Bias in interviews and how to avoid it

ORA selection process to fill a job should be as objective as possible. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that people are involved in it, and it is very complicated that the subjective assessments of the recruiter do not play an important role in their decision.

let the cognitive bias take control within a recruitment process can lead to electing a candidate for the wrong reasons, and end up causing a poor adaptation between position and employee. So that this does not happen, we must try to choose as objectively as possible. 

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What is a cognitive bias?

It is a form of process the information what makes the individual perceive reality in a distorted way. That is, it ends up producing a deviation of judgment. And it's something that happens completely unconsciously

We all apply cognitive biases that result in us having positive or negative prejudices About people. For example, if someone tells us that they have studied at a very prestigious university, we tend to think that they are very intelligent and hard-working. But it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. On the contrary, if someone tells us that he is from the rival soccer team, we immediately feel that there is little affinity. When, in reality, there may be many more things that unite us.

Bias makes us give more or less importance to the information we receive. Focusing especially on the one that we consider particularly good or especially bad, and this leads us to a perception error.

Cognitive bias in the selection process

The tendency to create prejudice is always there, even in recruiters. Here the bias plays its tricks when the professional prefers one candidate over another based on the unconscious judgment you have made about both people, without taking into account objective factors such as the skills or aptitudes of each applicant.

Positive bias is just as bad as negative bias, because it implies that we are using subjective factors to make a decision that should be based on objective elements. 

Types of interviewer bias

For a recruitment professional, getting rid of these unconscious judgments is complicated (although later we will see that it is not impossible). Also, keep in mind that there are several types:

stereotype bias

Someone is valued based on their belonging to a particular social group. For example, preferring women over men for senior care positions because they are seen as more caring. Or have a preference for a candidate for having gone to a certain university.

halo effect

occurs when an outstanding quality of a candidate "infects" all the others. In other words, if someone does something very well, we tend to think that they do everything well.

Horn effect or reserve halo

It is just the opposite of the previous one. If the recruiter sees that someone failure in a certain skill necessary for the position, you may think that this person also lacks the rest of the necessary requirements.

first impression bias

Although the first impression is always important and we all let ourselves be guided by it, the bias appears when, from a first glance, a complete evaluation of the person who is not yet known

culture noise

In this case, the bias is caused directly by the candidate, offer the recruiter only those answers you know the recruiter wants to hear instead of focusing on reality. It causes the person in charge of the selection to have a very biased image of the person in front of him.

Contrast bias

It occurs when the recruiter does not compare candidates objectively but rather makes a comparison of each other. In this way, if you have just seen someone who does not communicate well, the next candidate will seem like a good communicator if they are better than the previous one, even if their communication skills are not really remarkable.

affinity bias

when they exist many similarities between interviewer and interviewee, it is easy for the first to develop an affinity towards the second and be more willing to value it positively for the position to be filled.

How to avoid cognitive bias in personnel selection

These that we have seen are just some of the biases that can appear in recruitment, but the truth is that there are more. Since all of them can affect the effectiveness of the selection process, it is important to try to avoid them as much as possible. An objective for which we can use different measures.

Target jobs

When defining the job to be filled, it is important to make a good definition of the skills and abilities that the candidate must have who will end up being hired. Consequently, the selection process should be geared towards verifying whether the interested parties meet the requirements, ignoring more personal issues.

We focus on what the candidate knows how to do, not on the type of person they are. The ultimate goal is to find the right person for the position, no matter who they are.

Design a script for the interview

It is normal for recruiters to end up dealing with personal issues with the interviewees. On many occasions they resort to it as a way to calm the nervousness of the person in front of them. Nevertheless, when the conversation becomes more personal, there is a greater risk that biases will kick in.

So that this does not happen, it is advisable to have a script for the interview. Because it allows you to always have the conversation under control and to be able to redirect it in case it is diverted to questions of a more subjective nature.

It also guarantees that all candidates will go through a personal interview that is similar, giving them a fairer deal and improving their equal opportunities.

Be careful, this does not mean that the interview should be rigid. The recruiter should guide the conversation in a natural way towards those topics that you have outlined in your script that are important, but always with a some flexibility.

Use a panel of interviewers

Cognitive biases are different in each person. This means that, where a recruiter sees something bad in a candidate, another sees something positive or something that is not so important in order to assess their adaptation to the offered position.

That is why the selection system through panel interviews is being imposed on the one-to-one model. The candidate is interviewed by several people instead of just one. 

During the pandemic, it has been applied a lot through the videoconference system. With the return to normality, this formula can also be applied in face-to-face interviews. Of course, ensuring that the number of recruiters does not exceed two or three, so as not to end up intimidating the interviewee.

Blind resume method

The blind resume method, in which the interviewer does not see the candidate's personal data (you don't know if it's a man or a woman, their age, etc.) is giving very good results. It works because it breaks down a lot of cognitive biases.

A good way to continue applying this “blind” selection is to make a first interview with the shortlisted candidates by telephone. Thus the recruiter can focus on the words of his interlocutor and does not take into account issues such as his appearance. That is, we continue to eliminate bias.

Reduce the length of interviews

Limiting the time the professional has to interview the candidate also helps make the selection criteria as objective as possible. When time is controlled less chance of the conversation becoming more personal and biases arise.

The interviewer knows to get to the point from the start, so will focus only on objective factors, exploring the skills and personal abilities of those who are in front of them.

Use tools that limit cognitive biases

It is no coincidence that within the selection processes more and more specific tools are used to screen candidates. It is done because these are effective and measure certain parameters objectively.

The most common is the skills test, that measures issues such as tolerance to pressure, organizational skills of the subject, their empathy or their ability to work in a team.

Recruiter self-awareness of bias

Finally, a good way to prevent cognitive biases from coming into action is for the personnel in charge of the selection to know which ones affect them. Since each employee will have their own, it is interesting that they know and are aware of them. so you can take action when you see that your decision is not being objective rather, she is being guided by her prejudices.

By eliminating cognitive biases, we make personnel selection much more objective, guaranteeing a better adaptation of the person hired to the position and the company. However, this does not mean that subjectivity must be completely abandoned. If we see that the candidate objectively fits what we are looking for, then we can more subjectively calibrate what sensations that person provokes in us and assess whether they will integrate well into the company.

Competency assessment platforms such as Hirint allow you to reduce bias to the maximum, thus achieving a significant increase in the diversity of your company. If you want to know more about Hirint.io, book a meeting with us HERE