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How to reduce bias in interviews

Hiring the best people for your organization requires removing bias from your interviews. Find out what they are, why it's important, and how to do it at every touchpoint.

At every step of the candidate lifecycle, there are opportunities to promote inclusive hiring practices. And yet, despite your talent acquisition team’s efforts to proactively recruit and select a pool of diverse candidates, interviewer bias can derail the entire process – ultimately hindering your organization’s ability to hire employees with myriad backgrounds and experiences.

To help you overcome the challenges interviewer bias presents, we’ve taken a closer look at the different types of bias, why you should aim to avoid bias, and shared our tips for how to reduce bias during the interview process.

What are the types of bias?

There are a number of ways biases present themselves in an interview setting.

Unconscious bias, or implicit bias

This is one of the most common types of biases. It refers to the opinions you form about a person or situation – in this case, a candidate interviewing for your organization – without knowing you’re doing so.

Your bias towards the candidate is formed by your experiences and knowledge (or opinions) of social norms, stereotypes, cultures, attitudes, and more. While your experiences sometimes serve you in making decisions, unconscious bias also harms your perception of meeting people who aren’t like you, often skewing your judgment to your expectations and preferences instead of being open-minded.

There are a number of other biases that impact your ability to interview a candidate with an open mind.

Affinity bias

The inclination to favor a candidate who is most like you – impacts your ability to see the value in those who aren’t like you.

Recency bias

This means you’re more likely to favor the candidate you most recently interviewed.

Halo effect

This occurs when you focus on one particularly great feature about a person and neglect others – including those that are negative.

The horn effect

This is just the opposite: allowing a weak fact to overshadow positive qualities in a candidate. 

Gender bias

A bias towards one gender over the other – can cause you to unconsciously prefer a candidate based on his or her gender and the qualities you associate with it.

Attribution bias

Or how you perceive your actions as well as those of others, stems from our brain’s flawed ability to assess the reasons for certain behaviors – particularly those that lead to success and failure. In general, we attribute our own accomplishments to our skills and abilities, and our failures to external factors.

The reverse is true for others, especially people we don’t know, such as job candidates. We tend to minimize their accomplishments or attribute them to luck, but attribute career misses to skill deficits.

Confirmation bias

This refers to how we often search for evidence that aligns with our own opinions, rather than considering the whole picture or person. This often leads to overlooking other information and instead focusing on things that fit your view of a candidate.

Get the HR leader’s guide: Applying diversity, equity, and inclusion to your employee experience program

Why reduce bias?

When we spoke to people as part of our global study of more than 11,800 participants at the end of 2020, a sense of belonging emerged as the strongest driver of employee engagement – ahead of typical drivers like trust in leadership and ability for career growth. Belonging is a core element of inclusion, along with feeling as though you can be yourself at work, and that your organization is a place where everyone can succeed to their full potential, no matter who they are.

We know a culture of equity and inclusion is not only critical to the success of diversity efforts, but creating an equitable and inclusive workplace also creates a positive employee experience.

Organizations that have had diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies in place for an extended period of time have reported positive business outcomes, such as:

+ Diverse teams are more innovative and capable of solving complex problems

+ Companies with gender diverse boards have superior financial outcomes

+ Inclusive managers and psychological safety support team effectiveness

+ DEI is highly connected to employee engagement, job satisfaction, and retention

+ Diversity and inclusion impact company reputation and risk management

There is not only strong moral value in building a DEI program – working to eliminate bias and systemic equity issues around gender and race – there’s measurable business value, as well.

Read more: 8 expert tips for fostering equity in the workplace

10 ways to reduce bias in interviews

Get started addressing the biases that hinder your organization’s ability to foster a workplace where everyone belongs.

Here are several ways to reduce bias in your interview process:

  1. Educate yourself about bias at work by seeking out resources such as books and articles authored by members of underrepresented communities – and include myriad perspectives and experiences within those communities, as well.
  2. Understand and talk about the benefits of hiring diverse candidates and fostering an inclusive workplace environment – many of which we mentioned above.
  3. Consider culture add over culture fit. This means interviewing and hiring employees that not only align with your company’s values but also bring diverse experiences and backgrounds to the table, too.
  4. Source more intentionally. Be strategic about where you’re posting open positions. Go beyond the homogeneous networks to tap into diverse talent pipelines you might have previously ignored and/or didn’t realize existed.
  5. Conduct panel interviews to mitigate any one individual interviewer’s biases and allow for various perspectives within the interview process.
  6. Create structured interview guides with the same questions, asked in the same order, for each candidate.
  7. Ask open-ended behavior-based questions that give you more context, as well as insights to actions, critical thinking skills, and results.
  8. Use a scorecard to rate candidates consistently and document their abilities and competencies to do the job.
  9. Dedicate time for candidates to ask his or her own questions during the interview. This helps establish your organization as a place where everyone is encouraged to contribute – a foundational component of belonging.
  10. Ask for candidate feedback. Candidates’ experience interviewing at your company will reveal potential gaps and opportunities for improving the process.

Get insights to your candidate experience

Qualtrics // Experience Management

Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the experience management category, is a cloud-native software platform that empowers organizations to deliver exceptional experiences and build deep relationships with their customers and employees.

With insights from Qualtrics, organizations can identify and resolve the greatest friction points in their business, retain and engage top talent, and bring the right products and services to market. Nearly 20,000 organizations around the world use Qualtrics’ advanced AI to listen, understand, and take action. Qualtrics uses its vast universe of experience data to form the largest database of human sentiment in the world. Qualtrics is co-headquartered in Provo, Utah and Seattle.

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