Identifying and Avoiding Interview Biases

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Identifying and Avoiding Interview Biases

The stakes have never been higher to get an interview process right. With workforce shortages reported at over 70% in many industries, inflation out of control, and the rising cost of hiring- today's labor market is global, savvy, and more connected than ever. This means that companies aren't just competing with their local markets- they're competing with firms from across the globe.

Avoiding Bias in the Interview Process

So when it comes to interviewing, one of the fastest ways to fail is allowing biases to creep into the interview process. Review sites like Glassdoor are allowing new levels of transparency behind a company's culture, interview processes, and interviewers- and with competition and global workforce shortages, companies can't be too careful. A bias-ridden interview process can quickly go viral, resulting in a negative impact on the company's reputation and ability to attract top talent. In this environment, identifying and avoiding interview biases at all costs is key to hiring success.

Creating a Truly Inclusive Environment

For the last few years, we've seen the pendulum swing toward DEI in the workplace. This shift has made huge strides in creating equal opportunity for all, but it's also led to many challenges that employers need to navigate carefully. First and foremost, implementing an effective DEI strategy in the workplace means going deeper than surface-level initiatives. Creating a truly inclusive workplace means zero bias which is hard to achieve in a world that's driven by "echo chambers" and tribalism. Embedding true principles of inclusivity means changing the focus of your hiring and educating your team. This is a top-down cultural shift that must begin at the CEO.

Next, we have to implement this shift across the entire organization. This means educating hiring managers and interviewers, embedding implicit bias testing, and implementing unconscious bias training for everyone who participates in the talent acquisition funnel. Thousands of years of human evolution have taught our brains to act in a specific way to unfamiliar stimuli and until we realize that it's perpetuating a cycle of inequality, we'll be unable to address it.

The Impact of Biases in Interviews

Types of bias in interviews show up in many ways- from overt discrimination to more subtle forms that can be hard to detect. Studies have shown that up to 70% of interviewers' hiring decisions are made within the first 1- 5 minutes of an interview. To put this into context, 1- 5 minutes in an interview is about what it takes to make a proper introduction. This means that in many cases an interviewer isn't making a hiring decision based on a candidate's skills and experience (1- 5 minutes wouldn't allow them to hear these things past a preliminary resume review) but based on their first impression of the candidate - often basing those judgments on non-job related factors such as items on a resume, appearance, race, or gender.

Once the interviewer has allowed bias to creep in, the rest of the interview is about confirming what they've already decided about the candidate. This can lead to selective listening and asking biased interview questions that favor certain candidates over others. Biased interview question examples could be asking a female candidate about her plans for children or assuming a candidate's skill level based on their education instead of focusing on relevant job experience and qualifications.

Avoiding Biases through Structured Interviews and Interview Intelligence

To avoid these types of biases, it's important to have a standardized interview process in place that focuses on job-related criteria rather than personal traits. This means creating a clear list of job requirements and using structured interview questions that are relevant to the role. Structured interviews eliminate many potential biases by using the same questions for every candidate; this allows you to set a clear baseline and evaluate all of the candidates on their skills, experience, and cultural fit rather than "gut feelings," first impressions, and personal biases.

Once you've transitioned to a standardized interview structure, interview intelligence can help you better evaluate a candidate's skills for a role. More on this in a bit.

Identifying Biases In Interviews

Before we get into interview bias examples, let's do a comparison of unbiased vs. biased interview questions so you can see how slight changes can have a positive impact on your hiring process.

Biased Interview Question Examples:

  • "Do you have any children or plan to have any in the future?" (Assuming a female candidate will prioritize family over career)
  • "Tell me about your hobbies outside of work." (Assuming a candidate's interests are not relevant to their job performance)
  • "What is your marital status?" (Assuming a candidate's commitment to the job based on their personal life)
  • "Where are you originally from?" (Incorrectly assuming a candidate's nationality or ethnicity affects their ability to perform the job)

Unbiased Interview Question Examples:

  • "Can you explain how your role at (x) shaped your skills for the position you're applying for?" (Focusing on relevant job experience and qualifications)
  • "What are your strengths that will help you excel in this role?" (Evaluating a candidate's skills without making assumptions based on personal traits)
  • "How do you handle difficult situations at work?" (Assessing a candidate's problem-solving skills rather than their
  • "How would you approach solving [specific job-related problem they may actually face in the role]?"

As you can see, identifying biases in interviews isn't hard, but it takes an awareness of your implicit biases as well as a conscious effort to steer away from questions that aren't relevant to the role. This is also true of cultural bias interview questions.

Over the last decade, we've seen how "culture" can shape some of the fastest-growing most innovative companies on the planet. Unfortunately, cultural biases can have an equally negative impact on recruiting efforts. Whether it's a bias against certain industries, companies, degrees (or the lack thereof), appearance, or communication styles - all of these can play a role in how "culture fit" is perceived and evaluated during the interview process.

Unbiased Interview Questions

As we shift our focus to unbiased interview questions we need to talk about some interview do's and don'ts as well. This will help you appropriately "set the frame" for a candidate.


  • Do use structured interviews with clear job-related criteria and role-based expectations.
  • Do focus on skills, experience, and cultural fit over personal traits. This is not just good for hiring great people, it also creates a legal and compliant hiring process.
  • Do ask relevant, job-specific questions about skills, tools, and techniques the candidate has used to do the job you're hiring for.
  • Do ask about specific job-related challenges that they have faced in the past and how they approached solving them.


  • Don't ask personal or discriminatory questions that are not relevant to the role.
  • Don't make assumptions based on stereotypes or first impressions. Instead, focus on evaluating the candidate's skills and experience objectively.
  • Don't ask hypothetical questions that are not related to real-life scenarios the candidate may encounter in the role. This could lead to biased evaluations of their ability to perform job duties.
  • And finally, don't allow your gut to have the final say. Use data and structured evaluations to objectively assess a candidate's fit for the role.

The biased interview question examples we talked about in the last section are a perfect illustration of how to avoid interview biases before they creep into your hiring process. But one thing we haven't covered is cultural fit biases.

Cultural bias interview questions come up a lot and they're often seen first in the job description. Terms like "rockstar" and "ninja" have been overused and they imply a bias towards a certain type of candidate. Similarly, "nurturing" and "supportive" are also culprits when we're evaluating cultural fit. Far better verbiage would be, "fast-paced" and "adaptable" if that's the type of culture you have. The actual words themselves are culturally agnostic, but it's about making sure they're relevant to your company rather than perpetuating cultural biases.

In conclusion, interviewers and employers need to be aware of biases that show up in their interview process. Whether it's potential racial or gender bias, preferences for candidates from certain schools or even personal biases towards certain personality types, it's important to actively work towards creating an unbiased and fair interview process for all candidates.

As a culture, we're recognizing that the fastest-growing most innovative companies are also the ones that celebrate cultural diversity. This factor alone gives organizations the ability to see things from many perspectives and increases team problem-solving, creativity, and performance.

If you're implementing diversity and inclusion hiring initiatives in your company's hiring processes and you'd like to see how interview intelligence can help you increase diverse hiring by 40% or more, book a demo today.