The Perils of Interview Bias

While it’s exceedingly difficult to remove bias from an individual, it’s possible to design organisations in ways that make it harder for biased minds to skew judgment. We should stop wasting resources trying to de-bias mindsets and instead start to de-bias our hiring procedures.

Forming an opinion about how people of a given gender, religion, race, appearance, or other characteristic think, act, respond, or would perform the job without any evidence that this is the case.

Inconsistency in Questioning
Asking different questions of each candidate leads to a skewed assessment of who would best perform the job. Questions designed to get information about a specific candidate are only appropriate in the context of a core set of questions asked of all candidates.

First Impressions
An interviewer might make a snap judgement about someone based on their first impression positive or negative that clouds the entire interview. For example, letting the fact that the candidate is wearing out of the ordinary clothing or has a heavy regional accent take precedence over the applicant’s knowledge, skills, or abilities.

Negative Emphasis
This common occurance involves rejection of a candidate based on a small amount of negative information a common occurrence. Research indicates that interviewers give unfavourable information about twice the weight of favourable information.

Halo/Horn Effect
The “halo” effect occurs when an interviewer allows one strong point about the candidate to overshadow or influence everything else. For instance, knowing someone went to a university might be looked upon favourably, thus everything the applicant says during the interview is seen in this light. (“Well, she left out an important part of the answer to that question, but she must know it, she went to XYZ University). The “horn” effect is just the opposite allowing one weak point to influence everything else.

Cultural Noise
Since the candidate wants the job, she or he will provide the words the interviewer wants to hear, even if those words are not entirely truthful. For example, an applicant might say that he has no problem reporting to someone younger, or working in a team setting, when this is not the case. Interviewers should prepare questions that probe for specific examples and stay away from questions that elicit “yes” or “no” answers

Nonverbal Bias
Undue emphasis might be placed on nonverbal cues that have nothing to do with the job, such as loudness or softness of voice, or the type of handshake given.

Contrast Effect
Strong(er) candidates who interview after weak(er) ones may appear more qualified than they are because of the contrast between the two. Note taking during the interview and a reasonable period of time between interviews may alleviate this