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Rita
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Director of Talent

Types of Interviewer Bias

Interviewing well is the key to a company’s success. 

When hiring teams have limited time to meet with candidates and determine the best fit for a role, it’s essential that the time spent in interviews is used efficiently in order to get the important information about a candidate and make the best possible hiring decision. 

After speaking with hundreds of hiring managers, however, we have discovered that the Interviewing Process Is Broken

More often than not, bias has taken over how most businesses conduct interviews and make hiring decisions. While many people don’t intentionally allow their biases and prejudices to influence their interview conversations, unconscious bias in interviewing and several other types of bias in interviews are common occurrences. Types of interviewer bias include: affinity bias (bias based on similarities), halo or horn bias (biases based on perception of a person’s character being 100% good or evil), first impression bias, and stereotyping bias. When we don’t check for bias or actively work to remove it in the interview process, businesses make costly mistakes. 

When companies hire the wrong candidate, often this means they will pay for that person’s onboarding and salary, and then have to pay to replace that hire and onboard another person down the line when the initial hire doesn’t work out. The numbers in this example are already in the hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted. By tackling unconscious bias in hiring practices, companies can hire right, every time.

How to remove unconscious bias from interviews:

Step one is doing your homework! Identify unconscious bias interview examples in your organization by conducting bias in interviews research - observe interviews and take note of where bias is showing up.

Does this sound like a time consuming task? Worried you won’t be able to catch bias every time it occurs? 

Check out Interview Intelligence solutions like Pillar, which automatically identify unconscious bias in recruitment examples in real time, then offers up live coaching and tools to remove bias and hire more equitably and efficiently.

Step two is to implement a structured recruitment process. By learning about structured interview questions and answers, you can ensure each candidate has the same experience with your hiring teams and that bias is not entering interviewer conversations. 

Need help enforcing this structure? Not sure what the best practices are for structured questions? 

Pillar Interview Intelligence helps keep your team on track with live question recommendations in interviews, all based on the best practices. 

See this article for further learning on How to Combat Interviewer Bias.

Interviewer Bias In Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is when the information being researched or understood is not based on numbers, i.e. researching how someone tells a story. In job interviews, sometimes semi-structured interviews are used to prompt more than just numeric answers because the stories the candidate has to tell are important in measuring their potential success as a hire. The intent behind this strategy is to validate quantitative data points. For example, a candidate may say “Leadership is a skill of mine; I worked in leadership for 6 years”, an example of a quantitative answer. However, based on that answer it’s difficult to really know if that candidate was a good leader and whether their leadership skills are a fit for your organization.

Using the example above, a semi-structured interview question to ask this candidate could be “Tell us about a time when you had to step up and lead. What was the situation? Why did you step up? How did you address the situation and what were the outcomes?”. By asking the candidate open ended questions that require more context, hiring teams can get a better glimpse into how a candidate’s skills can specifically apply to situations they may face at the hiring organization. 

Unfortunately, interviewer bias in qualitative research is also frequently occurring. Interviewer bias in qualitative research can cost businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars if hiring decisions are made based on prejudices. An interviewer bias example in qualitative research is: the candidate from the above example begins describing a time they led a team at their university, and the interviewer notices that the candidate did not attend an ivy league college. They are torn between two candidates and the interviewer decides on a different candidate because this one did not go to an ivy league school. 

Interviewer bias in semi-structured interviews is a common error. Companies interested in how to avoid interviewer bias in qualitative research should take the time to understand interviewer bias in research conducted while observing their internal recruitment operations. If having to conduct interview bias in case-control studies sounds too time consuming, consider investing in interview intelligence to help automate the work and improve hiring decisions using data. 

Interview Bias Psychology

A key step in how to reduce interviewer bias is understanding interview bias psychology. Bias in interviews can show up in many ways, including:

1.) Contrast bias interviewing, meaning: when an interviewer compares candidates to each other 
They should be compared to a set of skills required to do the job successfully

2.) Contagious bias in the interview, meaning: the interviewer is influenced by someone else’s bias towards a candidate
This is why group interviews can be problematic
It’s also why candidate feedback should be collected before interviewers are allowed to discuss amongst each other

3.)...and so many more!

Unstructured interview psychology typically leads to bias influencing interviews and hiring decisions. Teams looking to hire equitably and efficiently should consider their interview method in psychology - are they grading candidates on the correct criteria?

Are other interviewers potentially influencing their feedback and decisions? 

Before speaking with a candidate at all, could interview bias in research be influencing which candidates are selected for interviews?

By understanding interviewer bias psychology, hiring teams will be able to more effectively combat bias in the hiring process. 

How To Avoid Interviewer Bias In Research

Let’s answer some FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) related to interviewer bias in research:

What is interviewer bias in research? 

When hiring teams are researching candidates to select for interviews, sometimes psychological biases influence their decisions. For example, a candidate is not selected for interviewing because a recruiter views their background as “non-standard” compared to the candidates typically hired in that role. 

How to avoid interviewer bias in research? 

Blind resume screening is the best practice for not allowing bias to influence decisions on which candidates to select for interviews. Before adopting this practice, ensure that your team is educated on the negative impacts of interviewer bias and trained on how to avoid interviewer bias in qualitative research (i.e. reading someone’s recommendation of a candidate before conducting an interview with them) as well. One way companies have done this successfully in the past is with written instructions shared with hiring teams as an elimination of bias in qualitative research pdf - however due to lack of adoption for documents, it’s much easier to leverage interview intelligence solutions like Pillar that offer ongoing coaching and training for equitable hiring. 

What is interviewer bias in psychology? 

When a preconceived notion or prejudice influences interviewer behavior. Interviewer bias statistics indicate these prejudices can affect decisions throughout the recruitment cycle.

How to reduce interviewer bias?

In addition to the blind resume screening and interview intelligence/interviewer training, consider:
Structured and semi-structured interview questions
Ongoing company-wide anti-bias training
Improvements to how and when feedback is collected after an interview

For further tips, check out the Ultimate Interview Checklist for Hiring Teams

Identifying And Avoiding Interview Biases

How can bias affect a job interview? Biases can provide negative experiences to your candidates (see 8 Steps to Take your Candidate Experience from Good to Great here), decreasing your offer acceptance rates. If you aren’t able to hire the right candidates, your company may suffer from late deadlines, missed goals, and lost revenue. 

By identifying and avoiding interview biases, your team can hire the right person, avoid risks to the company and potentially exceed targets and goals as a result.

How do we know what to look for? 

Common interview biases that are turn-offs to top candidates include interview biases in research and cultural bias interview questions. For example, when an interviewer starts a conversation with “I don’t think you have the right background for this”, while that candidate may have the right skill set in place they immediately begin to lose interest in the role because it’s clear the potential co-worker is biased against them based on something beyond their control. An example of a cultural bias interview question is “What do you like to do for fun?”. 

This question doesn’t assess a candidate's relevant skills for the job, and opens the door to affinity or halo bias. Maybe the interviewer gives positive feedback because they have a similar interest, or because they believe the candidate is a good person because of their hobbies outside of work - neither scenario has anything to do with the candidate's skills being applicable for the specific job they are interviewing for.

Remember: your time in an interview with a candidate is valuable! You only get so many minutes to ask questions and evaluate their answers, so if your team is not asking the right questions you are risking hiring a candidate without understanding their full skill set and whether they are truly the best fit for the role. 

To remove biases like the above and adopt best practices, check out the 10 Commandments of Convincing Top Candidates to Work for You.