Don’t judge me! Understanding bias in the interview process

We would all like to think that when we meet or interview people that we all go in with a clean slate in our minds – open to anything and everyone until proven otherwise. The reality is – even though most of us don’t want to admit it- that we have biases that come in to play almost immediately. From how someone shakes your hand to the way they dress to what school they went to, we are formulating biases in our brains long before that person has even uttered a word. To truly be an effective interviewer, one needs to recognize these biases and understand why they are happening and how to overcome them.


Typically, there are three different biases that occur:


First Impression – A person’s appearance, hairstyles, tattoos, clothing, piercings, how they shake your hand, etc. Whether you think tattoo sleeves rock or just the opposite, the second you see this a bias is forming – positively or negatively. Perhaps the person shakes your hand softly, or too firm. Boom – Bias! Wore a tie/didn’t wear a tie? You judger you….


Halo (and not the video game) – The person went to same university? Awesome! She/he was referred by an employee? They must be really good because the employee who referred that person rocks! The candidate has a really great resume? This interview should just be a formality. You get the point. These type of scenarios can most definitely cloud someone’s judgment in the interview process.


Compare and Contrast – In recruiting we see this all time and yet often we are not aware of it. Candidate A comes in and just was flat out awful and should never have made it that far in the process. Candidate B then comes in and looks awesome by comparison. But is he/she really great or are we just comparing that person to Candidate A? Focus solely on the person you are talking to, and try not to make comparisons. Each person should stand on his/her own merit, not because candidate A asked about the vacation policy two minutes in to the interview and Candidate B did not.


The key to overcoming these biases is to first acknowledge that they are happening. Yes – even you are susceptible to them. If you are aware of these potential traps, you can realize they are happening and then work to overcome them. Ignorance is not bliss in this scenario. Another way to overcome them is to balance the interview team with different roles for the interviewers to play/uncover. One could be focused on culture fit, another on technical skills, another on behavioral interviewing and so on. With a good balance of opinions from a diverse team and a focus of the conversations, a clearer assessment will emerge.


Don’t judge me though.

Posted on October 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

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