The human mind works in mysterious ways. Or rather not so mysterious when it comes to first impressions and quick judgement of the person in front of you. Studies show that when we decide what we think of strangers, we as humans are still wired with the stone-age hunter brain. And that mindset is filled with biases.
In an interview setting, it is important to set aside both your conscious and subconscious biases when sitting with a candidate. To add to the complexity of considerations, as recruiter you need to watch out for when applicants are saying what they want you to hear just to get hired.
Why should you avoid biases?
Yes, why going to all that trouble of being sharp with what you do and think? That is because if you are not aware of biases, you are more likely to hire the wrong person. As a matter of fact, 75% of employers said that they have hired the wrong person. And the wrong employee costs you in productivity, quality of work, time, and money to find a better replacement.
The interview bias that influence your hiring decisions
The pool is filled with many types of biases that you as a recruiter can be using. Often, it could be more than one at a time but here 6 biases that cause common interview mistakes:
1. Confirmation bias
We start the list with one of the most widely committed cognitive biases. Confirmation bias occurs when you as a person seek information that supports your already established opinions and beliefs. As a listener, you might even receive an impartial information and interpret it in a way that confirms with your existing opinion.
In an interview, that is when the recruiter makes a quick judgment about the candidate and then spend the rest of interview on finding cues that justify that decision (subconsciously or not).
2. Recency bias
Research shows that we remember the best information that we most recently got. How does that apply to the candidate selection process? You remember mostly the information you exchange and the impressions you got from the last candidate that you interviewed. This is very misleading if you as recruiter do not take notes during the interview that you can use for recall later on and thus to evaluate better all the candidates.
3. Halo effect
If you make a judgment of others based on an impression rather than a fact, that’s when the halo effect is taking place. For a recruiter, focusing on one aspect of the candidate such as their place of education or a particular achievement and ignoring other angles of that person can be a potential pitfall. Moreover, you can put so much weight on that one accomplishment of the candidate, that you let it outshine the whole pile of applications without checking in with the facts.
4. Horn effect
The horn effect is the opposite of the halo effect. That is when you let one negative trait of the candidate affect your decision of their overall capability to perform the job. Of course, in the case where the ability to approach customers as a sales representative does not fit well with an obviously introverted candidate, however, there are scenarios where one poorer quality does not directly affect the applicant’s ability to do their craft. For instance, having a heavy accent might bring a negative impression you, the recruiter, but it does not necessary mean that they cannot do accounting or designer tasks (if that is what they have applied for).
5. Affinity bias
Or in more simple worlds affinity bias is “similar-to me” bias. You see bits of yourself in that person. Whether because you went to the same high school or you come from the hometown, you like that candidate because of those similarities. How is that bad for your selection criteria? Because if you hire the person that is like you, you limit the diversity in your organization. And diversity in your teams is a thriving force for innovation and resilience. Besides diversity, only because a candidate is similar to you, it does not mean that they have the necessary working skills to perform the job.
6. Overconfidence bias
Having confidence is great though are you aware when you are too confident and thus you make the wrong decision? Deciding based on previous experience when you have been right without keeping an eye on the facts – that is when overconfidence bias is present.
At the interview, overconfidence bias works hand in hand with confirmation bias. If you rely on your “gut-feeling” solely, that is when you pick or eliminate applicants with biases being you driving force.
How can you avoid common interview caused by bias?
Some of the mistakes that you can be making are a result of an interview technique rather than anything else. The consequences are employing biases and having a cloudy judgement. Here are the other of the most crucial interview mistakes and how to avoid them:
7. Conducting an unstructured interview
This might come as a surprise to you and you might think that by conducting an unstructured interview, you are giving yourself a flexible way to get to know the candidate and “take it as it goes” and still having some questions to pose in your agenda. While it does give you a more natural flow of the conversation, research (actually dozens of it) indicates that unstructured interview gives you the worst predictions of the actual capabilities of candidates to perform the job.
8. Comparing candidates on different measures
Structured interviews give a surprisingly good results at standardizing the interviewing and evaluating processes of candidates. The results of that standardization? Reduced subjectivity because this type of interview poses the same type of questions in the same sequence which allows for clearer comparison between them. While it does make the conversation flow less natural than the unstructured approach, the results of the structured interview are much more beneficial.
9. Not keeping notes on the answers
To have the best outcome from the structured interview, you should also standardize your evaluating processes. And that comes with having to keep notes on their answers. It is crucial to write them down as when the candidates answer because your risk having recency bias. Also, make sure that when you are evaluating the candidates, you do it horizontally. That means that you start with comparing all the candidate’s answer to question number 1, then question number 2 etc. This is how you best compare candidates objectively.
10. Trusting your gut
What your gut feeling is telling you is in fact your subconscious bias. That is another consideration for the recruiters’ minds. It might seem too overwhelming if you have to consider where you are biased or not and thankfully, there are some tools to support hiring managers. What they are useful for, among all things, is helping recruiters prepare before interviewing by showing them an overview of skills and personality traits of candidates.