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Identifying and Managing Interviewer Bias

Identifying and Managing Interviewer Bias

In the modern workplace, it’s essential that employers ensure that their recruitment and selection processes are free from bias. Interviewers often have the difficult task of making important hiring decisions based on limited information. In order to make the best and most equitable decisions, it’s critical that interviewers understand the most common types of biases and how to prevent them from impacting the decision-making process. 

 

What is interview bias?

Interviewing bias refers to the subjective opinions or prejudices that an interviewer may hold, which can influence the outcome of an interview. Bias can arise from a variety of factors, including the interviewer’s personal beliefs, preferences, and experiences, as well as their unconscious biases.

Interviewing bias can manifest in a number of ways. For example, an interviewer may form an impression of a candidate based on their appearances or other non-job-related factors, such as their accent or ethnicity. They may also ask questions that are irrelevant to the job or that unfairly disadvantage certain candidates.

Interviewer bias can be a significant problem in the hiring process, as it can result in qualified candidates being overlooked or discriminated against. To minimize bias, employers can use structured interviews, which involve asking all candidates the same set of questions, and train interviewers to recognize and avoid bias. Additionally, technology can be utilized to anonymize candidates during the initial stages of the hiring process.

 

Types of biases

Biases in the interview process can take many forms, from conscious discrimination to unconscious bias. Common examples of interviewer bias are based on: 

  • Age bias: when interviewers have a preference for younger or older candidates. 
  • Gender bias: when interviewers have a preference for male or female candidates. 
  • Racial bias: when interviewers have a preference for candidates of a certain race or ethnicity. 
  • Religious bias: when interviewers have a preference for candidates of a certain faith. 
  • Educational bias: when interviewers have a preference for candidates with higher levels of education. 
  • Physical ability bias: when interviewers have a preference for candidates with certain physical abilities. 

Biases can have serious implications for companies, not only can they lead to a lack of diversity within the workplace, they can also leave employers open to legal action. Candidates who feel that they have been unfairly discriminated against may take their case to an employment tribunal, which can be costly for the employer.

 

Aside from the common more obvious biases, there are a few more nuanced biases that can severely hamper your recruitment process. Being aware and proactive about the following biases will greatly impact how you treat and engage potential candidates and prevent interviewer bias.

  • Confirmation bias: The interviewer only looks for information that confirms their preconceptions about the candidate.
  • Halo effect: The interviewer forms an overall positive impression of the candidate based on a single positive characteristic or attribute, ignoring other factors that may be important.
  • Horns effect: The opposite of the halo effect, the interviewer forms a negative impression of the candidate based on a single negative characteristic or attribute.
  • Similar-to-me bias: The interviewer tends to prefer candidates who are similar to them in terms of background, experience, or personality.
  • Cultural bias: The interviewer evaluates the candidate based on cultural stereotypes, which may unfairly disadvantage certain candidates.
  • Stereotyping bias: The interviewer relies on stereotypes about certain groups of people, such as gender, race, or age, to form an opinion about the candidate.
  • Recency bias: The interviewer’s evaluation of the candidate is heavily influenced by the most recent information or impression, rather than the candidate’s overall performance.
  • Anchoring bias: The interviewer makes a decision based on the first piece of information they receive about the candidate, which can anchor their subsequent evaluations.
  • Interviewer effect: The interviewer’s behaviour or personality can influence the candidate’s performance or responses, leading to biased evaluations.

It’s important for interviewers to be aware of these biases and take steps to mitigate them to ensure that they are making objective and fair hiring decisions.

 

How can candidates protect themselves from interviewer bias?

Candidates can help protect themselves from bias by familiarizing themselves with their rights and speaking out if they feel they are being treated unfairly during an interview. It’s also critical for candidates to be aware of the potential for bias and to make sure they present themselves as objectively as possible. 

If you’re a job seeker, here are some ways you can protect yourself from interviewing bias:

  • Research the company and the job: Before the interview, do some research on the company and the job requirements so that you can be well-prepared and present yourself in the best possible light.
  • Focus on your qualifications: During the interview, focus on your qualifications, skills, and experience that are relevant to the job, and try to give specific examples of how you’ve used these in the past.
  • Be aware of your body language: Make sure your body language conveys confidence and professionalism, such as maintaining eye contact, sitting up straight, and avoiding nervous tics.
  • Avoid making assumptions: Don’t make assumptions about the interviewer or the company based on their appearance, accent, or other factors.
  • Stay positive and engaged: Stay positive and engaged throughout the interview, even if you feel like the interviewer is biased or unfair. A positive attitude can go a long way towards making a good impression.
  • Follow up with a thank-you note: After the interview, follow up with a thank-you note or email, which can help keep you top-of-mind and demonstrate your professionalism.

It’s important to remember that interview bias is not always within a candidate’s control, and it is ultimately the responsibility of the interviewer and the employer to ensure that the hiring process is fair and unbiased.

 

How can a company prevent recruitment bias?

For employers, the key to preventing bias is to ensure that recruitment and selection processes are fair and equitable. This means taking steps to ensure that all applicants are considered on their merits and that the selection process is objective and transparent. Interviewers should avoid asking questions that are likely to lead to bias, such as questions about age, gender, race, religion or physical ability. Employers should also ensure that job descriptions are clear, and that candidates have a full understanding of the role they are applying for.

Here are some strategies that interviewers can use to avoid bias:

  • Use structured interviews: Structured interviews involve asking all candidates the same set of questions in the same order, which can help ensure that all candidates are evaluated on the same criteria.
  • Define the job requirements: Before the interview, make sure you have a clear understanding of the job requirements and the skills and experience needed to perform the job effectively.
  • Develop clear evaluation criteria: Develop clear evaluation criteria based on the job requirements, and use these criteria to evaluate all candidates consistently.
  • Avoid irrelevant or discriminatory questions: Avoid asking questions that are not relevant to the job, or that may discriminate against certain candidates based on their gender, race, age, religion, or other factors.
  • Train interviewers on unconscious bias: Train interviewers on unconscious bias and how to recognize and avoid it in the hiring process.
  • Diversify the interview panel: Include interviewers from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to help minimize bias and provide a more comprehensive evaluation of candidates.
  • Use objective assessments: Consider using objective assessments, such as skills tests or personality assessments, to supplement the interview process and provide a more complete evaluation of candidates.
  • Consider blind hiring: In blind hiring, identifying information such as a candidate’s name, gender, or age is removed from the application or resume to help eliminate bias in the initial screening process.

By implementing these strategies, interviewers can help ensure that the hiring process is fair, objective, and focused on evaluating candidates based on their qualifications and ability to perform the job effectively.

 

Finally, employers should make sure that their recruitment and selection processes are regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that they remain fair and unbiased. Interviewers should be aware of the potential for bias and make sure they are making decisions based on the merits of each candidate. By taking steps to ensure that their recruitment and selection processes are free from bias, employers can ensure that they make the best decisions for their business and create a more diverse and equitable workplace.