10 Types of Interview Bias (How to Avoid Them)

interview bias

Interview Bias

Sometimes, it can feel like the hiring process is stacked against you and your company. Finding the perfect candidate for your job seems almost impossible – but why?

Unfortunately, interviewer bias could be the answer and reason you haven’t found that right person.

As interviewers and recruiters ourselves, we will guide you through dos and don’ts, helping you thwart any of your natural but unconscious bias, so you can find the best fit candidate.


Questions Answered

  • What is interview bias?
  • Types of interview bias
  • How to avoid interview bias

What Is Interviewer Bias?

The phrase ‘interviewer bias’ refers to when an interviewer judges a candidate based not only on their competencies and skills, but also on unspoken (and sometimes even unconscious) criteria, which makes the interview less objective. 

For example, an interviewer may reject an applicant based on body language, on the fact that they did not have a good handshake, didn’t make enough eye contact, or because they kept their arms crossed during the interview. 

This unspoken or unconscious bias can lead to bad hiring decisions, and high job turnover rates (i.e., people are frequently hired, but they are quickly fired or quit as the job and workplace isn’t the right place for them).

This can have a negative impact on a company, as they have to spend more money on the hiring process and training new employees. 


interview before a job offer chart

Types Of Interviewer Bias 

Interviewer bias can show itself in a whole host of different ways and can impact or influence the selection process.

The Society for Human Resources Management has outlined the ten different types of interviewer bias. Here is our quick recap:

  • Stereotyping
    • This kind of bias happens when you judge someone based on a group that they belong to, rather than their individual characteristics.
    • For example, if a male is rejected for a receptionist job because the interviewer believes that women are more friendly, and has ignored the genuine individual candidate that has applied for the job
  • Inconsistency in Questioning
    • This kind of bias is when instead of asking each candidate the same or at least similar set of questions, the interviewer adjusts their questions to the candidate in a way that prevents them from getting the whole picture.
    • For example, an interviewer might interrogate a candidate with a degree from their local university about what they learned but assume that a candidate that has a degree from Harvard has learned everything that they could need to in class. 
  • First Impression
    • An interviewer might prefer the candidate who enters more confidently, has a firm handshake, and seems more self-assured than a candidate who appears nervous or has sweaty hands.
    • This can be irrelevant for many jobs unless the gig will require the candidate to meet new people frequently (like a sales position). 
  • Halo Effect
    • This is when an interviewer judges the candidate entirely off of one very good thing
    • For example, a great speech that they gave. This is not a fair analysis of their skills and work history and interviewers should not let one brilliant aspect of their resume overshadow the other areas, where they might be weaker. 
  • Horn Effect
    • As the name suggests, this is the opposite of the halo effect. It is where the interviewer sees that a candidate has scored poorly in one area, and believes that they then will do poorly in all areas.
    • For example, a resume with a spelling or grammatical error might be written off, even if they are applying for a job as a programmer where spelling and grammar aren’t a crucial part of the job
  • Cultural Noise
    • This is a kind of bias where a candidate is trying to impress the interviewer rather than share their genuine preferences or opinion, and it is not picked up on by the interviewer.
    • They might advocate for a specific position because they believe it is politically correct, or in line with the preferences of the interviewer. 
  • Non-verbal Bias
    • This is where the interviewer has the tendency to judge job seekers based on body language rather than skills.
    • This can result in wrongly rejecting neurodiverse candidates or candidates from different cultures who don’t make eye contact.
  • Contrast Effect
    • This is where interviewing different candidates can exacerbate their weaknesses and strengths. If the first candidate that was interviewed was weak, then the second might look stronger in response.
    • Instead of comparing candidates to a standard, they are compared to each other. This kind of bias gives mediocre candidates who interview after weak candidates an unfairly better chance, over strong candidates who interview after other strong candidates. 
  • Similar to Me
    • This kind of bias (also sometimes known as an affinity bias) happens when the interviewer feels favorable towards a candidate that they believe they have a lot in common with – i.e., you went to the same school, or grew up in the same neighborhood. 
  • Central Tendency
    • This kind of bias happens when an interviewer is holding out for the perfect candidate, and therefore finds fault with everyone else – classifying them as middle of the road. 

Related:


HOW TO AVOID INTERVIEW BIAS IN YOUR SELECTION PROCESS

Being aware that these biases exist is the first step to avoiding being a biased interviewer when you are hiring.

Managers who only interview people infrequently often need guidance on how to conduct bias-free interviews, as they can sometimes be a little out of practice.

Here are a few ways expert interviewers and recruiters minimize bias: 

  1. Using an interview guide allows for companies to structure the way that they conduct their interviews. Having a guide makes sure that all candidates have the same interview experience, and is assessed on the same questions. Most of the methods for reducing bias that we list can be addressed using an interview guide.
  2. Use a standard set of interview questions. For each available job, create a list of interview questions, and don’t veer off this list between candidates. You can also start with an over the phone interview, so that judgment/prejudice based on appearance, body language, or other related factors is prevented. Structure this initial interview, so that candidates are asked the same questions in the same order. 
  3. Take notes as you go, preferably on a standardized sheet, so your records of their answers and impressions are accurate. 
  4. Grade candidates on a rubric, which has been created prior to interviewing candidates. Base the rubric on which skills are essential to the job. This will aid in preventing stereotyping, first impression bias, and the contrast effect. 
  5. Requiring anonymous testing, which is the same assignment for every candidate. It can be anything from writing a piece of code, analyzing some data, or even a write up of how they would handle a certain situation or problem. Then, recruiters can then judge the work produced without identifying anyone. This helps to eliminate almost all of the biases.
  6. Having multiple people interview the candidates can help to give a clear picture, whilst reducing bias. Additional interviewers act as a check or balance on other interviewers. 
  7. Reduce any small talk or chit chat, as it can exacerbate any bias involved with ideas about personality and background. 
  8. Leave politics out, by avoiding asking any of their personal opinions about popular debates. Instead, take time to go over the code of conduct, and be clear about the requirements of the job. 
  9. Don’t use your gut or intuition, but rather evaluate them fairly. The gut is often just biases disguised as intuition. 
  10. Recruit from a wide variety of places or other organizations. Try not to limit your recruitment geographically (especially if it is a remote job). This will help you cultivate a more diverse candidate pool, and can help you to find the most qualified candidates. 
  11. Build a diverse shortlist, encompassing a lot of different categories, like gender, ethnicity, location, age and education. 

“67% of active and passive job seekers say diversity is important to them when they’re evaluating companies and job offers.”

— Glassdoor

Wrapping Up | How To Avoid Interview Bias

As an interviewer, it is your duty to be as impartial as possible during the hiring process.

Unfortunately, it’s often these situations where we are wired to care about things like first impressions, appearance, and eye contact. And while some of these characteristics can point to a good candidate, they only show a small snippet about the new employee you are looking to hire.

The first step of thwarting your interviewer bias is knowing that it exists, and being interested in correcting it.

Then you can formulate a plan for all company interviews, so that they are standardized across candidates making you less susceptible to your own biases. 

We hope this helps – best of luck with your next hire!


Title: Types of Interview Bias and How to Avoid It

Category: Employers

Tags: how to avoid interview bias, identifying and avoiding interview bias, types of interview bias, example of interview bias


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