How To Avoid Bias When Conducting Job Interviews

By Victoria Robertson on October 11, 2015

Conducting a job interview can produce a nerve-racking, high stress environment, especially when you’re conducting an interview for the first time. What most people aren’t aware of is that an interview can be just as stressful on the other end of the table.

What questions do you ask? What if your impression of them is wrong? What if they don’t take your authority seriously?

These are all questions that undoubtedly run through your mind before you interview somebody. But what of the questions that don’t run through your mind?

How do you make the interviewee comfortable? How do you avoid being offensive? Or possibly the biggest question mark of all: how do you avoid bias?

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Walking into an interview biased is extremely counterproductive, even if it may not seem that way.

So how do you avoid this problem? For one thing, don’t take someone’s resume too seriously.

While you’ll most often review a resume prior to the interview (and oftentimes the resume is the deciding factor on whether or not a person will be getting an interview), that doesn’t mean that everything you need to know about a potential candidate is listed in Times New Roman on a blank sheet of paper.

An interview should run more like a conversation than anything else, albeit an important one. So rather than grilling an interviewee on what you’ve seen on their resume, use those credentials to steer them onto other topics.

Use the interview as a clean slate, with the resume as a reference point, and nothing more. Their credentials have already gotten them to this point, now use them as talking points to learn more about the candidate – specifically to learn what can’t be listed on a piece of paper.

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Everybody lies (or at least embellishes), so while a resume can display the perfect candidate, don’t let that cloud your judgment going into the interview. People may surprise you.

Another important thing to keep in mind in an interview to avoid bias is to ask questions. I know, that sounds ridiculous. Of course you’re going to be asking questions. What I mean is, when in doubt, ask.

Don’t leave anything out in the interview. You want to leave that room with everything out on the table, and knowing 100 percent how you feel about the potential candidate.

So if you aren’t sure what something means, ask. If you need something clarified on the resume, ask for clarification. If you are given an ambiguous answer, ask follow-up questions. The more engaged you are with the interview, the less is left up for interpretation, which, you guessed it, eliminates (or diminishes, at the very least) bias.

Finally, while this should go unsaid, it’s still sadly a large issue. As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover. The same goes for an interview.

While you of course are going to be looking for professional dress, that’s as far as you should be judging based on looks. Sexism, racism, stereotypes and any other personal biases you may have need to be left at home.

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The truth is, the way a personal looks, their sexual orientation, their race etc., all have nothing to do with their professional abilities. And while it can be hard to ignore a personal prejudice etc., it’s unprofessional not to.

And I know that seems fairly obvious, but it oftentimes isn’t so obvious to interviewers.

Just like a resume can put a bias in your head before you conduct an interview, so too can a person’s appearance.

The bottom line is that an interview should be taken as it is. While there are of course multiple factors to keep in mind while interviewing, the interview is your chance to really get to know a candidate at face value.

You can learn who they’ll be as a worker, their organization skills, their enthusiasm for the position, etc. Emotion is a huge part of the interview that you aren’t going to see anywhere else, so while it’s easy to pre-judge a candidate, I urge you not to do so.

So keep these tips in mind before your next interview (or first interview) and you hopefully shouldn’t have any problems with bias in your future interviews.

By Victoria Robertson

Uloop Writer
University of Illinois
Victoria is a dedicated writer who graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She currently writes freelance pieces for various sites and works in Marketing for Myndbee Inc., promoting their current mobile app, Picpal.

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