Revealed: Top HR biases that derail job interviews

There are many faux pas employers may fall victim to – and keep in mind that they may be connected

Revealed: Top HR biases that derail job interviews

A candidate walks into the interview and for some reason that you can’t quite put your finger on you just know they are perfect for the role. There is something about them that clicks with you. Even before the interview is finished you start to mentally prepare their job offer.

Hopefully though, rather than feeling a level of comfort about the fit, alarm bells ring and you challenge your first impressions. You take a step back and evaluate your choice to ensure you don’t fall victim to your potential fake news or your personal biases.

A bias in its simplest form is a preference for someone or something, and can reveal themselves in our opinions, behaviours and actions. We are all guilty of falling victim to our personal biases, which are the result of the culmination of our life’s experiences, beliefs and values, insecurities, fears and expectations. Biases may be about race, gender, sexual orientation right through to how you go about your everyday life.

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To allow ourselves to be more objective about our biases maybe give those voices inside our head that influence our opinions, behaviours and actions to a name, I call mine Bob. Our biases or heuristics are mental shortcuts Bob uses as a way to make life easier, so he doesn’t have to think too much.

Being efficient, he likes to quickly jump to a conclusion based on our past experiences, biases or beliefs, regardless if they are right or wrong, and then move on to the next agenda item.

This may explain why we prefer one candidate over another even before we have finished the interview. There is an inherent danger in giving Bob free reign in certain circumstances – including interviews - and is why we are wise to employ tools such as personality tests, peer interviewing and involving multiple people on an interview panel.

These are some of the tools that help us remain balanced and kibosh Bob and his biases. Here are some biases we might fall victim to and keep in mind that they may be independently or could be interrelated:

Halo effect is when we show a preference which taints our objectivity.  First impressions count when it comes to the halo effect. Career coaching research shows that the only two consistent predictors of interview success (out of dozens) are extraversion and attractiveness. Simply put, the more we are attracted to someone (looks, personality, physique), the more this will influence how we rate everything else about them.

Confirmation bias We all like to be right, so rather than admit we’re wrong Bob looks for things to support his opinions often ignoring evidence that contradicts it. If you liked the person when they walked in, you may unconsciously look for information or examples that support your opinion. You may even discount details that contradict your viewpoint. After all, if you like her, then she must be worth employing, Bob reasons.

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Blindspot or unconscious biases are those influences that affect our judgement and behaviours without us necessarily being aware of them. Race, gender, sexual preference, body type, education, sense of humour, wealth and creativity may be unconscious biases that influence our recruitment.

Self-serving bias is when Bob looks to get the best outcome for us. If the new employee is a great hire you will probably sit back and think “cool, how awesome am I” or alternatively if they don’t work out for some reason you may think it is someone else’s fault? Bob figures it hurts less when we can blame someone or something else. When we fall victim to the self-serving bias, we have a tendency to attribute positive events to our own character but attribute negative events to external factors.

Attentional bias is when we get lost in the moment and don’t notice things happening around us, we are experiencing the attentional bias. Our focus becomes so intense that we block everything else out. Bob uses his need for efficiency (or laziness) and focuses on the things that he thinks matter to us, ignoring most of the other stuff, because he figures we don’t really care about them anyway. Another term for this is tunnel vision.

Anchoring bias If the CEO recommends a candidate, then we will be more likely to show a preference for them based on the expectations we have now established.  Usually, we look for things to measure ourselves and our expectations against and often it is from people or sources we respect.

The first step to managing our biases is to acknowledge they exist and that we all have them.

By owning them and recognising them when they arise, we can develop action plans to circumvent our biases and avoid them inappropriately influencing our decision making both at work and in our personal lives.


Gary Waldon is a business transformation specialist and the author of Sort Your Sh!t Out.

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