bias 2

Interview bias can have a debilitating impact on a Company's ability to meet their corporate objectives. In a recent Harvard Business Review article -"Your Approach to Hiring is All Wrong", Peter Cappelli states that "Interviews are where biases most show up" and highlights the need to ensure the processes you adopt counteract this. This will in turn improve your retention and reduce your ultimate cost to hire which is always high up on most organisations recruitment goals.

Perfect Candidate Aor B MEN

Ok, let's go with the scenario in the opening picture with Candidates A and B. Human nature tell us you  as the reader will have already formed an initial opinion of who you prefer. Am I right? First impressions can be so very powerful as we outlined on a  recent podcast and  I'm sure when you saw the title image most people sub-conciously thought Candidate A?

Now let us give you some further information on Candidate A and Candidate B.

Candidate A, wearing a professional suit, she's young and attractive, great smile, laughs at your jokes, top university degree, and guess what? She works for a competitor that you're trying to beat, just down the street. Or candidate B. She's not wearing a formal suit, little older, little plainer, slightly quirky not quite as attractive, she's got a forced smile and a dry sense of humour, went to College but dropped out halfway through, and she really doesn't have any significant industry experience related to your job.

So which person would you hire? Be honest with yourself ...... how many of you are saying 'definately A' ?

Most of you we think. Are we right?

Stop.....Think again!

What you should have said is whichever candidate is..... "The most qualified person for the job," but unfortunately that's not how most hiring processes work within organisations. As uncomfortable as you maybe personally with some of the factors we mentioned above, they do have an impact on hiring decisions within organisations. Whilst employers are obviously forbidden from stating some of these criteria for suitable candidates, we all are aware of the organisations that seem to have a very strong preference for employing women in a particular department, or a front of house receptionist who is just out of modelling school or a graduate who must come from a 'red brick' institution.

Most hiring teams and interviewers around the world still make decisions based on non-job-related criteria such as how the candidate looks, how much energy they have in the interview, if they felt like that they could get along with the candidate. If they had a firm handshake, a nice smile, a nice suit, if they had a well-written resume or CV, or if they went to the same school, support the same football team or have the same interests.

Shocking but true.

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So, Here are 6 common interview biases you need to be aware of to avoid in the Interview process:-


 Forming an opinion about how people of a given gender, religion, race,appearance, or other characteristic think, act, respond, or would perform the job without any evidence that this is the case.

 Inconsistency in questioning:
 Asking different questions of each candidate will lead to a skewed assessment of who would best perform the job. Questions designed to get particular information about a specific candidate are only appropriate
in the context of a core set of questions asked of every single candidate.

 First impressions:

first impressions 3
As mentioned an interviewer might make a snap judgement about someone based on their first impression positive or negative that clouds the entire interview, eg letting the fact that the candidate is wearing out of the scruffy or inappropriate clothing or has a heavy regional accent take precedence over the applicant's knowledge, skills, or abilities. 

Negative emphasis:
This involves rejection of a candidate based on a small amount of negative information a common occurrence. Research indicates that interviewers give unfavorable information almost twice the weight of
favorable information. Why?

 The Horn or Halo effect:

Halo Effect
The "halo" effect occurs when an interviewer allows one strong point about the candidate to overshadow or have an effect on everything else.For instance, knowing someone went to a particular university might be
looked upon favorably. 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 went to XYZ University).This is a very worrying and common bias.

The "horn" effect is just the opposite allowing one weak point to influence everything else.

Cultural noise:
Since the candidate wants the job, they will undoubtedly provide the words the interviewer wants to hear, even if those words are not entirely truthful, eg:- an applicant might say that he has no problem reporting to someone younger, or working in a team setting, when this is not the case. Interviewers should prepare questions that probe for specific examples and stay away from questions that elicit "yes" or "no" answers.

Your goal as a recruiter and as an interviewer is to look past all of those things. Put on your blinkers with regard to the bias factors and start digging for examples of successful performance related to the job that you're trying to fill.

To do this effectively you need a thorough Interview process to follow as outlined here in a recent blog.

How Can we help?

As an experienced recruiter we have a lot of experience to share with employers to assist them meeting their career goals. Why not complete the Hiring checklist and then arrange a strategy call to see how we can work in partnership.


About the Author: Mark Woffenden

Mark Woffenden is a Director at Lucy Walker Recruitment and has an extensive knowledge of the issues and workings of the West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester Commercial markets developed over the last 20 years in the Industry