Bias interviews. And why they don’t work.

Bias is an inherent part of life, it’s present in most circles and for the most part it’s unconscious or unintentional.

Maybe you have been guilty of switching off & rolling your eyes if a vegan even looks like they are going to speak about food? Or perhaps you assume somebody is less intelligent if they profess to be a Scientologist? The bottom line is that we tend to apply more value to what the mirror reflects.

This becomes a problem however when you are relying on a person being able to impartially asses another person’s skills, personality and suitability for a job. In fact, a well-respected study conducted by Schmidt and Hunter in 1998 found that job interviews can only predict about 14 % of the variability in employee performance. 14% is a pretty poor show, you can get similar numbers by simply choosing a candidate at random!

Most often than not, we are unaware of when we are being bias – and we all are, one way or another. This results in interviews being inefficient and judgmental. We like what the mirror reflects… And we end up creating homogeneous  teams that are less creative, less efficient and up to 30% less profitable (but that’s a topic for another post). Here we break down the types of bias that creep into the standard interview process and start explaining a solution that is to fix it.

1. Prejudicial bias.

This one is simple and unfortunately also one of the most common. Unconscious and conscious bias against race, gender, religion or social class etc, can impede or cloud an interview from the moment an interviewer picks up a CV.  A recent study  found that people applying for the same job, but with Asian names (Indian, Pakistani or Chinese in origin) were 28 % less likely to get called for an interview compared to applicants with Anglo names, even if all the qualifications, skills, age and experience were the same. This is also closely linked to stereotyping and it is incredible how often bias seeps into an interview. Another example of this is that the Schmidt and Hunter study found that applicant being obese can have a 35 % variation on the result of an interview.

2.Confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is an odd thing that humans do wherein we seek out information or find answers that confirm a preconceived notion we have in our heads. A great current example of this is Donald Trump crying out at “the FAKE NEWS media” for reporting negatively against him. This preconceived notion is then ‘confirmed’ every time a media outlet reports negatively against him. In an interview situation, it easy to see how this can lead to bias. When an interviewee has already decided something about you based on where you went to university or your job history for instance, it invariably results in a bias interview.

3. Conclusion bias.

This is a tough one to counteract. Conclusion bias is essentially confirming everything you’ve ever read about first impressions. A study concluded that you have on average 30-60 seconds to make a good first impression. The study was even able to confirm the long-suspected phenomena that attractive people do get better outcomes in practically all walks of life. Aside from this however people with “mature” faces when in trouble receive more severe punishments than “baby-faced” people. They also found that having a face that looks competent (as opposed to trustworthy or likable) is a major factor in whether a person gets elected to a public office. The point remains however that if an interviewer views you as unattractive, or does not like your outfit then your odds in the process fall steeply.

4. Intuition

Good old intuition. Some people have good intuition and some people have bad intuition. The problem is that due to the nature of people, everybody who relies on their intuition believes theirs is good. That’s the thing, some people still advocate for intuition (“Trust your gut”), but how can you possibly expect one person to interview every single candidate on every single role to be able to apply the same rules across the board? Your intuition by definition will be different than mine – no unified assessment. Especially when you may be subconsciously subject to one or more of the above types of bias!

I’ve spoken before about why I don’t believe recruitment shouldn’t be a HR issue. I’ve often extolled the virtues of stats, statistics and big data (HRacist post) but I truly believe that the current status quo for recruitment is to the detriment of all involved.

Early movers and shakers

An example: Triplebyte. A technical recruiting platform co-founded by former YC partner Harj Taggar, Ammon Bartram and Guillaume Luccisano.  Triplebyte incorporates an non-bias competency assessment into the candidate screening process. Simple as that. But as a result, they can go to businesses they work with and confidently recommend a candidate based on their skills and not how they acquired those skills – Harvard or parent’s basement. Check out the TechChrunch article about those guys.

Ikea is another company which has recognized this deficit. If you have ever done an Ikea run then it’s likely that you, like me, have sat eating the Ikea meatballs after and wondered at the efficiency you have just experienced at the hands of the Swedish juggernaut. Well they have recently announced that they are rethinking their hiring process too, moving away from the inefficient & traditional CV lead approach and moving onto a more people lead process.

While these approaches are somewhat different to what we are advocating for, we should nonetheless applaud both for offering a solution to the bias filled minefield that is recruitment. Because this is a real problem. Skilled candidates being overlooked because of something ridiculous like their name or origin, companies missing out on the candidates.

It’s just all so wrong… Enter Aspire.

You’ve heard me say it before and yes, it is a start-up cliché, but Aspire is designed to disrupt. Old recruitment is dead, a dinosaur. In 10 years’ time we won’t believe the number of hoops we had to go through to land a decent job or candidate.

 It’s not objectively important so it is not built into the software, as simple as that.

One of the things Aspire has focused on since it’s conception is eliminating bias. Our unique linking algorithm is based on big data. By very definition this eliminates bias at the first step. Our algorithm doesn’t give a damn about your name, race, gender or origin. It’s not objectively important so it is not built into the software, as simple as that.

Aspire allows for a deep level screening of candidates using behavioral science approach so you only see the candidates who  have been matched to your company & the position. You can rely on everybody Aspire links you with to be a good fit, so you can leave your intuition at the door.

Don’t let all that inherent human bias cloud your thinking. Keep an open mind and request an invite.

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