How to Mitigate Interviewer Bias

by Angela Griffiths

Many companies and organizations around the world are keen on implementing fair hiring practices to combat interviewer bias. Aside from inclusion and diversity in recruiting, they are taking the necessary steps to achieve the goal and mitigate interviewer bias.

To effectively deal with the problem, you must first understand what’s considered an interviewer bias. Find out about its different types and learn how to minimize the problem by reading further.

What is Interviewer Bias?

When it comes to recruitment, interview bias happens when one already has a preconceived notion about the person getting interviewed. As a result, they get on with the interview with a clouded judgment, making it hard for them to remain objective.

The concept of an interview bias was primarily used in qualitative research but is now being utilized in gauging recruitment decisions. Forty-two percent of the respondents of an online survey on LinkedIn attributed interview fails to interviewer bias. The problem makes selecting possible employees ineffective.

Whether consciously or otherwise, being biased in conducting an interview is discriminatory and unfair. It could also lead to legal woes. Plus, it attributes to high turnover rates and poor decisions in hiring.

The opposite happens to companies with inclusive and fair hiring practices. They get productive individuals suited for the jobs, making the company more profitable and innovative.

The Different Kinds of Interviewer Biases

Here are the most common recruitment biases that impact and influence a company’s hiring decisions. If you are part of a company’s hiring process, you can check the list to determine whether you have acquired an interviewer bias or are still leaning towards the objective and fair side.

1. Conformity Bias

interviewer bias

It’s natural for humans to fear getting ridiculed, and many also easily succumb to group pressure. If you have this kind of bias, you will likely do the following during the recruitment process:

  • You will somewhat agree with what the majority in the interview panel are thinking than voice out how you think about the candidate.
  • You will go by the flow and accept the decision to let go of what you deem is a qualified individual to avoid questioning from your peers.
  • You decide based on what other people in the interview panel think.

2. Affinity Bias

Instead of prioritizing people with the right skills and knowledge, your judgment tends to be clouded by the level of affinity you have with the person being interviewed. It may be unconscious on your part, but it dramatically affects how you decide who will pass the interview phase by committing the following:

  • You always tend to look for common interests or other common factors with the applicant before considering them suited for the job.
  • It may be unconscious on your part, but you will likely gravitate toward someone who went to the same school as you did, know someone from your circle, share the same hobby with you, and so on.

3. Affect Heuristics

Affect heuristic pertains to a person leaning heavily on their emotions when making decisions. As an interviewer, you bypass concrete information and make haste judgment if you have this mindset. You are guilty of the following when you have this kind of interviewer bias:

  • You get turned off and judge an applicant with facial piercings or tattoos.
  • Instead of finding out more about how a person could contribute to the company, you base your decisions on superficial factors.
  • You skip reviewing details thoroughly after performing mental shortcuts, leading to sub-optimal choices.

4. Confirmation Bias

It happens when an interviewer leans toward applicants with the same beliefs and opinions as they do. You also tend to think and base your actions on the following:

  • In making your judgment, you gravitate to people that agree with or support your existing beliefs.
  • You skip seeking out objective details.
  • You are only interested in hearing details that uphold what you believe in.
  • You disregard anything that appears to be challenging your beliefs.

Ways to Mitigate Interviewer Bias

After learning the types of interviewer bias and assessing which ones you are guilty of committing, you can try the following steps to start minimizing the behavior:

1. Make a standardized interview process

Create a standard interview process for all candidates and follow it for each applicant. It is recommended to begin with a pre-employment assessment to develop an impression about the applicant without seeing them in person, which could affect your bias. The evaluation has to reflect your company’s culture and give the applicant a realistic overview of the job.

This phase is beneficial to both the employer and the applicant. The latter can decide for themselves if they will pursue the application. You will have an easier time screening interested applicants who deem themselves fit for the available positions. The assessment will give you sufficient details to evaluate applicants based on their characteristics and skills while removing the interviewer bias.

Once done with the assessment, the applicants will get scores and be matched with specific jobs fit for their skills. You can decide to move on to the next phase of the recruitment without human intervention. This way, only the most qualified candidates will get to move forward to a phone or in-person interview.

Continue following the standard process during the interview by asking the same set of questions in a similar order for all applicants. It’s easier to avoid interviewer bias when following a clear structure since you can readily compare how the applicants answered. If you want to gauge applicants’ competency further, you can add open-ended questions during the interview, which you will find difficult to judge subjectively.

2. Build a diverse shortlist

This step will require you to split the applicants into different categories. You can group them according to the following:

  • Ethnicity
  • Nationality
  • Gender

This will result in higher chances of choosing applicants from every category. This will give you more diverse selections. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, this technique will minimize interviewer bias. The study showed a sample having two women in the final selection. This will result in a higher chance of choosing a woman for the job. On the other hand, if only one woman is in the pool of candidates, she statistically doesn’t stand a chance to get the job.

3. Assign a diverse group as an interview panel

This step will fortify the company’s commitment to diversity in your applicants. It will make the hiring experience more inclusive by reducing favoritism within the group. At least two hiring panel members must come from the least represented communities. This can potentially increase the diversity among new hires by 50 percent. You can also choose interviewers with varying company positions, seniority levels, backgrounds, ages, and gender.

An interview team of individuals with similar qualities might fall into the bias of looking for a potential employee who thinks like them. This can be prevented by having a diverse group in the panel. You can then compare each member’s evaluation of the applicants after everybody on the list has gone through all the interview panel members.

4. Accept that biases also happen in virtual interviews

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of the hiring process and many companies resorted to virtual interviews. Despite the online setup, it doesn’t eliminate the biases, but there are instances when it is even amplified.

Biases can happen no matter what kind of interview is taking place. When conducting an interview via Zoom or other online platforms, you can try to break the ice first by having a phone conversation with each applicant. This will give you time to make the applicants feel at ease and say something about themselves or why they are applying before you meet them face to face virtually.

You have to practice more patience when talking with an applicant via phone or virtual meeting. Remind yourself to avoid judging people by the quality of the call or other unforeseen interruptions. They cannot be used to gauge the unpreparedness or unprofessionalism of the candidates.

When doing the virtual interview, follow the same standards you employ in a face-to-face interview. Make sure that you ask the same questions to all applicants and make both the applicants’ list and interview panel members diverse. Some companies prefer not seeing the applicants on cam when doing virtual interviews or using avatars instead of their real pictures. This step aims to avoid the biases that might form from seeing what the applicants look like. However, it doesn’t always lead to a 100 percent reduction of bias during an online interview.

5. Use interview scorecards

You can grade the applicants using the scorecards you prepared. It will also make it easier for the hiring panel to compare how the candidates fare during the interview. The scorecards must have a clear scoring criterion that can help in eliminating bias during the hiring process.

All the interview panel members must know how to use the scorecards. It is recommended to give scores to the applicants as soon as the interview is done and while the answers given are still fresh. All interview panels must accomplish giving grades to each applicant before they can compare them to the scorecards from other interviewers.

The interview scorecard must have the applicant’s name, date, and position they are applying for. It has to be divided into categories that will make it easier to gauge who is the best person for the job. You can include the following for your scorecard’s criterion:

  • Leadership skills
  • Technical ability
  • Presentation skills
  • Organizational citizenship
  • Team/Interpersonal skills

Aside from the scores, each interview panel must note down in the cards the following:

  • Overall concerns
  • Overall strengths
  • Lessons learned/other comments
  • What other training the candidate needs to be successful in the job

Keep the scorecard so you can grade the people you employed and how they did after getting hired.

6. It is okay to be self-aware

Even if you are tasked to choose qualified candidates, it’s important that you study your decisions before making them final. You will minimize interviewer bias by practicing self-awareness. Question your choices and ask yourself different scenarios or play the interview in your minds over and over again as you think about your next steps.

You can ask yourself whether you’d come up with the same choice had the applicant been of another ethnicity, race, gender, or ability.

This action will prevent the company from committing positive discrimination. This can happen to a company as it tries to make its workforce diversified. This is not to be confused with positive action. The latter pertains to the company’s decision process of choosing among the top candidates who are all qualified for the position.

7. Record the interviews

Having a record or notes of the interview will make it easier for the interviewer to recall the conversation. This will come in handy when comparing scores with other members of the interview panel. You can easily point out your concerns or high regard to the applicant by replaying their responses during the interview process.

8. Avoid forming judgment based on the Halo Effect

According to Psychology Today, Halo Effect pertains to the cognitive bias that happens when you perceive someone as a whole based on your initial positive judgment about them. You may instinctively have your impression about an applicant in the first few minutes after meeting and talking to them. But make sure that you don’t base your final decision on your initial impression.

Your goal is to hire people from an objective mindset. You must weigh the abilities and skills of each applicant and assess how they can contribute to the company before finalizing your choice.

Final Thoughts

The role of an interviewer is never easy, but it is crucial for the company to get quality people into their workforce. You have to be aware of the interviewer bias you unconsciously commit and do all steps necessary to minimize them. In the end, your goal is to become objective throughout the hiring process, reduce your biases, and choose people based on their skills and performance.

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