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What is Interview Bias:
Before we give examples of interview bias, let's talk about what it is, and the different types of interview bias, and then we'll dive into some examples. Interviewer bias is when an interviewer lets their own personal opinions or beliefs influence the outcome of an interview. This can lead to unfair treatment of candidates, ultimately impacting the company's diversity and inclusivity.
Most people would associate interview bias with things like race, religion, age, sex, and other personal traits, and those are all reflections of someone's bias, the topic of biases is far more complex than that. While each of the items listed above is evidence of someone's biases, it is not exhaustive as there are many other biases at play.
The Most Common Types of Interview Bias:
1. Confirmation bias: This type of bias occurs when an interviewer looks for information that confirms their preconceived notions about a candidate, rather than seeking out real data and different perspectives. This could mean they're looking for a reason to disqualify (DQ) a candidate due to a preconceived notion about them, or, on the other end of the spectrum, only looking for data that supports their positive opinions of the candidate. Either way, they're only looking for information that confirms their own perceptions and opinions.
2. Halo effect: The halo effect is when an interviewer focuses on one positive aspect of a candidate and lets it influence their entire perception of the individual, regardless of other qualities or qualifications. An example of this form of bias could be when an interviewer sees that a candidate graduated from a prestigious university and automatically assumes they're highly qualified for the role without further evaluating their skills or experience.
3. Similarity bias: This type of interviewer bias occurs when an interviewer consciously or subconsciously favors candidates who are similar to them in terms of background, interests, or experiences. While it's natural to gravitate towards people with whom we share similarities, it can lead to overlooking qualified candidates who may bring diversity and fresh perspectives to the team.
4. Contrast effect: The contrast effect is when an interviewer compares a candidate to previous candidates or their own preconceived idea of an "ideal" candidate, rather than evaluating them based on their own qualifications. This type of bias can be damaging as it doesn't allow the candidate to stand on their own merits and can lead to candidates being unfairly compared to unrealistic expectations.
5. Affinity bias: Affinity bias is when an interviewer has a positive opinion of a candidate due to shared backgrounds or interests, leading them to overlook negative qualities or qualifications. This type of bias can create an unfair advantage for candidates who are similar to the interviewer but may not possess the necessary skills for the job.
As you can see, human biases show up in many different ways- and we must be vigilant as interviewers that our opinions never affect someone's future. At Pillar, we've built AI-powered interview intelligence software that's built for diversity and inclusion. Our platform helped one particular customer increase diversity hiring by over 59%, and many of our customers see between 30- 50% increases in team diversity.
Bias in interviews is unacceptable. We all know this and work hard to create an atmosphere in interviews where no biases exist. Despite our efforts, biases can creep into interviews and impact the outcome negatively. As such, Pillar has built interviewer coaching tools into our platform to ensure a safe, objective, and bias-free hiring process.
To fully grasp the effects that biases can have on a candidate let's look at some real-world interviewer bias examples:
1. Gender bias: A study by Harvard Business Review showed that men were more likely than women to be asked extraneous questions in interviews, such as personal questions about their family or relationship status. This type of bias can lead to female candidates feeling discriminated against and less likely to be hired for the role.
2. Age bias: In a survey conducted by AARP, 64% of older workers reported experiencing age discrimination in the job application process. This bias can manifest itself in several ways, such as assuming an older candidate is not tech-savvy or will retire soon, leading to them being passed over for a younger candidate who may not have the same level of experience.
3. Racial bias: In a study by The National Bureau of Economic Research, it was found that white candidates received 36% more callbacks for interviews than African-American candidates with identical resumes. This type of bias can have a significant impact on the diversity and inclusivity of a company's workforce.
4. Beauty bias: In a study by Cornell University, researchers sent out fake job applications with photos attached and those who were deemed more attractive received 20% more callbacks than those who were considered less attractive. This type of bias can be damaging as it favors candidates based on their physical appearance rather than their qualifications for the job.
5. Academic elitism: In a study by Harvard Business Review, researchers found that hiring managers often favor candidates from prestigious universities over those from less prestigious schools, regardless of their qualifications. This type of bias can limit diversity in the workplace and overlook highly qualified candidates who may not have attended prestigious universities.
These are just a few of the thousands of types of bias and examples of prejudices in the hiring process that I've read. I don't mention these disparagingly, they're specifically chosen and highlighted to give you an awareness of the many ways our opinions can affect candidates.
If you're beginning this journey of awareness, one of the best ways to begin is by taking the test Harvard University and Project Implicit offer for free. This test will help identify your implicit biases so you can address them and create a more inclusive hiring process.
How to Avoid Bias in Interviews:
I know this may come as a surprise, but the way to eliminate biased interview questions is by replacing them with unbiased interview questions. Novel concept, right? But it really is that simple. Once you become aware of your biases (by taking a test or doing a biases assessment), you will identify the ways biases show up in your life and interviews.
Awareness is a powerful thing. It gives us a choice to stay stagnant in beliefs that don't serve us and the common good of humanity, OR change our actions and behaviors to those that will help the entire ecosystem progress. Once you are aware of your biases, here are some things you can do to avoid biased interview questions:
1. Focus on job-related qualifications: Instead of asking personal or irrelevant questions, focus on the candidate's skills, experience, and qualifications that directly relate to the job. Change things like, "How long have you been married?" or "When are you planning to retire?" Which can seem sexist or ageist, to "How does this role fit into your ideal career path?"
2. Implement Inclusive Tools and Training: There are literally tons of resources available to help you create a more welcoming place to work- Interview Intelligence Software, Blind resume solutions, interviewer coaching and training, and much more. Putting one or two of these tools into rotation will shift the way you hire.
3. Use structured or at least semi-structured interviews: This helps reduce the likelihood of going off-topic and asking biased questions. Having a set list of job-specific questions for all candidates can help ensure fairness in the hiring process.
4. Practice active listening: Often, we may not realize that our biases are showing up in the way we respond to candidate's answers. By actively listening without judgment, you can better assess a candidate's qualifications and skills.
5. Train interviewers on avoiding bias: Make it a part of your company's hiring process to provide training for all interviewers on how to conduct unbiased interviews. This can include the use of inclusive language, recognizing and addressing implicit biases, and creating a diverse team of interviewers.
6. Avoid hypotheticals that are trait-specific: Asking candidates how they would handle a certain situation based on their gender, age, race, or other personal traits can reveal underlying biases. Instead, ask about past situations and how the candidate handled them to understand their problem-solving skills.
7. Practice panel interviewing: Using diverse panels of interviewers to assess candidates can help eliminate individual biases and provide a more well-rounded evaluation of each candidate. Panel diversity can also help you see things through a different lens and catch things a single interviewer may miss.
These are just a few of the ways you can eliminate biases from your interviews. As time goes on, interview bias examples should become less common and hopefully cease to exist. At Pillar, our goal to to make the world a bit more just one interview at a time. With solutions to help your team grow in diversity and inclusivity, we're here to support you in creating a fair and unbiased hiring process. Are you ready to take the first step towards eliminating interviewer bias? Book your demo of our interview intelligence software today to see all of the resources we offer to help you make better hires.