these biases through implicit bias testing and unconscious bias training can be useful. Also, using tools like interview intelligence software will point out when various types of bias show up during interviews and deliver hiring managers' interview insights to help influence better interview outcomes in the future.

Let's go through a more comprehensive list of interviewer biases and talk about how they show up in interviews. We've already mentioned Confirmation and Affinity Bias, as well as the Halo and Horn Effect, but there are several more to be aware of.

  • Gender Bias: This is when a candidate's gender influences the interviewer's perception of their qualifications. For example, assuming a male candidate is better suited for a leadership role than a female candidate.
  • Racial Bias: Similar to gender bias, this is when race plays a factor in how an interviewer views a candidate's fit for a role.
  • Beauty Bias: This bias occurs when an interviewer places more weight on physical appearance and attractiveness over qualifications and skills. A candidate who is considered conventionally attractive may have an advantage over others in the interview process despite being less qualified.
  • Contrast Effect: This effect happens when a candidate is compared to a particularly strong or weak candidate directly before them, leading to an inflated or diminished perception of their skills.
  • Stereotype Bias: This type of bias occurs when an interviewer holds preconceived notions about a certain group and applies them to individual candidates. For example, assuming that a person of a certain ethnicity is not fluent in English.

These are just some of the more than 15 that I've found. But, if there are so many, and they're so complex, how can you ensure that your team avoids them?

How To Avoid Bias In Interviews

Now that we've identified the most common types of biases during interviews, let's talk about mitigation. As we talked about in the first section, one prevalent interviewer bias meaning that surfaces is "Confirmation Bias." That's just one of the many areas that you and your organization should be aware of to decrease bias during interviews.

Here are five steps you can take to reduce the impact of biases during interviews:

  1. Implicit Bias Testing: Harvard's collaboration with Project Implicit is a great place to start when assessing one's own personal biases. You can take the FREE test here.
  2. Conduct Unconscious Bias Training: This type of training educates interviewers on how their own beliefs and assumptions may affect their decision-making process.
  3. Diversify Your Interview Panel: Having a diverse panel of interviewers can help reduce the impact of individual biases and provide different perspectives on candidates.
  4. Use Structured Interviews: By having a set list of questions for each candidate, you eliminate the possibility for bias to creep in based on personal preferences or comfort levels with certain topics.
  5. Establish Clear and Standardized Criteria For Evaluation: Clearly defining the qualifications and skills required for a role and using them as a benchmark for evaluation can help reduce subjectivity in the interview process.

Techniques like 'Blind resume reviews" and "blind Interviews', where personal identifiers are removed from resumes, applications, and screenings can also be helpful.

Deep down, understanding how to avoid bias in interviews is not merely about adhering to a set of best practices; it's about nurturing a culture that values diversity and inclusion to its core. It's about recognizing our inherent biases and continuously striving to create a more equitable hiring landscape where opportunities are accessible to all based on their talents and abilities.

In a nutshell, the quest to minimize types of bias during interviews involves a diligent, ongoing effort to self-awareness, education, and implementation. Deliberately taking action toward a more inclusive culture paves the way for a more diverse and dynamic workforce, poised to tackle the multifaceted obstacles of today's business environment with creativity and resilience.

If you'd like to see how Pillar has helped customers increase diverse hiring by more than 40%, book your demo today. We'd love to share how interview intelligence can set your team up for success by mitigating biases.