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How To Prevent Interview Bias and Improve the Candidate’s Experience


Bias is defined as the act of judging someone or something based on stereotypes or preconceived notions rather than facts. When bias enters the interview process, it can hinder your company’s recruitment outcomes. Fortunately, you can take steps to minimize the impact of interview bias and prevent it from damaging the candidate’s experience. The first step is understanding what interview bias is and how it impacts recruitment.

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What is interview bias?

In basic terms, interview bias occurs when an interviewer forms a judgment regarding a prospective candidate based on their own personal views, opinions and stereotypes versus the applicants’ individual skills and talents. There are two broad types of interview bias, including:

Unconscious bias

Unconscious bias, also referred to as implicit bias, is defined as opinions, judgments and stereotypes a person has toward a certain group of people outside their own consciousness. Since interviewers are likely unaware that they have this type of bias, it can be extremely difficult to detect and prevent. However, it’s safe to say that everyone holds some type of bias toward others, whether they are aware of these beliefs.

Several factors influence unconscious bias, including:

  • Societal stereotypes
  • Personal experiences
  • Upbringing/background

Even though the interviewer may be unaware of this bias, it can still significantly influence their thoughts and behaviors toward specific groups of people.

Conscious bias

On the other hand, conscious bias, sometimes referred to as explicit bias, is when a person is aware of their opinions and beliefs toward a certain group of people. This is the most dangerous type of bias because it can lead to blatant discrimination in the workplace. Not only can conscious bias destroy the candidate’s experience, but it also can damage the company’s reputation and put it at risk for legal issues.

Fortunately, this type of bias is often easier to detect. Additionally, a strong set of workplace policies prohibiting discrimination of any kind, including during the interview process, is an effective way to prevent conscious bias from hindering hiring practices.

Examples of bias in interviews

Unconscious bias can hinder your company’s hiring practices in several ways. Here are a few examples of how bias can impact the interview process:

  • Gender bias: This type of bias is extremely common and occurs when an interviewer believes candidates have higher abilities solely based on their gender. A common example of gender bias is the gender pay gap. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, female workers’ average salaries were 82% of the average male workers’ annual pay.
  • Ageism: This occurs when interviewers use preconceived notions about younger or older applicants versus their actual talent and skills. For example, an interviewer may inaccurately believe an older candidate is not very tech-savvy without testing their skills.
  • Racial discrimination: This is among one of the most common types of bias and occurs when an interviewer has a positive or negative attitude toward a candidate based solely on their race.
  • Halo and horn effect: The halo and horn effect occurs when an interviewer or hiring manager puts too much emphasis on just one aspect of the candidate’s attributes rather than gathering a full view of the person’s skills. For example, the interviewer might assume a candidate is high-quality based on the school they graduated from rather than the skills listed on their resume.

How can interview bias impact hiring outcomes

Bias in the interview process, whether conscious or unconscious, can impact the entire business in several ways, such as:

  • Missing out on top talent: Assessing candidates on just one attribute or incorrect stereotypes rather than evaluating the applicant’s full value means that your company could potentially miss out on top-quality talent.
  • Hinder diversity efforts: Once you let bias impact your company’s hiring decisions, it will have difficulty building a diverse workforce. Instead, you will create a team with similar opinions, attitudes and backgrounds, which can stall innovation and negatively impact customer satisfaction.
  • Damage employer brand: Today’s job seekers have access to more information about prospective employers than ever before. Just one bad interview could potentially damage your company’s employer brand if the candidate captures it in an online review.
  • At risk for compliance issues: As an employer, you likely already know that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from discriminating based on race, age, gender or disability. It’s vital to minimize bias in the interview process to avoid compliance issues.

Tips for preventing interviews bias

The good news is your company can do several things right now to prevent interview bias from impacting hiring decisions. The tips below can help you can develop a strong interview process to dissuade hiring managers from interview bias:

Develop a standardized interview process

One of the best things your company can do to prevent interview bias is to develop a standardized interview process that all interviewers must follow. This process might include a list of top questions to ask all candidates, a specific script to follow during the interview or a set assessment matrix to evaluate each candidate on a variety of factors.

Having a structure in place forces interviewers to look beyond their own opinions and stereotypes and judge each candidate on everything they bring to the table, including skills, talent, training, attributes and experience.

Consider alternative interview methods

If your company has been conducting the same type of one-on-one interviews for years, now may be the time for a change. You can incorporate various types of interview practices to help deter bias, such as:

  • Phone screenings: Conducting initial phone screenings is a great way to get to know the candidate without letting any first impressions impact your opinions about them. This step can prevent the halo and horn effect by allowing you to fully get to know the candidate before conducting a more formal interview.
  • Panel interviews: Avoiding one-on-one interviews altogether can also help prevent bias in the interview process. Instead, use panel interview techniques. The unlikelihood that all interviewers on the panel hold the same biases can prevent one person’s opinions or stereotypes from dictating hiring decisions.
  • Blind interviews: Blind interviews have become increasingly popular and are a great way to avoid prejudices and stereotypes from entering the hiring practice.
  • Video interviews: Video interviews are another great option because they allow interviewers to go back and review the interview to better understand the candidate’s skills. You can also share these videos with other parties to generate multiple opinions prior to making any hiring decisions.

Conduct pre-hire assessments

Pre-hire assessments allow your company to evaluate a candidate’s skills and talent prior to making a firm hiring decision. There are many types of pre-hire assessments, including:

  • Skills assessments
  • Personality tests
  • Job-specific assessments
  • Emotional intelligence tests
  • Cognitive ability assessments

Revamp job description

Take some time to evaluate your current job descriptions and make adjustments if necessary. Be certain that these descriptions are not too ambiguous and instead list the specific skills, experience, education and talents required for the role. Allow hiring managers and supervisors to have input into revamping these job descriptions to ensure you have the most accurate depiction of the job duties possible.

Not only can this step improve your ability to hire candidates that closely match the skills you need, but it can also remove a layer of bias from the interview process. With a concise and accurate job description in hand, hiring managers will better understand what type of candidate the company wants.

Set firm diversity goals

It’s nearly impossible to build a diverse workforce without first setting clear diversity goals for your company. You should make these goals clear to all hiring managers as well as executive members. However, it’s important for your company to do more than simply set goals. You must also evaluate your hiring outcomes regularly to ensure the company is meeting these goals. If the company isn’t meeting these goals, it’s important to make adjustments to your recruitment efforts, including the interview process, as necessary.

With clear goals in place and frequent assessment, your company can work toward eliminating bias in the interview process and prevent it from impacting its overall hiring decisions. Instead, your company can focus on building a diverse team of high-quality candidates.

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