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Work around recruiters' biases in interviews

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by Jorge Andrés Jimenez Yanez
Impactpool Executive Search

Hiring processes and decisions are affected by subconscious biases in recruiters. Even though recruiters and organisations try to avoid subconscious biases in their processes by following the same process for every candidate and through the use of panels, it can still creep in because as humans we are hardwired to operate based on subconscious cues. However, knowing more about the biases themselves can help provide an edge when applying for jobs.

Mentioned below are some of the different types of recruiter bias that can affect decision making 

  • Beauty bias - Beauty bias is the idea that physically attractive candidates have better prospects and are rewarded better. This works in the recruitment process wherein recruiters try and hire a candidate who has a similar appearance to the person leaving because they subconsciously believe that how a person looks, affects how they will perform in the job

  • Central Tendency Effect - This is seen when recruiters or panels are reluctant to give clearly high or low ratings to the candidate, so as to avoid any hint of bias towards any particular gender or ethnic group, and so tend to rate everyone in the middle irrespective of their suitability for the job.

  • Confirmation bias - Studies show that almost 60% of recruiters make a decision about hiring someone within 15 minutes of meeting them. Recruiters can make snap decisions based on perceived truths and then spend the rest of the time, subconsciously or not, trying to justify the initial bias. This is sometimes noticeable when they ask irrelevant questions, trying to elicit answers that support their initial assumption about you.

  • Conformity bias -   Also related to herd behaviour and the ‘Bandwagon effect’, conformity bias tends to occur in panels and interviews with multiple recruiters. It is when recruiter decision making is affected by group peer pressure. The fear of being thought poorly of by peers or being ridiculed can allow recruiters to be swayed by others.

  • Contrast effect / judgement bias -  Our brains use comparisons to place things and people in context. In an interview situation, if a candidate seems better than the ones before them, then recruiters are more likely to rate them much higher than they normally would in a different context. Or, if the previous candidate was particularly good, then the one following would not appear as suitable for the position. This can happen at the stage of shortlisting the candidates from their resumes as well. Rather than judging each candidate on their own merit, and their suitability for the job being offered, recruiters are likely to compare the different candidates in a non-objective manner.

  • Effective heuristics  - Recruiters can use heuristics (or take mental shortcuts to reach a conclusion about you) when deciding whether to hire you or not. That is they judge you on the basis of superficial factors, such as your appearance or gender, the recruiter’s own context, or their negative view of certain personality traits, that have no basis to your job performance.
  • Expectation anchor bias - Expectation anchor bias is when recruiters rely too heavily or “anchor” themselves to pre-existing information and use that to guide their decision.  For example, recruiters can sometimes be influenced by the role’s predecessor’s characteristics and will only respond well to candidates that are similar.

  • Halo bias - Halo bias is when the recruiter chooses to focus heavily on positive aspect about you or another candidate, foregoing a proper investigation about the candidate’s background.

  • Horn bias - Horn bias is  the opposite when the recruiter chooses to focus negatively on some aspect about you or another candidate and foregoes a proper investigation about the candidate’s background.
  • Illusory correlation bias - Is when a recruiter inaccurately perceives a relationship between two unrelated variables or events when there is no relationship there. This tends to happen when recruiters put too much emphasis on questions that they believe to provide insight into a candidate’s behaviour, random questions that bear no relevance to their ability to perform in the job.

  • Intuition -  Recruiters are always told to “trust their instincts”, as a result of which, they can make decisions or intuitively select candidates by basing their choice on irrelevant factors such as intellect, emotion and their individual makeup instead of paying attention to the candidate’s actual capabilities.

  • Leniency effect -  The leniency bias occurs when candidates are rated too high because of personal context. Sometimes recruiters might rate a candidate leniently because they feel that it might reflect unfavourably on themselves, or it might affect their relationship with the candidate.
  • Overconfidence bias -  Is when the recruiter is overly confident in their own judgement and ability to pick good candidates or to eliminate the supposed bad ones, that they allow confirmation bias to creep in, to justify their decisions.

  • Similarity attraction bias -  Is when recruiters are more inclined to hire candidates that they view as being similar to them or having similar traits  as them, even when those things are not correlated with on-the-job performance. Similar to this is Affinity bias, when recruiters feel a natural affinity towards a candidates they have something in common with – such as coming from the same town, going to the same school, knowing the same people. This feeling of affinity can affect recruiter behaviour in the interview and influence their decision when it comes to hiring.

Read how to overcome these below: 

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