Our unconscious bias shows up when we interact with another person. We display biases in a job interview or a performance review discussion. The dictionary defines bias as a strong inclination of the mind or a preconceived opinion about something or someone. We all want to think that we are not biased. Scientific studies show that we can have unconscious bias and we would not be aware of it. And even if we are aware, we do not always know how deep the biases run. It becomes a problem when our biased decisions affect others. For example, when we interview someone and our hiring decision is based on our biases.
We can be holding preconceived judgment about our interviewee. That colors our evaluation of the candidate. The interview is no longer objective and, hence, there will be flaws in the hiring decision.
It is natural to align more with colleagues with whom we share something in common. We grew up in the same town or both have kids or we went to the same school or have friendships or connections in common. Sharing things in common is a human instinct. As a recruiting manager, you need to be conscious of your biases. You might end up recruiting someone on the basis of what pleases you about them. This is interview bias.
Let us look at some of the common biases that influence our interviews.
The First Impression Effect
The first impression makes a difference. We have all heard that. The Halo Effect is our tendency to think everything about a person is good. This happens because our first impression of them was good. This is the most common cognitive interview bias. An interviewer allows one strong point about the candidate to overshadow everything else s/he says. It could be something that pleased the interviewer (halo) or something that didn’t (horn). This effect clouds every other response of the candidate. The interview results are subject to the interviewer’s subjective opinions.
Affinity Bias
Affinity bias is the tendency to warm up to people like ourselves. We favor those who have something in common with us. It requires more effort to bridge differences when diversity is present. If we can overcome this bias, we can hire people from different backgrounds. These people might bring in new, more effective perspectives. Structures and standardization slow down the process of decision making. It allows for more time and consideration. Methodical and deliberate action, replace our automatic and unconscious gut reaction.
Generalization Bias
Most interviewers prefer people who do not get overwhelmed. Interviewers assume candidates’ mannerisms in the interview are part of their everyday behavior. Interviewers perceive anxious candidates to be nervous in general. This might lead to rejecting a good potential hire based on biased thinking.
Perception Bias
This is the tendency to form stereotypes and assumptions about certain groups. This occurs when the interviewer assumes a candidate has certain traits because they are a member of a certain group. It makes it difficult to make an objective judgment about individual members of those groups. We see this in gender-based or age-based perceptions about candidates. If the job requires extensive use of computers, an interviewer might assume elderly people cannot meet this need.
Recency Effect
Recency Bias occurs when the interviewer remembers the most recently interviewed candidates. Our brains remember details of information presented to us most recently. Structured interview evaluation form, to capture detailed feedback, can reduce the recency effect.
Contrast Effect
This happens more often when we are interviewing back-to-back. We compare a candidate with a weaker candidate we interviewed earlier. A good candidate may seem more qualified than they actually are. The comparison between two candidates can make one seem to be a much better choice than the other. This becomes a common problem during campus hiring. You can reduce this by using a team of interviewers. You can also space out interviews wherever possible.
Intuition Dependency
A lot of interviewers, count on their intuition to make the final decision. In such cases structured interviews, tests are helpful to confirm or reject the decision arising out of gut-feel.
The impact of bias
Organizations claim to be equal employment, opportunity employer. Many also claim to focus on diversity and inclusion. But, interview biases can go against these claims. The organization might be losing out on good talented candidates. The workplace will have a homogenous and less diverse employee group.
Hiring mistakes can be expensive. Recruitment with less bias has a higher chance of hiring the right candidate for the job. This reduces the risk of hiring mistakes.
Minimizing bias is not impossible. Standardized interview questions, keeping notes, training, and heightened self-awareness are a few of the ways to tackle interview bias. With conscious efforts, we can make a positive difference that others around us can see and feel.

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