10 Types of Interview Bias (How to Avoid Them)

interview bias

How to Avoid 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 the right person.

As interviewers and recruiters, we will guide you through dos and don’ts, helping you thwart any natural but unconscious interview bias to 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 because they did not have a good handshake, didn’t make enough eye contact, or 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 hurt a company, as they have to spend more money on the hiring process and training new employees. 

interview before a job offer chart

10 Types Of Interviewer Bias 

Interviewer bias can show itself in many ways and impact or influence the selection process. The Society for Human Resources Management has outlined the top ten types of interviewer bias. Here’s a quick overview with explanations:

1. Stereotyping

This kind of bias happens when you judge someone based on a group they belong to rather than their characteristics. For example, if a male is rejected for a receptionist job because the interviewer believes that women are more friendly.

2. Inconsistency in Questioning

Instead of asking each candidate the same or at least a similar set of questions, the interviewer adjusts their questions to the candidate in a way that prevents them from seeing the whole picture.

3. 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). 

4. Halo Effect

This is when an interviewer judges the candidate’s success and experience entirely off on one “perfect” thing they see. Interviewers should not let one brilliant aspect of their resume overshadow the other areas where they might be weaker. 

5. 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 they will do the same in all other areas as well.

6. Cultural Noise

This is a bias where a candidate tries to impress the interviewer rather than share their genuine preferences or opinion. They might advocate for a specific position because they believe it is politically correct or in line with the interviewer’s preferences. 

7. Non-verbal Bias

This is where the interviewer tends 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.

8. Contrast Effect

This is where interviewing different candidates can exacerbate their weaknesses and strengths. If the first candidate 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 bias gives mediocre candidates who interview after weak candidates an unfair/better chance than strong candidates who interview after other strong candidates. 

9. Similar to Me

This kind of bias (sometimes known as an affinity bias) happens when the interviewer feels favorable towards a candidate they believe they have much in common with – i.e., you went to the same school or grew up in the same neighborhood. 

10. 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 the middle of the road. 


How to Avoid Interview Bias

Awareness of these biases is the first step to avoiding this issue when hiring. Managers who interview people infrequently often need guidance on conducting 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 companies to structure how they conduct their interviews. A guide ensures that all candidates have the same interview experience and are assessed on the same questions. Most methods for reducing bias 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 order. 
  3. Take notes as you go, preferably on a standardized sheet, so your records of their answers and impressions are accurate. 
  4. Requiring anonymous testing, which can be anything from writing a piece of code, analyzing data, or even writing how they would handle a particular situation or problem. Then recruiters can then judge the work produced without identifying anyone. This helps to eliminate almost all of the biases.
  5. Having multiple people interview the candidates can help provide a clearer picture while reducing bias. Additional interviewers act as a check or balance on other interviewers. 
  6. Reduce any small talk or chit-chat, as it can exacerbate any bias involved with ideas about personality and background. 
  7. Leave politics out by avoiding asking their opinions about popular debates. Instead, review the code of conduct and clarify the job requirements. 
  8. Don’t use your gut or intuition, but rather evaluate them fairly. The gut is often just biases disguised as intuition. 
  9. 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. 
  10. Build a diverse shortlist encompassing many 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 | Biased Interview

As an interviewer, it can sometimes be difficult, but you must be impartial 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 in thwarting your interviewer bias is knowing 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, and 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, bias in interviews, types of hiring bias, types of discrimination in interviews

Author: Reid is a contributor for theJub. He’s an employment and marketing enthusiast who studied business before taking on various recruiting, management, and marketing roles. More from the author. | Author Profile

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