It’s time to address the elephant in the room and talk about a common issue many hiring managers face: interviewer bias in the hiring process.
According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, a whopping 79% of HR departments believe unconscious bias plays a role in their hiring process.
Interviewer bias is a real problem that can lead to hiring decisions that are unfair and based on personal preferences rather than merit. Not only does this affect the diversity and inclusion of your workplace, but it can also hinder your ability to hire the best talent.
So, how can you avoid interview bias and create a more objective and fair interview process?
That’s what we’ll be diving into in this article. By following these tips, you’ll be able to make better hiring decisions and ensure that you’re evaluating candidates based on their qualifications, skills, and potential.
TL;DR – Key Takeaways
- Interviewer bias is a type of unconscious bias that can affect the hiring process and result in discrimination against different job candidates based on factors other than their skills.
- There are many different types of interviewer bias, including confirmation bias, the halo effect, and affinity bias, each of them leading to the same thing; hiring decisions that are not based on merit.
- There are a number of things that can be done to avoid interviewer bias, such as crafting an ideal candidate profile, performing job task analysis, using blind screening, hiring manager training, diverse hiring panels, and job-related criteria.
- Skills-based assessments, like the ones by Toggl Hire, can also be used to avoid bias and evaluate candidates based on real job-related skills, above all else.
What is Interviewer Bias in Hiring?
Interviewer bias is a form of unconscious bias and has a bad habit of sneaking into the hiring process. It happens when hiring managers allow their own biases, such as personal beliefs or preferences, to influence how they assess candidates. Sound familiar?
The main problem with this kind of bias, other than its potential to favor or discriminate against candidates based on non-job-related factors, is that it can lead to a bad hire.
Additionally, studies have shown that unconscious bias in hiring is potentially costing companies billions of dollars in lost revenue each year. That’s a hefty price to pay for overlooking diverse and capable candidates who would otherwise bring value to your organization.
How bias can impact job interviews
Bias can impact job interviews in a variety of ways. For instance, interviewers may exhibit a tendency to favor candidates who share similar characteristics, such as age, gender, race, or ethnicity. Additionally, they might be inclined to prioritize candidates who went to the same school, dress professionally, or have a strong handshake. Or, they might be prejudiced against those who don’t meet their expectations.
These examples show how bias can cloud judgment without the person being aware of it, resulting in hiring decisions that are not solely based on merit. By relying on personal preferences or superficial traits, there is a risk of disregarding the best candidate.
Common Types of Bias in Interviews
There are many different types of bias, but some of the most common examples include:
• Confirmation bias: The tendency to seek out information that confirms existing beliefs, such as asking women math-related questions in a job interview if there is a preconceived notion that women are not as good at math as men.
• Halo effect: Allowing one positive trait about a candidate to influence the overall assessment of their suitability for the job, such as being impressed by a candidate’s appearance and overlooking other shortcomings.
• Affinity interview bias: The inclination to hire individuals similar to ourselves in terms of age, gender, race, or ethnicity, which can hinder diversity and inclusion efforts.
• Similarity bias: Preferring candidates who share our interests, hobbies, or beliefs while overlooking the potential fit for the company.
• Projection bias: Making assumptions that others share our goals and priorities, such as assuming all candidates have an equal level of passion for a specific issue.
• Pitchfork effect: Jumping to the conclusion that a candidate’s negative trait or mistake during the interview automatically indicates a lack of capability for the job.
• Status quo bias: Preferring familiar candidates who have a similar experience to the existing staff.
• Nonverbal bias: Judging a candidate’s ability based on appearance or nonverbal cues, such as professional dress or eye contact.
• Expectation anchor: Being influenced by initial impressions of a candidate, potentially overlooking negative information later in the recruitment process.
• Contrast effect: Comparing candidates to each other rather than evaluating them based on the job requirements, potentially overshadowing qualified candidates.
• Conformity bias: Going along with the majority opinion, even if there are reservations about a candidate.
12 Ways to avoid interviewer bias and improve your hiring process
Just because a lot of interviewer bias is unconscious, doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything a hiring manager can do about it. In fact, one of the most effective ways to fight unconscious bias is through conscious awareness.
In addition, to ensure your hiring process is objective, fair, and free from interview bias, try implementing the following strategies:
1. Define an Ideal Candidate Profile
Start by creating a comprehensive profile that outlines the necessary skills, experience, and qualifications for the role. Use your ideal candidate profile to write a compelling job description and to serve as a consistent benchmark for evaluating candidates.
2. Conduct a Thorough Job Task Analysis
Perform a detailed job task analysis of the specific tasks and responsibilities associated with the position. Use this analysis to develop interview questions that directly assess a candidate’s aptitude and suitability for the role. Emphasizing job-related criteria minimizes opportunities for bias to influence the decision-making process.
This step will also be used to craft the perfect job description to add to your interview process.
3. Embrace Blind Screening Practices
Implementing blind hiring, where candidate applications are reviewed without access to personal information such as names, ages, genders, or race – the four horsemen of unconscious biases – is one of the most effective ways to avoid top talent slipping through the cracks.
By adopting this approach, companies can expect to experience an influx of diverse candidates, cultivate a more inclusive work culture, and enhance their reputation in the process.
4. Provide Comprehensive Training for Hiring Managers
Equip your hiring managers with thorough interview training on important issues, such as bias awareness and techniques for mitigating its effects. Enhancing their knowledge and awareness empowers interviewers to make objective assessments and minimize biased decision-making.
5. Foster a Diverse Hiring Panel
Assemble a diverse hiring panel that includes multiple interviewers with different backgrounds and perspectives.
Incorporating a range of viewpoints counteracts interview bias and ensures a fairer evaluation process. Fostering a broader perspective on candidate assessment increases the likelihood of making unbiased decisions.
6. Employ Job-Related Criteria in Interviews
Develop interview process questions and tests that directly assess a candidate’s ability to fulfill the demands of the job.
By focusing on job-related criteria, you shift the evaluation process to a more objective and merit-based perspective. This interview method ensures candidates are assessed based on their qualifications and potential rather than subjective factors.
7. Recruit from Multiple Channels
In the past, companies would typically advertise their open roles in a few select places, such as their company website, job boards, and maybe a few social media channels. However, this approach is no longer sufficient in today’s competitive hiring landscape.
Expand your recruitment efforts by utilizing multiple channels to attract a diverse pool of candidates. By casting a wider net, you increase the chances of reaching qualified individuals from different backgrounds. Consider implementing the following strategies:
- Digital Recruiting Platforms — Post job openings on reputable platforms catering to diverse talent. Make sure to optimize your job descriptions to be inclusive and appealing to a wide range of candidates.
- Social Media Presence — Create compelling content that showcases your company culture, values, and commitment to diversity and inclusion. Actively participate in relevant online communities and groups to expand your reach.
- Networking Events and Job Fairs — These events provide opportunities to connect with candidates from different backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets. Strengthen your employer brand by actively engaging with attendees and showcasing your commitment to a bias-free hiring process.
- Employee Referral Programs — Encourage employees to refer qualified candidates from their own networks, which can lead to a more diverse applicant pool. Provide incentives or rewards for successful referrals to motivate participation.
- Collaboration with Diversity-focused Organizations — Collaborate with relevant professional associations, community groups, or minority-focused organizations. Attend their events, sponsor initiatives, and actively engage with their networks to attract a diverse range of applicants.
- Campus Recruiting — Participate in career fairs, sponsor events, and offer internships or co-op programs. Engage with student organizations focusing on diversity and inclusion to build relationships with potential candidates.
8. Commence with Phone Interviews
Start the candidate evaluation process with phone interviews. This initial step allows you to focus solely on the candidate’s resume, qualifications, and responses without the influence of visual or nonverbal cues. It may appear archaic (you can always use Zoom or Google Chat with your camera off), but it helps to ensure a fair and unbiased assessment of each applicant.
Alternatively, you can ask candidates to apply via a skills test – like we do at Toggl. Simply add a link to your job description and get candidates to complete a 15-minute basic skills test. Not only are you avoiding the first impression bias, but you’re also focusing on a valid job success predictor – job-specific skills – to shortlist candidates.
9. Standardize Interview Questions
Develop a set of standardized interview questions that are asked of every candidate. Using a standardized set of questions followed in a consistent and compliant manner ensures equal treatment and evaluation for all applicants, minimizing the potential for bias to seep into the process. Standardizing questions also facilitates easier comparison and assessment of candidates.
10. Adopt Structured Interviews
Incorporate structured interview techniques that provide a clear framework for evaluating candidates. The approach involves asking predetermined questions consistently, focusing on job-related competencies and experiences.
11. Leverage Technology for Assessment
Consider using technology-driven assessment tools to objectively evaluate candidates.
These tools can include skills tests, job simulations, or automated scoring systems. Leveraging technology reduces the risk of bias by providing standardized assessments based on objective criteria. What’s more, skills test results are a strong indicator of future employee performance.
12. Conduct Regular Evaluations for Improvement
Regularly evaluate and improve your hiring process to address any potential biases that might arise. Analyze hiring data, assess feedback from candidates and hiring panel members, and make adjustments as necessary. You can create a more inclusive, objective, and effective hiring process by striving for continuous improvement.
Focus on skills over resumes to reduce unconscious bias
Unconscious bias can creep into the hiring process at any stage, from the initial screening of applications to the final interview.
We’ve already seen that there are a number of techniques and tools that can help combat interviewer bias, such as structured or standardized interviews, focusing on job-related criteria, using a panel to get a variety of viewpoints, and implementing blind hiring techniques, such as skills testing.
The goal of skills assessments is to identify the best candidates for the job based on skills, ability, and merit. That’s exactly what you want when you’re looking to eliminate interviewer bias.
Heard of Toggl Hire? Our skills tests are crafted by industry experts, with a rich library of ready-made test templates covering the full range of hard and soft skills and roles that you’re hiring for.
Juste loves investigating through writing. A copywriter by trade, she spent the last ten years in startups, telling stories and building marketing teams. She works at Toggl Hire and writes about how businesses can recruit really great people.