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Removing bias at interview

RoleMapper Team
April 25, 2021

The interview process, if not managed correctly, leaves you wide open to biases that impact how you conduct the interview and the hiring decisions you make.

In the world of bias-academia, the “Halo or Horns” effect is a terms often used to describe specifically how “confirmatory bias” can manifest itself in the recruitment process - when an interviewer allows one strong point about the candidate to overshadow or have an effect on everything else.

For instance, knowing they used to work at a particular company might be looked upon favourably. Everything the applicant says during the interview is seen in this light: "well, she left out an important part of the answer to that question, but, she must know it, she used to work at X company”.

The "horns" effect is just the opposite - allowing one weak point to influence everything else. And then there is the “mini-me” bias, where we have an unconscious tendency to favour those who remind us of ourselves. This can result in managers favouring a candidate because they are similar to themselves rather than because they are the best person for the job.

Structured interviews help debias decision making

So how do you stop this happening? Bias training? Yes, good idea, it at least makes you aware. But training alone will not make a systemic shift - it is very difficult to be consciously conscious of our unconscious biases every single minute of the interview.

There has been lots of research into interviewing and in particular what types of interview best reduce bias. Structured interviews have been found to be considerably more effective than unstructured interviews.

Clarity on requirements is the key to structured interviewing; what you are assessing – the requirements - and ensuring the criteria you are assessing for are inclusive and have been reviewed for bias.

Ultimately, to ensure your structured interview is inclusive you only want to be assessing the absolute essential criteria required to perform well in the job, desirable criteria are not discussed.

"Structured interviews are one of the best tools we have to identify the strongest job candidates." Dr Melissa Harrell, People Analytics Team, Google.

In summary, without a structured interview process, managers may well fall foul to their unconscious biases in their interpretation, assessment and selection of talent. But if the requirements you are assessing have not been rigorously assessed for bias, or potential to exclude talent, then all your efforts may well be in vain.

The biases unconsciously baked into the job requirements in your job descriptions could potentially be helping you to screen out the best, most creative and diverse people in the market.

Break interviewer bias with intelligent job design

So, how do you ensure requirements are inclusive? At the point when we define these requirements. It’s when we design our jobs and create our job descriptions. It is the process of designing a job and creating a job description where you determine the screening and assessment criteria for prospective candidates.

By adopting an intelligent job design approach you connect the dots with your inclusive job description, your inclusive requirements and your inclusive structured interview process.

At the point of when you are creating your jobs – whether for job profiling, job description creation, job advert creation – you design your requirements inclusively and ensure that they feed into a structured interview, closing the loop and debiasing the process.

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