Identifying & Avoiding Interview Biases

If you ask recruiters whether they have interview biases, you might take them by surprise. While many of today’s top business leaders and HR teams are aware of the concept of bias in hiring, they still need help to identify where and how they emerge and how they can negatively impact job candidates and their organizations.

One area where it is crucial to identify, avoid, and prevent different types of bias in recruitment is during the interview phase of the hiring process. As you strive to build a diverse group of employees to add value to your organization, avoiding unconscious bias in interviewing is a fundamental step toward success.

What Is Interview Bias?

Interview bias is an interviewer’s preference for one candidate — or one type of candidate — over others based on a preconceived idea or unconscious ideal associated with a candidate or interviewee. In the case of interview bias, interviewers likely do this unknowingly. Still, it is a prejudice against a job seeker based on various factors not related to their qualifications or ability to do the job well.

Most of the time, biases revolve around a candidate’s race, ethnicity, gender, place of origin, age, appearance, or even the higher education institution they did or did not attend. Employers need to understand how to deal with such bias, since they are likely to lose a chance to hire the most talented candidate.

What About Unconscious Interview Biases?

Unconscious biases are embedded in someone’s unconscious thoughts, meaning that they probably think they are aware and forward-thinking, but they hold some deep-rooted stereotypes. They might have formed this line of thinking from an early age without realizing it. The fact is that it is natural that the human brain becomes wired in a certain way. It takes time, effort, and commitment to do necessary rewiring to remove unconscious bias.

Why Does Interview Bias Happen?

As mentioned above, unconscious bias has been interwoven in the public consciousness for centuries. Only in the past few decades have employers committed to enhancing their organizations’ workforces with more diverse and inclusive staffing strategies, focusing on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) best practices.

Even when diligently striving to remove interview bias, certain words and approaches remain somewhat ingrained in the public consciousness. While some interviewers might have some underlying ulterior motive, most who err usually do so in good faith and want to do better.

More employers seek executive diversity coaching partners to help define and clarify goals to remove interview bias — unconscious or otherwise — by offering recommendations for positive outcomes. Such a partnership can help your hiring managers and employees enjoy more positive and respectful interactions with co-workers regardless of race, age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, mental ability, sexual orientation, and physical traits.

Different Types of Interview Bias

An effective way of ridding your recruiting process of interview biases is to identify them. Here are some essential ideas to watch for when identifying and avoiding interview biases.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias occurs when an interviewer knowingly or unknowingly looks for evidence or interprets answers in a certain way that supports their beliefs, expectations, or pre-formed ideas about a candidate or what the candidate might “look like” in the role.

Contrast Bias

Like a parent favoring one child over another, identifying a candidate’s weaknesses and contrasting them against another’s strengths can result in missing out on a talented person’s abilities and qualifications. One way to help avoid this bias is to take notes during the interview and review them later, focusing on the comprehensive qualifications of each candidate. It might also help to take longer breaks between interviews to refocus and consider each candidate on a purely individual basis.

First Impression Bias

First impression bias is a common and notorious type of interview bias, positive or negative. An interviewer might make a snap judgment on one or more of the following aspects of candidates’ appearances:

  • The clothing they wear
  • Their haircut or hairstyle
  • The way they speak, such as if they stutter or stammer
  • Their race, gender, weight, or age

Halo Effect Bias

Sometimes a candidate will give a particular answer or say something that an interviewer latches onto, such as attending the same college.

Corporate DEI Training and Coaching Can Help

To meet your goals for identifying, avoiding, and removing interview biases from your company, consider taking on a partnership with CoachDiversity Institute.

We believe that a one-time corporate diversity training workshop isn’t enough to help change your workplace attitudes and culture. Our team of experienced coaches can assist you in implementing dynamic diversity programs over time and with great success.