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Unconscious bias in interviewing is a costly and all too common challenge that businesses face. When unconscious bias influences how interviews are set up, conducted, and evaluated, companies are at risk of hiring the wrong candidates. Bad hires add up quickly and companies can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars on poor hiring decisions.
Common interview biases include stereotyping, affinity, and the halo effect bias. Halo effect in interviews is when a candidate’s good qualities erase their potential to do wrong in an interviewer’s perception. For example: a candidate has done successful work at a big name tech company. Based on that qualification, the interviewer doesn’t ask about specific skills related to the role because they assume the candidate is great, solely based on the name recognition of the big company. The halo effect is a top interviewer bias in quantitative research - meaning that you see a name of a company, a number of years in a field, and make the assumption based on data while researching the candidate.
A common example of interviewer bias in qualitative research is affinity bias - when a candidate has something in common with the interviewer and that influences their decision. For example, “This candidate went to the same university as me - since I’m smart and great at this job, they will be too!”. This example also applies to how stereotypes appear in interviews. Choosing a candidate to interview because they went to an ivy league university is also a frequent example of stereotypes in interviews.
If you’ve ever heard feedback from interviewers that sound like the above examples, chances are you are now reading this article as part of your process for identifying and avoiding interview biases. This is exactly why Pillar Interview Intelligence exists: to automatically identify where bias enters the interview process and empower hiring teams with unbiased interview questions and ongoing interview coaching.
Across industries and businesses, it is clear that the interview process is broken (see 5 Reasons Why the Interview Process has Become Broken here). So how do we fix it?
The first step in hiring more equitably and efficiently is developing and implementing structured interview questions. Unstructured interview questions lead to inconsistent candidate experiences and the risk of not uncovering all of a candidate’s skills essential to the job. Structured interview questions are fact-driven and quantitative, so that the interviewer is able to objectively identify whether a candidate truly has the right skills for the role they are hiring for. An example of structured interview questions is “What is your average sales cycle in your current role?”.
Semi-structured interview questions, on the other hand, are more data-driven than unstructured questions and also leave room for more qualitative responses. Examples of semi-structured interview questions include “Tell us about your conflict resolution experience - can you describe a time you had to resolve a conflict in the workplace?”. This way, interviewers get numeric data as well as relevant context to how a candidate may be qualified within a certain skill set.
A best practice is to ensure each candidate is asked the same set of questions and then rank each skill on a rating scale so that a hiring team can make a decision based on objective numbers (rather than feelings or potential biases). That’s why having an Interview Intelligence solution like Pillar is so powerful: you hold interviewers accountable to using structured interview questions and rating scales.
A best practice for structured interview questions and answers is to use behavior interview questions. Examples of behavior interview questions listed below, note that behavior interview questions are both structured and qualitative. Usually they ask about a skill and a story all in one question. That way, as a candidate answers, an interviewer can get a better understanding of the candidate’s decision-making process, and whether that candidate has applicable experiences within a given skill set.
What are the 10 most common behavioral interview questions and answers?
1.) How do you handle conflicts in the workplace? Describe a time you had a conflict with a coworker; what was the situation, what did you do, and what were the outcomes?
2.) How do you give feedback? Describe a specific example of a time you had to give constructive feedback; what was the context, your thought process, and how did it go?
3.) How do you handle constructive criticism? Describe a specific example of constructive feedback you have received, how you processed it and what your reaction was..
4.) Describe a project you managed. Describe the scope, your role in the project, and how you managed it. What lessons did you take away?
5) How do you handle tight deadlines and/or pressure in the workplace? Describe a specific situation; what was your thought process, what actions did you take, and what were the outcomes?
6.) Describe how you collaborate with coworkers. Describe a time you had to work with someone completely different than you; what was the situation and how did you collaborate?
7.) Can you give an example of a workplace situation where you had to adapt? Describe the situation; how did you adapt and what were the outcomes?
8.) How do you handle a challenge? Describe the situation; what did you do and what were the outcomes?
9.) What are your goals at work? Describe how you came to set those goals and what the process for achieving them will look like.
10.) What do you do when you make a mistake? Nobody is perfect - can you describe a time you made a mistake and what you did afterward? What lessons did you learn?
In contrast to these best practice interview questions, here is a guide on What NOT to Ask in an Interview.
If you’ve read this far, you now have an understanding of the types of bias in interviews, unconscious bias in recruitment examples, and a shortlist of unbiased interview questions. Now we can dive into how to reduce bias in hiring processes; which starts with how to avoid bias in interviews, and more specifically, bias in interviews research.
The interviewing process begins with candidate research - usually meaning researching applicants before selecting candidates to interview. In order to understand how to reduce interviewer bias in research, you need to know how interviewer bias shows up in research. While completing candidate research, an interviewer may be making selections influenced by unconscious bias - a few examples of this are:
*Declining a candidate because they might not speak English well (based on an assumption because their name looks foreign)
*Accepting a candidate because they are from the same hometown as the interviewer
This is why blind resume screening is an effective practice for avoiding bias in the research phase of your hiring process.
Once you have removed bias from the research and candidate selection process, you need to avoid bias in the interviews themselves. We’ve already walked through several biased interview questions examples in this article, so now you know how to recognize when bias is taking place within an interview. To remove bias, start with training your team on what to ask in an interview (see Tips from 5 of the World’s Best Interviewers here) and then leveraging a solution like Pillar Interview Intelligence for ongoing interview coaching in real time.
Finally, remove bias from feedback loops by putting structured feedback guidelines in place where interviewers must leave feedback prior to discussing them with other teammates (group bias) and in a timely manner so that the feedback remains objective (not a faint memory, which can lead to more subjective and “feeling-based” feedback).
What is the impact of bias in a job interview?
Experts in interview bias psychology and interviewer bias sociology who study how to avoid interviewer bias in research will agree: bias in an interview can be detrimental to the candidate’s experience.
How can bias affect a job interview?
Candidates can tell when biased interview questions are being asked. According to the 10 Commandments of Convincing Top Candidates to Work for You, the interview is a candidate's best chance at getting a feel for the culture and working environment of a company. When candidates notice that bias is taking place in an interview, they will be less inclined to accept an offer. Because of a single interviewer’s poor judgment, the perception of your entire organization’s culture may now be tainted.
What can be done to reduce bias in an interview?
It all starts with understanding - take the time to understand what is interviewer bias in research. Then listening - listen to interviews your hiring teams run today. What is interviewer bias looking like at your organization?
When you have the answers to those questions, you can finally begin to combat bias in the hiring process by tailoring your interviewer coaching and training around the specific challenges your team may be up against.
Part of your interviewer training should include educating your hiring teams on unconscious bias in recruitment examples.
Bias interview questions examples include:
*Are you married?
*Are you pregnant?
*Have you ever used drugs?
These interview question examples specifically may even be illegal to ask in a job interview! It’s very important for business leaders and hiring teams to take the time to understand what is illegal to say or ask in job interviews so they are not putting your company at risk of a lawsuit.
Interviewer bias examples include:
*Asking inappropriate questions like the above examples
*Selecting a candidate based on irrelevant information like “we have the same favorite sports team”
*Waiting to give feedback on a candidate until you hear what your boss thinks of them so you can write the same thing
Training your team on not asking biased questions is only one piece of the puzzle. You also need to train your team on how to answer interview questions about bias that a candidate may ask during the interview process. Diversity is a sensitive and important topic for interviews and companies that hire efficiently are able to effectively address and discuss DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) in the hiring process.
Let’s talk about DEI interview questions and interview questions about bias. It’s important to understand how candidates think about DEI so you can properly prepare and train interviewers on appropriately discussing these topics and how they pertain to your business. Once you have implemented a training regimen for DEI, you can track and measure success by using Interview Intelligence platforms like Pillar.
By leveraging the right tools in your recruitment process (check out our guide on How to Build the Best Tech Stack for Recruitment here), you will be able to assess equality interview questions and answers and ensure your hiring teams are providing the right information to interviewers. In addition to analyzing equality related questions, solutions like Pillar can track cultural diversity questions and answers. This helps recruiting teams to quickly identify when cultural bias interview questions may be negatively influencing the interview process.
Here are 7 Questions Candidates Ask When Evaluating DEI if you would like to explore how candidates may dig into sample diversity interview answers from your hiring teams. Preparing for racial equity interview questions and social justice interview questions and answers can greatly improve the candidate experience and your odds of hiring a strong, qualified person for the role.