Unconscious Bias in Recruiting

Paige Buchanan, Recruitment Specialist 

In last month’s Broncho Beat we discussed three forms of unconscious bias in recruiting: Affinity bias, Ageism and Attribution bias. All of these biases are unintentional and occur when we make judgements based on readily available criteria rather than objective information. This week we discuss three different forms of Unconscious Bias: Confirmation Bias, Conformity Bias and The Halo Effect.  
1. Confirmation Bias

Inclination to draw conclusions about a situation or person based on your personal desires, beliefs and prejudices rather than on unbiased merit. This can occur when a hiring manager or interviewer forms an initial opinion on a candidate (based on their name, where they’re from, where they went to school, etc.) and then uses the interview process as a way of confirming these beliefs rather than getting to know the candidate. 
Ways to Avoid Confirmation Bias: 

It’s important to ask standardized, skills-based questions that provide each candidate with a fair chance to stand out. Helps prevent the screening committee from asking too many random questions that may lead to confirmation bias. 
2. Conformity Bias

Tendency people have to act similar to the people around them regardless of their own personal beliefs (aka peer pressure). This occurs when the screening committee comes together to review a candidate’s application and/or the interview. The conformity bias can cause individuals to sway their opinion of a candidate to match the opinion of the majority. However the majority isn’t always right and it may cause the team to miss out on a great candidate because individual opinions become muddled in a group setting. 

Ways to Avoid Conformity Bias:

Before everyone gets together to review the candidate, have everyone write down their notes on the candidate and submit the feedback individually. Then everyone can come together and review everyone’s submissions. 
3. Halo Effect

This can come into consideration at any point of the hiring process. Perhaps you see a candidate worked at a highly regarded company or graduated from an elite school. However, we shouldn’t judge a candidate based on their name-brand education. 
Ways to Avoid Halo Effect Bias:

This can be dangerously blinding when it comes to reviewing candidates. When reviewing a stack of applications, you are probably looking for something unique that makes a candidate stand out from the rest. When you do this, also consider the candidate without that one gleaming attribute and see how their experiences, skills and personalities compare to other candidates who may not have had the same privileges or opportunities.