by Floyd Rumohr
Interviews are a necessary part of the hiring process and can be subject to interviewer bias.
“Many studies show that unstructured, face-to-face interviews are biased; interviewers prefer candidates who are likeable, similar to them, and physically attractive – even if these qualities are irrelevant to performance” reports Pfeffer and Sutton in the New York Times.
Is a well-intended employer supposed to hire someone they don’t like? Not exactly. Likeability, charming personalities, excessive self-confidence and other personality traits could bias an interviewer from really seeing and hearing the information needed to make a credible assessment. A candidate should not be hired just because that person is liked. This may sound obvious but it is a common hiring mistake.
A good interview process elicits information that can help predict future performance based on past behaviors. Generally-speaking, interviews should draw-out information that helps the hiring team predict the degree to which each candidate:
- Has the skills and capability to do the job
- Will perform at the organization
During a search for director of development at a youth services organization in New York City, the hiring team wanted to find out how each candidates’ past behavior and conduct might influence performance at the organization given its current challenges and priorities. Interviews focused on what each candidate actually did on a day-to-day basis, how they behaved, and what they accomplished. This approach was taken because past performance is one of the best indicators of how a candidate will perform in the future.
Focusing on the skills, capabilities, organizational compatibility, and indicators of performance required by the position at this time in the organization’s lifecycle will increase the chances that the new hire will succeed and decrease the likelihood that hidden bias will sneak into the process.
Next up: the hiring manager.
References and recommended reading:
“Trust the Evidence Not Your Instincts” by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, New York Times, September 3, 2011.