Download Our Guide: Best Practices for Interviewing
Download this guide to learn best practices for interviewing and seven simple steps to improve your hiring process.
Hiring good employees who can perform their job well and align with your organization’s goals is more critical than ever — easier said than done. Often bias in job interviews makes it difficult to identify qualified candidates. But there’s simply too much competition for talent to let bias sway your hiring process.
Instead of interviewing each candidate objectively to determine if their skills, experience, and character are right for the role, interviewers may make subjective judgments about the candidate themselves. For example, the interviewer may judge a candidate by the way they’re dressed, their body language, or whether they make enough eye contact. Or the interviewer may draw upon stereotypes about the roles that certain age or gender groups may be better suited for than others. There are many varieties of bias that can creep into the interview, but the tricky part is that the interviewer may not even be aware of it.
How prevalent is interview bias? A British study found that 60% of interviewers make a decision within the first 15 minutes, and 20% make a decision in the first five minutes. Five minutes — even 15 minutes — is hardly enough time to learn who the candidate is, let alone what they can do. These kinds of snap judgments might be why job interviews only have a 50% chance of accurately identifying good candidates.
To improve your odds and hire the right talent, first recognize what interviewer bias is and how easily it can influence the interview process and your candidate evaluations. Once you’re aware of the possibility of interview bias, you can take steps to reduce or avoid it so you can make fairer, more advantageous hiring decisions.
Though there are many ways to avoid bias during job interviews, here are five we’ve found to be particularly helpful:
Advertising job openings in a multitude of places — including websites, social media networks, newsletters, and publications where you typically wouldn’t — widens and diversifies your pool of potential candidates.
From this larger, more diverse pool, you can get access to exceptionally qualified people you would otherwise never know about, which can neutralize bias before the interview process even begins. When you’re not choosing from the same pool of candidates that you always do — with the same types of people coming from the same general background and having the same skill sets — you expand what’s possible, both for the role and your organization.
Many people don’t realize how often a “gut” feeling or instinct about something or someone can actually steer them wrong. Turns out our instincts are often just our cognitive biases masquerading as strong feelings — and it’s pretty hard to ignore strong feelings.
This is not to say that your gut is always wrong. Indeed, intuitive or instinctual thinking is important in certain situations and can complement analytic thinking to help you reach a solid conclusion or make a smart decision. But if you’re using your gut reaction to a candidate as your sole method of evaluation, you’re overly relying on an unreliable one that probably won’t get you the results you’re hoping for.
Making small talk is generally a good thing. In an interview, it can create a relaxed atmosphere that puts candidates at ease. But there’s also a hidden problem with small talk — you may get information from the candidate that triggers your biases. For example, you could be subconsciously judging where they grew up or the last vacation they took. Or you could be subtly surmising what their political or religious views might be — any of which can have an outsized influence on your evaluation of them.
You may not want to cut out small talk completely — especially if it suits your personal interview style. However, making an effort to keep the small talk brief and general will help keep you from accidentally wading into conversational waters that increase the likelihood of biased thinking.
No matter what, as humans, we’re going to develop individual impressions and preferences that guide our thinking, but don’t always tell the full story. To counteract blind spots and biases, consider having a second person — or a few other people — conduct an interview with each candidate as well.
Though there may be time and resource constraints with this approach, the point is that each interviewer can get a sense of each candidate, and then compare notes. You might discover that something you thought was negative in one of the candidates turned out to be a positive for another interviewer or vice versa. Having multiple perspectives helps you evaluate each candidate fairly and comprehensively, and avoids lending too much weight toward any one person’s point of view.
Maybe your organization always conducts individual interviews, or maybe group interviews have been your preferred method for years. Whatever the case, consider how changing the interview itself can elicit different interactions and responses from candidates that challenge your biases — in a good way.
There are a variety of interview types you can try, from behavioral interviews that focus on how a candidate would think or react in various situations to technical interviews that test a candidate’s actual skills, and many others. Some types of interviews may be better for certain roles or teams. But the take-home message is that doing what you’ve always done can entrench and reinforce interview bias. On the other hand, switching it up can give you a fresh perspective and a unique interview experience that could result in a great new hire.
Job interviews require thoughtfulness, strategy, and skill. How well you interview candidates can mean the difference between building the best team possible to meet your short- and long-term business goals, or ending up with a few bad hires that don’t work out and require you to start all over again.
Reducing interview bias is just one way to improve and enhance the interview process. To learn more about interviewing best practices and steps you can take to improve your hiring strategy, download the eGuide below.