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3 Ways to Reduce Bias in the Interview Process

August 11, 2020
iCIMS Staff
5 min read
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Decisions, decisions… they happen all around us. We make 35,000 subconscious decisions according to Roberts Wesleyan College research. Not in a lifetime either… in a day.

When the subconscious is involved, so is bias—it’s only natural. That’s why the selection process and supporting applicant tracking software are key for diversity. Not only is unbiased hiring our path to a more inclusive future of work, it’s the best way organizations can eliminate risk of overlooking their best-fit candidates.

Read on for actionable tips on identifying and reducing hiring bias.

Key takeaways:

  • Every human has at least six forms of cognitive bias
  • Interview structure and format can mitigate hiring bias
  • Screening with tech supports diverse hires
  • Applicant tracking software keeps everything on track

“Biases don’t make us bad; they make us human. One way to deal with bias in the hiring process is to remember that different shouldn’t be spelled W-R-O-N-G.”

– Chinor Lee, Associate Director of Culture, Belonging, Inclusion & Diversity (CBID) at iCIMS

Completely eliminating bias is a work of progress, not perfection. Humans will remain a critical piece of the talent selection puzzle, and to tackle bias is simply a matter of getting honest about where it could be impacting your hiring decisions today, and where you can pivot to improve for the future.

Examples of cognitive bias your hiring process may contain

  1. Confirmation bias: Someone perceives information in a way that supports their existing beliefs or expectations, such as assuming a characteristic about a candidate based on a personal view.
  2. Loss aversion: Someone works harder to keep something they worked hard for, such as a recruiter facing hesitation to not progress a candidate that took more effort to source, for another recommendation that is more qualified.
  3. Gambler’s fallacy: Someone uses past positive outcomes to make decisions about the future, such as a hiring manager leaning toward candidates that mirror their last few successful hires.
  4. Availability cascade: Someone uses readily available information or feedback present in their life instead of seeking out facts, such as a recruitment team using hiring manager satisfaction to indicate quality without seeking out proven competencies for success per role.
  5. Framing effect: Someone brings the way information was delivered to them into their own perception, such as a recruiter delivering top candidates to a hiring manager as “the closest match candidates we could find in a pinch” instead of “the top candidates from all talent pools for your role.”
  6. Similarity attraction: Someone leans toward those they personally connect with, such as a recruiter progressing a candidate that shares the same hometown or hobbies.

Needless to say, no one tries to have bias. Most people don’t even realize it’s happening- but it does. 

Here’s how to actively break it down:

3 ways to reduce bias in the interview process

  1. Mix up your method: Combine structured and unstructured interviews. While some screening questions are essential to determine a candidate’s qualifications, you can also incorporate less formal video interviews that allow a candidate to show their individuality beyond resume criteria. Whether you hold several 1:1 interview sessions or choose to fast track with panel-style discussions, you can easily connect each candidate with a diverse group of individuals who are willing to hold one another accountable. The more unique points of view present in a hiring decision, the more likely personal bias is mitigated. Read how Goldman Sachs and other leading employers use video interviewing to break down diversity here.
  2. Ask the right questions: Do you use an interview guide to keep questions consistent for each candidate? If so, it’s always a good idea to reevaluate those questions to align with your company’s strategic priorities for a winning workforce and avoid asking anything that may single out individuals, like which university they attended. For assessments, the same rule of thumb applies. You want to acknowledge that you’ve reviewed an individual’s resume and now it’s time to learn more about how their perspectives and experiences align with your criteria. If you assess candidates for overall culture fit instead of narrowing in on an exact role, you get a more complete picture of who that person is and can transfer them to another talent pool in the event that the role they’ve applied for doesn’t work out.
  3. Show full transparency: Our world is having more frank conversations—about everything. That means that most candidates won’t walk on eggshells if they feel they’ve lost out on a job opportunity because of how they look, how old they are, or a personal detail disclosed during the interview process. Part of the modern candidate experience is bringing a sense of belonging into every phase of your hiring process. Sending updates regularly between screening steps is key, but what you include in those updates can make a big difference, especially if you’re operating remotely. Offer context around what skills are being assessed during each phase and reiterate what your organization stands for. Doing this helps candidates see why you’re making the decision to hire. It may seem obvious to repeat criteria after an application—but that extra alignment will go a long way in keeping your talent at ease in the process. See how communication is playing a vital role in virtual hiring here.


Take action: Where software mitigates human bias in your screening process

The steps above are quick wins, but the sustainable change comes with the support of hiring software that understands current hiring priorities. Humans ultimately make hiring decisions, but there are tools that can process screening data and elevate unbiased insights to drive those decisions:

  • Automated background screens present either a pass or fail based on external criteria
  • Cognitive assessments offer an equal opportunity for all applicants based on set benchmarks
  • Behavioral assessments demonstrate unique approaches and highlight best-fits through data
  • Virtual workplace simulations give insight into job-specific performance
  • Blind recruitment practices support a process with fields like name or gender removed

Many tools that specialize in these areas are readily available to integrate with your applicant tracking system to enhance, not disrupt your hiring workflow. Browse through hundreds, here.

If diversity and inclusion are priorities at your company, you’re in a good position with today’s technology offerings. Recruitment technology provides leaders with the power to build high-performing teams through diversity of thought and experience.

It’s all about starting somewhere, and our Decode Diversity: How to Recruit High-Performing Teams infographic helps you do just that. Make a clear case for how diversity impacts performance of teams and the 8 aspects of diversity to seek out in talent pools.

decode diversity cta

Reviewed for accuracy on March 10, 2021, by Alex Oliver


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