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Common Interview Biases That Impact Hiring Decisions

Common Interview Biases That Impact Hiring Decisions

An interview gives a recruiter or hiring manager the opportunity to assess the applicant’s strengths, weaknesses and overall compatibility for the available position. However, sometimes interviewers can unconsciously develop an opinion of a candidate based on one of these common interview biases:

Confirmation Bias

Research has shown people have a tendency to seek out information which confirms a preconceived belief. This means recruiters may review a resume prior to an interview and develop a general idea about the applicant. The idea can be either positive or negative, for example, a recruiter could judge an applicant’s intelligence based on what school he or she attended. Then, during the interview, the recruiter will seek out information that reassures him the preconceived belief is correct. Interviewers who unconsciously do this go into every interview without an open mind and limit their ability to find a strong candidate.

Similarity Bias

When an interviewer has something in common with the interviewee, the similarity bias comes into effect. For example, it could be discovered through small talk that both the interviewee and interviewer come from the same small town in a different state, like the same sports team or went to the same high school. Even though these similarities do not have anything to do with whether the person is qualified for the job, they can unconsciously affect the interviewer’s opinion of the applicant.

Cultural Stereotypes

Even though cultural stereotypes are not always accurate, they still exist and unconsciously impact many employers’ hiring decisions. An interviewer could be motivated to hire an Indian or Asian applicant over other applicants if the job requires superior math skills, since a common stereotype is Indians and Asians both excel at math.

Bandwagon Effect

Many companies put applicants through a number of different rounds of interviews before making a decision. When this is done, the possibility of a bandwagon effect exists. For example, let’s say the first manager completes his round of interviews and passes along an applicant’s information to the second manager. The first manager also makes a comment about how the second manager should not waste her time, since the applicant is clearly not a good fit. When the second manager finishes her interview with the applicant, she may jump on the bandwagon and agree with the first manager’s opinion, even if she doesn’t feel the same way.

Choice-Supportive Bias

This bias describes the tendency for people to feel positively about a choice they have made, even if the choice has serious and obvious flaws. For example, you are part of a group of recruiters sifting through a batch of resumes for qualified candidates. One resume catches your eye, but the other recruiters aren’t impressed. You fight for the chance to interview the applicant, and finally get your way. During the interview, you may be more likely to view the applicant in a positive light because he or she was your choice and your choice only.

Halo Effect

This bias occurs when an interviewer takes one positive quality about the applicant and applies it to everything else about that person. For example, if an interviewer finds an applicant to be physically attractive, the interviewer will also view the applicant’s character and personality more positively. The interviewer may immediately judge the applicant as nice and smart, even though these two qualities have nothing to do with being attractive.

How to Prevent Interviewing Biases

Luckily, there are steps hiring managers can take to eliminate or reduce these interviewing bias.

When organizations structure the interview and evaluation process, there is less of a chance that interviewing biases will impact your hiring decision. Before you begin a round of interviews, create a list of questions you would like to use to guide each interview. Conduct each of the interviews in the same location—don’t let some applicants interview through Skype while forcing others to come in the office. It may be best to conduct a phone interview first to eliminate any biases related to an applicant’s appearance.

During the interview, take detailed notes. If you can, write down as much of the interviewee’s actual responses as you can. When you are able to look back at your notes, you won’t have to rely on your recall abilities, which are prone to biases.

To add structure to the evaluation process, create a rubric that can be used to score each applicant before you begin interviews. Jot down notes during the interview, and afterwards, give each applicant a numerical score for each different skill on your rubric. If the applicant is being interviewed by more than one person at the company, keep your scores private until all interviews are complete

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