How to identify and avoid interview biases?

We are human. We make mistakes and as a recruiter one is prone to exhibit interview bias. Most interview biases are involuntary- unconscious one might say. As an interviewer it is one’s duty to recruit a person who can get the job done and who fits the job description criteria perfectly. A recruiter’s judgement affects the life of hundreds of candidates and ultimately the growth trajectory of the company. If it comes laced with bias, an organization takes a huge hit on its culture.

What is bias and how can it be reduced during interviews

A bias is a preconceived judgement against a person that hampers the interview process. As we continue to have feelings, exhibiting human tendencies in particular, we will be biased.

Identifying and avoiding interview biases

‘People like people who are like themselves’- this is a fact. When we come across a trait that we find impressive in someone, or that we absolutely loathe, regardless of how just we are- we are going to form an opinion. Here is a list of possible interviewer biases. Keeping this list in mind you will be able to identify scenarios and causes of interviewer bias.

Stereotyping:

This is when interviewers make generalized assumptions about a certain class of people based on appearances, race, religion, gender, etc. For example, one might consider females to fit the position of a receptionist more aptly or over-weight people get categorized as lazy!

First impressions:

When something grabs the interviewer’s attention, as soon as he sees the candidate, the interviewer accept or reject the candidate based on the interviewer’s perception.

Cultural Noise:

This is when the applicant doesn’t factually answer questions, instead he tells what the interviewer might want to hear, being from a certain industry or background.

While identifying is the first step and a very critical one, laying down a process to minimize interview biases is what every recruitment team wants to achieve.

Here are some simple yet effective mechanisms to minimize biases from coming into play:

1. Make recruiters aware of biases:

By making the recruiters aware of possible interview biases, they will be conscious of their thoughts and judgements. By acknowledging a situation one can take steps to alter his actions. The first step in avoiding interview biases is to identify it. The recruiters need to keep the above-mentioned points in mind. They must be exposed to the possible cases of interview bias over and over again until the points are engrained in the recruiter’s mind.

2. Unbiased language in Job Descriptions

A job description must be neutral, calling forth potential candidates with the right skill set regardless of age, gender or any other factor. One must avoid using words that trigger a negative reader response possibly driving away potential clients. Job descriptions targeting certain age groups or gender biases must be avoided.

For example, using words like ‘Ninja’ apparently drives females away, there are several such words that hurt chances of potential candidates even applying for jobs. There are tools available in the market which help you remove biases from job descriptions.

3. Standardized Interview questions

Designing a set of questions- including ice breakers makes the process more organized and fairs. There is less room for the interviewers to evaluate candidate leniently or severely. Questions are designed for the specific role and seniority when they are designed with deliberation and not spontaneity. This makes the evaluation more aligned to the role. Time and again it has been proved that having a structured interview process with a definite set of questions makes the interview process much more accurate.

4. Interview panel with more than one interviewer

This is pretty-obvious. The more the number of people interviewing the lesser the bias. There’s more perspective involved. Evaluations are not based on the gut feeling of a single individual. Even if one might be clouded by distorted judgement the other interviewer will be clear headed, making the interview process less biased.

5. Notes. Take Notes!

The human mind is always producing thoughts, always judging and always trying to gain perspective over any situation. Now, if interviewers take an interview without taking notes, their mind is allowed to remember what struck them as overtly positive or negative. Different panellists come up with different versions. They may or may not remember certain key aspects of the interview which should have been key while making a decision. And so, to avoid unconscious bias in interviewing, the recruiters need to take clear notes.

6. Having structured feedback forms

This point is in line with the previous point. When an interviewer makes use of a structured feedback form with respect to the applicant, it makes the process much more efficient. The interviewer knows exactly where to look and how to judge the candidate, the interviewer is forced to be more clear-headed. Structured feedback forms direct the recruiter in an organized, clear and fair manner, thus making the process simpler.