How to remove bias from interviews
In an interview setting, what is the best way to determine if a candidate has the right fit, skills, and experience required for a job?
Most hiring managers will likely say: it’s via “unstructured interviews” where they can freely ask their own questions and explore areas of interest with the candidate. Managers often feel this method is more successful compared to having a standardized checklist with pre-determined questions.
Interestingly, a significant body of research suggests otherwise. Behavioural economist and professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, Iris Bohnet, recently wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “While unstructured interviews consistently receive the highest ratings for perceived effectiveness from hiring managers, dozens of studies have found them to be among the worst predictors of actual on-the-job performance.”
In fact, according to Bohnet, loose, feel-good type interviews are far less reliable than general aptitude tests, personality tests and structured interviews.
So what can organizations do to ensure they counter the bias during hiring processes, and make sure great candidates aren’t unknowingly being by-passed? Here are some best practices that are worth noting:
1. Counter the need to validate first impressions: research has shown that it only takes 7 seconds to form a first impression. Once this is done, interviewers often unconsciously seek out information on a candidate to confirm their first impressions. If they have a trifling impression, the interviewer may not be so open to the candidate’s positive attributes. Structured, pre-set interview questions can help keep this kind of bias at bay, focusing conversations on the most job-relevant areas.
2. “Just like me syndrome”: this is a term we coined to summarize how people often look for new hires who are just like themselves. Whether it’s gender-based, age-based, or inspired by other similarities, such bias can influence an organizational workforce significantly. And yet, the best-performing teams are often those that possess diverse strengths and viewpoints. To counter this bias, consider pre-screening applicants via aptitude, strengths and personality tests, before embarking upon interviews with short-listed candidates. We are seeing this as a growing trend among companies nowadays. For many organizations, these tests have become a standard process.
3. Replace intuition with measurable evaluations: while we may not like it, pre-set evaluation structures can often trump our own human judgment. We tend to be over-confident in our ability to read people, but this can lead to great candidates being passed up. So here are some rules of thumb to remove as much bias as possible, when evaluating candidates from interviews:
- Abandon panel interviews where one interviewee can influence the opinion of others in the group. Instead, set up individual interviews with the same set of interview questions and scoring criteria (so you can compare apples to apples later)
- Ask hiring managers to score each answer immediately during or right after the interview when the candidate response details are still fresh in their minds (so they don’t have to rely on their “impressions” when recalling a candidate’s performance at a later time)
- Compare candidate responses “horizontally” according to Bohnet: evaluate responses for question #1 from all candidates first, and then review all responses to question #2, and so on. This process helps to eliminate the influence of stereotypes that may be held for particular candidates.
4. Reduce subjectivity by giving on-the-job style evaluations: the hiring process doesn’t have to be limited to interviews only. Consider giving your short-listed candidates a test that addresses real, on-the-job challenges, so you can see how they fare. Such analytical tools can provide impactful structure to the hiring process, to more accurately predict future job performance.
Do you have a great tip on countering bias when hiring? Please share your thoughts with us below on your favourite social media platform. We’d love to hear from you!