If your organization is working towards more equitable hiring and increasing diversity, avoiding bias in interviews is a crucial piece of the puzzle. At this point, many of us are familiar with implicit bias and how it comes into play during the hiring process. The task at hand is to alter the way we approach interviewing and screening candidates so there are checks and balances on our biases.
First of all, unpacking our implicit bias has a lot to do with learning and listening. Defined as an “implicit association, whether about people, places, or situations, which are often based on mistaken, inaccurate, or incomplete information and include the personal histories we bring to the situation,” implicit bias does not have to be permanent. This post will provide a few solid tips on avoiding bias in interviews and outside of the hiring process as well.
Just as the seasons change each year, we are a product of our socialization and how we are taught to interact with the world. Putting people into groups or boxes of information is how we make sense of the world, and it is simply our brain categorizing what we know. However, this automatic practice can sometimes be misinformed, and lead us to stereotype others or assume something we may not know.
Why does this matter in tech hiring? When examining how our candidates funnel through the hiring process, there are often barriers for diverse talent that has little to do with their tech skills and ability to do the job. This is part of the reason the tech industry has struggled to make substantial progress in building more diverse teams and hiring diverse leadership. By acknowledging that these stereotypes exist and taking individuals as just that, individuals, with a range of backgrounds and skills, we can start actively avoiding bias in interviews.
Avoiding bias in interviews starts with identifying how it presents itself in real time. Even if we have the best intentions to asses a group of candidates fairly, we subconsciously come to conclusions based on what we have in common with that person, the last thing they said in an interview, or even their body language. Here are some of the most common incidents (but only a handful) of potential unconscious interview biases:
Knowing we all hold subconscious biases can help us mitigate them. When it comes to hiring in tech, many companies are already taking steps to address bias and standardize evaluation procedures. Luckily, there are many straightforward approaches to making interviews more fair and less biased.
Studies show that organizations that track and assess data on diversity efforts have more success in the long term. Make note of how your initiatives and ideas play out in the hiring process. In turn, this qualitative data can inform your team of where diverse candidates left or fell out of the process, so you can start to analyze why. Putting a lens of inclusivity on this type of information can reveal patterns of unconscious bias, for example, that your hiring team may have rejected several qualified candidates just based on where they went to school, or because their names were unusual. The list goes on.
Whether it is conscious or unconscious bias, either way the world would be better off if we all paid a little more attention to why we make certain decisions, especially when it comes to people. As mentioned above, you could be missing out on the most qualified candidate for the role due to inconsistent questioning, or an assumption about their experience. Consider getting feedback from diverse groups on your job descriptions and interview process to ensure they attract a wide range of candidates.
Take this final example: if your interviews are multiple hours long, this can create a logistical challenge for working parents with children at home. By simply asking, “is this process accessible?” or “does this job opening have language targeting a certain group over another?” you can influence the equity of your interview process. We hope this information started your wheels turning, ours certainly are. Avoiding bias in interviews in one part of a multi-faceted approach to activating intersectionality and increasing diversity in the hiring process.