How to Avoid Bias When Interviewing Candidates

By Kaitlin Hurtado on November 16, 2023

Interviewing candidates will come with plenty of challenges for even the most seasoned recruiter and employers. Unfortunately, one of these challenges can be facing interviewer bias. To make the most out of the interviewing process, you should do everything in your power to eliminate bias throughout your hiring process. Keep reading tips on how to avoid bias when interviewing candidates.

Photo: Pexels

Understanding interview bias

First and foremost, you should have an understanding of what interviewer bias is so that you can recognize when you are experiencing it. Interviewer bias occurs when the interviewer judges a candidate on something other than their skills and experience, leading to the interview being less objective. Bias can occur from a variety of factors, from physical appearance to the initial behaviors (like body language) that a candidate may have.

For example, the interviewer can have a “weak” handshake or avoid eye contact, leading the interviewer to believe the candidate is not going to be a strong employee. These behaviors do not account for what a candidate actually brings to the table as a professional, and can cause the candidate to be unfairly turned down for the job, making the company miss out on what could be a great and successful employee.

Standardize your interview process 

Interviewer bias can definitely sway the way an interview goes, and ultimately, impact how effective in analyzing the candidate’s potential for the role. Creating a standardized interview guide or process can help you structure each interview to make sure that each candidate is getting the same opportunity during their interview as any other candidate.

Consider starting with a phone interview first. As much as people want to deny it, someone’s physical appearance can play a part in one’s initial perception of someone, even in a professional setting. Starting out the interview process via phone can help eliminate initial bias based on a candidate’s physical appearance and body language. This should include a set of questions you will ask every candidate. This will help deter you from asking any off-topic questions that may stem from your initial interviewer bias that may occur from your first meeting. Small talk can quickly lead to full discussion disclosing a candidate’s personal life. While you may think getting to know your candidate is a great idea, it can greatly influence your decision-making when it comes to picking a candidate. While the candidate may not have the experience you need, the fact that you are able to bond over a shared hobby can influence you to pick them over another candidate anyway.

Have multiple people interview candidates

Depending on your organization, having more than one person interview a candidate can help eliminate bias during interviewing. Everyone has different perceptions and opinions, and having multiple people have the opportunity to interview a candidate can create several different viewpoints and evaluations to pull from when selecting a candidate from interviews. This can be done as a series of one-on-one interviews with candidates, or a one-off interview with multiple people and each candidate. Each situation depends on time and employee availability, but whatever you decide, make sure each candidate has the same interview process.

Standardize your evaluation process

Once interviews are over with, the opportunity for interviewer bias to take over does not end. Lingering bias can still severely impact how you ultimately evaluate the candidates interviewed. Before you even begin interviewing, you should have a standardized guide/rubric on how you plan to evaluate the candidates. Which skills are essential for candidates you will move forward with? Doing this before the interviews will help bias from taking over how you evaluate candidates.

For example, you may initially want a candidate with a certain skill, only to interview a candidate with a great personality but without the desired skill. Your bias may take over and pick the candidate because you liked their personality over other, better-qualified candidates who didn’t “shine” as much during their interviews. Stick to the skills or priorities you chose before the interview process so you are not swayed by your bias, leaving you to miss out on potentially great job candidates. Don’t rely on years of experience interviewing candidates. Your “instincts” can actually just be bias in disguise – stick to the facts when evaluating employees to keep things fair and free of bias.

Unfortunately, eliminating bias is a near-impossible task. However, being able to recognize what bias is, how it can occur, and take steps to prevent it from occurring can help immensely in keeping it out of your company’s hiring process. Taking the necessary steps is a win-win for everyone – candidates get a fair shot at the job, and your company is one step closer to reaching successful candidates and new employees.

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