Liz Kingston shares 3 very common unconscious biases in the recruitment process as well as a number of strategies on how to counter these.
Recently I’ve been asked to comment on some of the most common unconscious biases that can affect hiring managers during their interview processes. Three of the most common unconscious biases that can have hugely damaging results are First Impression Bias, Affinity Bias, and Confirmation Bias.
First Impression Bias
First Impression Bias happens to us when a candidate walks in the door, they look great, they sound great. Unconsciously we do leap to the assumption that because they look great and they sound great, that they will be great. This bias influences us in that we start to look at the candidate through rose coloured glasses from the very outset of our interview. It also makes us become a little less diligent in our interview process.
The second bias that can affect us at interview is the Affinity Bias, and the Affinity Bias lures us into judging candidates who we share an affinity or similar qualities with n a better light. So for example, you might have studied at the same university as your candidate, perhaps they even worked for the same firm in the past. Perhaps you share the same hobbies and passions. The danger of Affinity Bias is simply that we tend to bestow greater strengths and great skill capabilities upon the candidate without qualifying them.
The third bias is called Confirmation Bias. Confirmation Bias influences us to unconsciously seek only the information that supports our early-stage finding, or assumptions, and it influences us to under weigh, undervalue, and even ignore information that might conflict, or does not support, our early-stage findings. When we’re affected by the bias, we stop listening deeply, we stop probing for solid examples and explanation, we might even feel the need to skip or move on from some of our crucial interview questions.
So inaction, these three unconscious biases can form the perfect storm. The candidate makes a great first impression at the interview. First Impression Bias leads you to think they look great, they sound great, they must be great. You’ve arrived at an early stage assumption and you may have rose coloured glasses on.
Right after First Impression Bias gets a handle on you, Affinity Bias is lining right up behind it. Let’s say in this instance, the candidate has worked at one of the companies that you’ve worked for too in the past, let’s say it’s Deloitte’s. Affinity Bias can influence you into saying things like, “Oh, I see you worked at Deloitte’s too, “in fact, we were in the same team but at different times. “I don’t need to ask you “about your financial modelling skills today, “you would’ve nailed it there.” Affinity Bias influences you to make even more assumptions about your candidate and it encourages you to feel the need to stop or skip some of your crucial interview questions.
And as the final part of the perfect storm, Confirmation Bias walks into the room. Under Confirmation Biases’ influence, you are compelled to seek out only information that supports your early findings. They’re the early findings that you made with the help of First Impression and Affinity Bias. Here, you might even steer away from actively listening for information that does not support your early findings and if you do come across that information, you might feel compelled to ignore it.
Steps to prevent unconscious bias
Remember, these are Unconscious Biases and that means sometimes we don’t even know when we’re under their influence. Being aware of them is the first key to making better hiring decisions. Interviewing with panel members who are different from you is another way to overcome it because you may not share the same Affinity Biases with those differing people. And one of the final ways to manage these Unconscious Biases is to be aware that when you initially have a really strong reaction, you really like a candidate, they sound great, they seem great, or you share common traits with them, is that in those situations they are an absolute flag to be more diligent, not skip any interview questions and most definitely, stick to your interview plan.
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