Learning to Avoid Unconscious Bias in Job Interviews

There is a growing consensus about how diversity drives creativity, profitability, growth and ultimately, success. Workforce diversity is currently at the top of the agenda for leading companies.  Diversity is key to understand customer needs and it is critical to attract and hire individuals with diverse backgrounds that bring different skills and experiences. 

One of the main issues to achieve a diverse environment that allows to get the maximum out of each person is unconscious or implicit bias.

I have recently read the book "The Person you mean to be: How Good People Fight Bias" by Dolly Chugh  published by HarperBusiness in 2018. The foreword is written by Laszlo Bock, former senior vice president of People Operations at Google. Laszlo Heard Dolly make the question at a conference: "How can it be true that some of the time all of us act in ways that aren’t perfectly ethical, but amazingly every one of us believes him- or herself to be a good person?” 

Dolly studies the psychology of good people and how to fight against unconscious bias. In the book, she defines a good person as someone who is trying to be better, as opposed to persons with "bounded ethicality" that allow themselves to believe in the illusion that they act always as a good person.

The appropiate attitude allows to fight bias and forster diversity. There is quite some research about implicit or unconsciouse bias and a well know test, the IAT - Implicit Association Test - developed by the world’s experts in unconscious bias, psychologists Mahzarin Banaji, Anthony Greenwald, and Brian. You can anonymously take it at IA Test

Dolly speaks about her book in the following video - How to let go of being a good person to become a better person. The point for me is we all have biases that we are not aware of and this is relevant for talent professionals.

Unconscious bias occurs when we make a quick assessment of people, many times influenced by our background or previous experiences.

In the labour market and specifically, in job interviews, we know this can happen. A typical phrase to avoid is: "I am very good at recruiting. I can tell if a candidate fits in the role in the first minute of the interview." Have you heard this before?

There are several problems with first impressions. First, you probably discard candidates that are brilliant. Second, you probably end up hiring people you do not know well. Last but not least, you are likely to recruit similar profiles instead of fostering diversity. And this is a big issue too. 

According to Dolly Chugh´s book,  we have automatic, mental shortcuts that help us "process the eleven million bits of information received every moment". Our mind has used these shortcuts very effectively during thousands of years to avoid danger. Nevertheless, this skill is not favoring our capacity to screen and choose the best candidates.

Diversity starts in the recruitment process so it would be desirable to train hiring managers. For example, Google has a plan to fight againts unconscious bias. I found this article Google's 'bias-busting' workshops target hidden prejudices published in USA Today where they explain how the Tech giant has rolled out "workshops and hands-on sessions that coach Google employees on how to address hidden prejudices".

You can find more information about this very interesting online workshops. You can also watch this Google training available in YouTube.

I have conducted job interviews for a number years now. The more experience I have, the more conscious I am about my own biases. More and more, I have learnt to control my first thoughts and I have enjoyed changing opinion as the interview advanced and I got objective information that contradicted my first thoughts. Writing your conclusions with objective statements is a helpfull tool to ensure you are using the right arguments.

The figure of the "Bias Buster" is gaining importance in the world of recruitment. Generally speaking, it is true you many times need your instict to make quick decisions, but when it comes to hiring, it is in your best interest to make sure you are not being fooled by your unconscious bias.