Could Interview Bias Be Interfering With Your Diversity Initiatives?

Could Interview Bias Be Interfering With Your Diversity?

This article was updated on July 17, 2018.

Interview bias is one of the key challenges HR leaders face when trying to improve workforce diversity. Increasing diversity can enhance innovation, improve employer brand, expand the customer base, and promote a workplace of inclusion. So it's no surprise that businesses are focusing on diversity as a core talent goal. Yet bias is difficult to see, especially in ourselves, which makes it even harder to address. Fortunately, techniques such as blind interviewing and skills-based selection tools can help interviewers eliminate implicit bias in the hiring process.

Here's a closer look at what HR leaders need to know.

Understanding Interview Bias and the Role of Blind Interviewing

When interviewers bring bias to the hiring process, it can mean that certain profiles of candidates are more likely to advance to the next round while others do not. "Despite our best intentions, we all carry the biases we have been socialized to believe about different racialized groups, genders, people with disabilities, the elderly, and many others," notes the Society for Human Resource Management.

Businesses are looking for a range of different approaches that can help neutralize the impact of interview bias. The New York Times reports how one organization using blind interviewing technology found significant differences between standard and blind processes. In standard processes, about one-fifth of candidates who weren't white, male, and from elite schools made it to the second round of interviews. With blind interviewing, 60 percent of the more diverse candidates advanced.

Blind interviewing uses technology or interview processes that eliminate identifying markers such as gender, name, ethnicity and even the name of a candidate's school or previous location of employment. Removing this information helps interviewers overcome implicit biases and select candidates for interviewing based strictly on skills, merit and achievement.

Eliminate Interview Bias With Implicit Bias Testing

One of the first steps toward eliminating interview bias in the hiring process is to address it directly. Organizations can provide a wide range of training to interviewers — from how to spot top talent to how to comply with legal guidelines. Raising awareness of implicit bias can also help improve the interviewers' social and self-awareness. Consider incorporating education on this topic as part of your standard interviewer reference materials and training.

Explore Blind Interview Software

Software that allows organizations to sort candidates by neutral factors can also improve diversity. Blind interview software platforms give hiring managers and recruiters the ability to vet candidates based on their experience and education without identifying information. When candidates are selected to move to the next stage of the interview process without the influence of race, gender or pedigree, it should produce a more diverse candidate set.

Incorporate Aptitude Testing

Another technique that organizations are using is aptitude testing to decide which candidates to interview. For example, when hiring for a technical position, a test can quickly reveal coding aptitude and technical knowledge. If those brought in reflect everyone who achieved the best scores, more diversity is possible because subconscious assumptions about who is good at tech roles have been removed. Objective testing can help you find strong candidates in a way that supports your diversity agenda and surfaces top talent.

Internally Support Efforts

Organizations that are committed to supporting diversity in the workforce can benefit from complementing their efforts with diversity in other areas. For example, ensure that your interview committee includes a diverse panel of individuals from different genders, ethnicities, backgrounds and other perspectives.

Reduce Assessment Ambiguity

Where possible, reduce the ambiguity in your process for assessing candidates to mitigate the influence of bias. Develop a clear understanding of the criteria, skills and expertise needed to thrive in the position — and what constitutes mastery. Consider creating a matrix that highlights priority talents, and using a one to five scale to rank mastery. From there, each candidate will receive a combined ranking that provides a strong basis for evaluation.

Educating employees, leveraging new tools that support blind interviewing and building more objectivity into candidate assessments can each help businesses address bias issues and attract more diverse mix of qualified candidates. Diversity remains a top consideration for HR leaders, and eliminating interview bias is an important step toward building a strong, diverse workforce.