You Could Be Unknowingly Hiring The Wrong Candidates for Your Jobs

wrong candidates

It sounds like a bad joke. But it’s true. Even on occasions where you think you’re selecting the best candidate for the job, it could be the wrong choice. The even bigger problem is that because unconscious biases are intuitive, you’re often left feeling that you made the right decision.

Researchers call this implicit bias. In implicit bias, one thinks that they’re deciding based on logical arguments when, on the contrary, unconscious activity in the brain is significantly affecting those judgments and decisions.

How Implicit Bias Creeps into Recruitment

There are several ways unconscious bias can creep into hiring. The following are just a few examples;

  1. The halo effect

The halo effect is a type of cognitive bias in which how we think and feel about a person is primarily influenced by their first impression. So, if you’re immediately charmed by the candidate sitting across you, you’re highly likely to think that they’re intelligent, smart, or a good fit for the job.

  1. The horns effect

The horn effect is the opposite of the halo effect. Here, too, first impressions play a big part. The difference, however, is that the horns effect happens when you don’t entirely like someone or their character. For instance, if the candidate sitting across you appears shy, then it doesn’t matter what their resume says, you’re likely to feel that they’re not smart or good enough for the job.

  1. Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias happens when you have a pre-existing belief about a person or something. If the candidate triggers those unconscious beliefs, you’re likely to seek information to prove that you’re right. For instance, when interviewing a male candidate for a sales rep position, you may focus on information proving that men don’t make very good sales reps.

  1. Contrast bias

Humans compare and contrast all the time, often without even noticing it. In an interview setting, this can happen when choosing from several candidates. You’re likely to compare the candidates, sometimes to the point of forgetting about the requirements of the job. As such, it’s possible to hire a candidate merely because they’re better than the rest – and not because they satisfy the job description.

Other common unconscious biases in recruitment include leniency bias, stringent bias, and personal similarity bias.

Tackling Unconscious Bias in the Hiring Process

Unconscious bias can be extremely costly for any organization. Biased hiring can affect workforce morale and productivity as well as damage your company’s reputation. According to Francesca Gino of the Harvard Business School, hiring biases can also hurt diversity in the workplace, promotion, and retention efforts. Left unchecked, it can even shape a company’s culture and norms.

Fortunately, it’s possible to eliminate or limit unconscious bias in the hiring process. You just need to be committed.

“Begin by understanding what hiring prejudices are and how they operate,” advises Iris Bohnet, Director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. “Awareness training, therefore, becomes vital.”

Bohnet also stresses the need to simplify and standardize the hiring process. Structured interviews, for example, are excellent at eliminating bias. Since all questions are pre-defined, a candidate’s experience and expertise unfurl organically through conversation. Another option is giving work sample tests. Subjecting every candidate to a work sample test allows you to compare candidates without undue bias. Incorporating technology to eliminate human emotions, such as through pre-recorded video interviews, is also recommended.

Conscious Effort Necessary to Weed Out the Vice

Ultimately, though, organizations and recruitment teams/agencies must make conscious effort to fight unconscious bias – because it all starts with what we believe in at an individual level.

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