We’d all like to believe that our decisions are rational and that we have full control over our choices – but the truth is that we are always under the influence of cognitive biases.
What are biases?
It’s impossible for the brain to adequately evaluate every new piece of information it’s faced with, so it’s programmed to make snap judgements about people, situations, and objects. While these mental shortcuts are a much-needed survival technique, making quick judgements without thorough assessment can be a negative thing and lead to opinions that are unfairly prejudiced.
Types of interview biases
When it comes to conducting interviews, you can try your best to remain objective, but biases can sneak in. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the different types so you can recognise and actively avoid them. Here are seven different types of common interview biases:
A stereotype is an over-generalised opinion about a particular group of people, based on a fixed set of attributes that we believe to be typical of that group.
It is a serious issue in interviews, as the interviewer can make an assumption about a candidate that is not based on their skills or ability but on an initial stereotype.
2. Gender and racial bias
Gender or racial bias is when the interviewer holds a belief about a particular gender or race, believing that the job is not suitable for someone of that gender or race.
Interviewers should in no way allow gender or racial bias to influence their hiring decisions, not only from a moral standpoint, but they may also face legal action for discrimination.
3. Confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is where the interviewer may ask questions or make leading statements that encourage the interviewee to confirm what they think they already know about them, based on their CV or application.
It also relates to how people pay more attention to information that confirms their existing beliefs, prefer to interact with people who have similar views, and are reluctant to listen to different opinions.
It’s important to be aware of this bias - if people are being hired because they share the same views as their line managers, it can stifle growth and innovation across the business.
4. Recency bias
Recency bias is when an interviewer tends to remember and favour applicants that were interviewed most recently.
You may have interviewed many candidates in any given day and each one can seem to merge with the next. This is when you may succumb to recency bias and subconsciously favour candidates towards the end of the interview process. The issue is that the best person for the job could be someone you interviewed right at the start of the day or halfway through.
5. Similarity bias
Also known as affinity bias, similarity bias is when an interviewer makes hiring decisions based on similar physical attributes or shared interests that are either discussed during the interview, or shared on a candidate’s CV.
For example, an interviewer may ask the potential employee if they had a nice weekend, and the interviewee could reply with something like: “I did thank you, I went for a hike with my dog”. If the interviewer is also a keen hiker and dog owner, then whether intentional or not, the interviewer will view the candidate more favourably, even before any skills or work-related information has been ascertained.
6. Halo bias
The halo bias is when one positive characteristic overshadows all others. For example, if the person interviewing reads that the applicant went to a top university on their CV or had previously worked for an extremely well-known brand that they respect, they may fixate on that and overlook negative traits.
7. Horn bias
Opposite to the halo bias, the horn bias is when a negative trait overshadows all the positive skills and competencies. For example, a candidate may have spelled a word incorrectly on their CV and the interviewer can’t get this out of their head, placing too much importance on the error and dismissing the many positive traits they possess.
How to avoid bias when interviewing
Keep interviews consistent
Ask every candidate the same questions – making sure they are relevant to the skills and competencies of the interviewee - and record their answers accurately. Taking notes in real time will limit opinions and bias creeping in.
Provide training to interviewers
All interviewers should undergo training in diversity and inclusion and learn how recognise and avoid their own unconscious biases. This will provide a fairer system for all potential employees and help hiring managers uncover their own hidden prejudices.
Have a diverse panel of interviewers
If there are multiple interview stages or you are using a panel of interviewers, make sure the panel is diverse to allow for a fairer decision to be made. Each interviewer will have different biases, so altogether the bias is reduced.
Limit personal conversations
Some small talk is important when welcoming an interviewee but keep it small. Engaging in personal conversations can lead to similarity bias.
Use a standard scoring criteria
Develop a standard scoring criteria and apply this to all interviews. Referring back to this later will ensure each candidate is evaluated fairly and on a level playing field.
Record and re-watch remote interviews
If you are conducting remote interviews, record them (with the candidate’s permission) and re-watch them in a different order to avoid recency bias.
If you are looking for the next talented professional to join your team, get in touch with one of our specialist consultants today.