One of the most important stages of the recruiting process is the interview. Unfortunately, a high-stakes conversation like a job interview can trigger interviewer bias affecting even the most experienced hiring managers.
Failure to learn how to reduce interviewer bias may lead to your organization losing out on top talent. A 2018 Linkedin study on hiring managers found that 42% of recruiters felt interviewer bias was a big problem in efficient hiring.
In this blog, I’ll explain what interviewer bias is, the different types of interviewer bias, and share tips on how to remove it from your talent acquisition process.
Let’s dive in.
What is interviewer bias?
“Interviewer bias” is the unconscious (or even conscious) judgment of a candidate that isn’t based on their qualifications for the role.
This kind of unconscious bias is not only discriminatory but also unfair and leads to poor hiring choices (and high employee turnover rates). And in some situations, a biased recruiting process leads to legal troubles.
Interviewer bias can be positive or negative.
Positive bias occurs, for example, if you think the candidate is good-looking, you have the same hobbies, or you went to the same schools.
Or, you may have a negative bias towards a candidate because of how they talk, their race, country of origin, or even the former organization they worked at.
None of the factors above, positive or negative, should be used to evaluate an applicant’s ability to excel at their work. That’s why knowing most of the interviewer bias examples is essential to help you hire applicants fairly.
Types of interviewer bias
Interviewer bias occurs in different ways based on the interviewee, interviewer, or the situation of the interview. Here are 6 common types of interviewer bias to look out for during your interviews.
When the interviewer has a lot in common with the interviewee, it’s easy to favor them. But loving the same music, coming from the same place, and having the same hobbies doesn’t guarantee a candidate is qualified for the job.
This type of bias occurs when you let one good quality of a candidate affect the other factors of their application. For example, if a candidate has excellent time management skills, it shouldn’t affect your assessment of their communication skills.
Reverse Halo Effect
This is the opposite of the above bias. If a candidate is weak in some areas, it shouldn’t negatively affect the areas they are good at. For example, if you need a candidate that can build good customer relationships, then their less-than-stellar math skills shouldn’t be used against them.
Sometimes an interviewee’s mannerisms or body language might upset an interviewer. This might be out of the interviewee’s control. It’s important to note that it might not affect their work performance unless in specific career fields.
This bias occurs when you compare and contrast one candidate against another. Interviewing a poor communicator might make the next interviewee look like a great candidate, but that isn’t always the case. The next candidate might look good because you are comparing the two.
This is when you form a prejudicial opinion on the candidate based on their ethnicity, gender, race, or sexual orientation. For example, you may be inclined to reject a male nurse candidate because you believe women make great nurses due to their caring nature. Or you may reject a female candidate for a top leadership position because you believe women shouldn’t be leaders.
9 Tips to Reduce Interviewer Bias in Hiring
Preventing bias in your interview process is important to ensure fair recruiting practices. Here are 9 ways to reduce interviewer bias when hiring:
Offer Interviewer Training
To combat biases during interviews, it’s best for interviewers to be aware of them. Equipping your interviewers with the right knowledge, training, and resources will help them deliver a fair recruiting process-every time.
The process takes time. It’s not an overnight achievement. Interviewer training can include content like:
- Understanding how assumptions can be made about candidates.
- Having an open mind and avoiding focusing on body language or looks that may affect the evaluation of the candidate.
- How to avoid asking questions that lead to bias made on the character of the candidate.
- Teaching the interviewers about the different types of interviewer bias.
- Recognizing how stereotypes can be made about candidates.
- Avoiding interview questions related to protected characteristics such as plans to have children, getting married, and childcare arrangements.
- How to identify cultural noise (i.e, when an applicant isn’t being honest but trying to impress the interviewer).
Ensure Candidates are at Ease
This is where inclusivity comes in during your recruiting process. Inclusive interviewing ensures candidates are comfortable and feel welcome to be their authentic selves.
Here are 2 ways you can put your candidates at ease:
- Prepare them well for the interview process. For example, explain what they should expect during the process (e.g. the topics and questions that may come up and the number of interviewers present).
- Be empathetic with candidates who have physical disabilities or are neurodivergent. Do this before the interview by asking them if there are any accommodations they may need. For example, someone who has limited hearing might need you to have good lighting so they can lip read, and an autistic person might request to be interviewed in a quiet place. The list goes on, but the point is you may not always know what a candidate needs, but you should ask and accommodate them.
Build a Diverse Hiring Panel
An ideal interview process includes different people to ensure unbiased, and fair judgments are made about each applicant. The panel can include interviewers who differ in aspects like sexual orientation, race, gender, skills, and experience.
A diverse talent acquisition panel helps with 2 things:
- It helps put your applicants at ease by seeing there is a person they can relate with.
- It gives room for different perspectives to enhance a well-rounded evaluation.
I talked to Nicky Dutta, the CEO of Lorel Diamonds, to learn why she uses multiple interviewers at her company. She said:
“From my experience as a CEO, I’ve found that a diverse recruiting panel gives a balanced assessment of each candidate. And this helps us hire the best talent. During the interviews, I also recommended to our HR that when hiring someone for the same position already in the company — let a current employee conduct a skills assessment interview with the prospect. The current employee will better gauge whether the candidate will be a good fit based on his understanding of the job requirements and matching the potential candidate’s skill as demonstrated”
Write Inclusive Job Descriptions
To create an inclusive and welcoming environment in your early recruitment stages, ensure your job descriptions use inclusive language. Educate employees who write job descriptions to:
- Remove gendered language
- Use gender-neutral adjectives
- Remove corporate jargon
- Not use biased language (that includes racial, ethnicity, disability, mental health bias & more)
- Avoid gender-specific pronouns
- Avoid using buzzwords
And, while crafting your job descriptions, use hiring tools to help you prevent unconscious bias. For example, you can use Ongig’s Text Analyzer to easily find biased words in your job descriptions, so you can remove or replace them with more inclusive alternatives.
Also, be sure to list your organization’s commitment to inclusion and diversity in your job descriptions or on your career page. You can also put links to your company’s codes of conduct, employee resource groups, and other initiatives you’re doing to foster inclusion.
Acknowledge Bias in Virtual Recruiting
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual interviewing has become the new normal. You might think this has led to fair talent acquisition practices, but no always. Research from Fast Company shows that virtual interviews have instead led to more bias.
To prevent biases from affecting your virtual interviews, do this:
- Share video interview resources
Before the interview, share tips and resources you know can help candidates. For example, share troubleshooting or tech tips with the candidates to help them set up their equipment. And, ask them what they need to be comfortable with the video interview.
- Structure questions properly
Your goal from a video interview is to find out if a candidate has the right skills for the job. To achieve that, set questions that require little explanation. For example, “What is your biggest achievement in project management?”
- Set up a phone call
Begin with a phone call to break the ice between you and the candidate. This will make everyone more comfortable with each other during the video interview. But also be mindful of the unforeseen problems during a phone conversation that may bring about more unconscious bias.
De-Personalize Candidate Resumes
Biases aren’t just based on behaviors and appearances. They can be caused by learning about a candidate through their resume.
Reduce the chances for unconscious bias by avoiding knowing where the candidate went to school, where they live, and the year they graduated. To do this, use a digital tool to anonymize the applications and resumes (if needed). Clovers and Pinpoint Recruitment are examples of these types of tools.
I talked to Peter Hoopis, CEO & Owner of Peter Hoopis Ventures to learn about the information they eliminate from their candidates’ resumes:
“We remove details, such as race, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, name, and email address that can lead to biased judgments. It might seem odd that we remove the names and email addresses so they’re unknown to the interviewer. We do this because names can give an indication of the applicant’s ethnicity, which could contribute to bias.”
Design Manuals and Establish a Rubric
Before you begin your interview process, decide which skills are important and evaluate the skills individually. This will help your interviewers avoid the contrast effect, stereotyping, and first impression bias, among others.
Generally, hiring managers will have already listed the skills needed for the job when writing the job description, so be sure to use the same ones.
A scorecard can help you list the skills and traits you’ve selected as the most essential for the open position, and a rating from 1-5 for each one. The scorecard should also include a comment section where interviewers can support their rating with a description of what they observed and learned about the candidate during the interview.
Remember, a scorecard is meant to give your interviewers the structure for judgments to be shared and substantiated. If one of your team members on the hiring panel can’t support a judgment with something the applicant said or did, that shouldn’t be shared.
Instead, create a section and call it “more information” to be collected about the candidate.
Use an Interview Guide
An interview guide is a tool that outlines how you can structure the interview process. This document supports fairness by ensuring every candidate gets the same chance to describe their experience and skills.
The content of an interview guide depends on different organizations, but here are the main components:
- Information about your organization and position
- The main role responsibilities
- Question types or sample questions
- Follow-up questions, dependent on your candidates’ responses
- The interview method
- Conclusion about the hiring process for your candidates
Reduce the Niceties
When it comes to face-face-face interviews, it might seem like being too personal is a good trait but may create room for bias to grow.
Besides a polite greeting like “How are you doing?” try not to ask too many personal questions about their day, what they have planned for the weekend, and where they’re traveling.
Personal questions during interviews may bring stereotypes or “similar-to-me bias.” This hampers a fair assessment of the applicant’s performance. But if this approach is against your organization’s company culture, have an external person conduct a meet and greet before the interview begins.
They can even explain to the applicants that they’re present to minimize any bias, helping the candidate feel confident.
WHY I WROTE THIS:
Ongig’s mission is to support your commitment to writing inclusive job descriptions with our Text Analyzer software. Book a demo today to learn how you can minimize interviewer bias by removing bias from your JDs.
- The 4 Trends Changing how you Hire in 2018 and beyond by (LinkedIn)
- Training Btaff to be Better Interviewers by (SHRM)
- Using Zoom for Job Interviews right now makes an old-age Problem even worse by (FastCompany)
- Guidelines for Conducting Virtual Interviews by (McMaster University)
- Nicky Dutta, the CEO of Lorel Diamonds
- Peter Hoopis CEO & Owner of Peter Hoopis Ventures
- A Guideline to Interview Scorecards (With a Template and Example) by (McMaster University)