Does hiring bias really exist?

Does hiring bias really exist?

In short, yes it does. There are different reasons why people make their decisions in the hiring process. Since I sit in on a lot of these conversations, I hear the most ridiculous reasons and sometimes reasons that are logical. It frustrates me when I see how some candidates take themselves out the running for simple mistakes. I am reminded 'When you know better, you do better'. However, I don’t think it all falls on the candidate. Having a person not aware of the hiring bias implications can be a slippery slope. But it’s good to understand what hiring bias means to better prepared. It can also help you to recognize ways to do better!

There are 4 identified biases:

  • Intuition: I think this one happens a lot. People rely on their “gut feeling” a lot when making decisions. There is no difference in hiring staff. I hear hiring managers talk about their gut feeling or their sixth sense in making coming down to a final decision. They are using their intuition to make a hiring decision. Unfortunately, doing this will depend on the presentation of the person being interviewed.
  • Confirmation Bias: When people draw conclusions on what a candidate may act or look like and find ways to prove it. It is the practice of looking for confirmation on things we make up in our heads to be true. For instance, I have dealt with hiring managers in my career that only want to see candidates from certain colleges or regions of the country because of their preconceived beliefs.
  • Expectation Anchor: Sometimes because we all get so busy we get lazy in doing our homework- whether you are the candidate or on the other side of the desk. Expectation Anchor happens when the hiring manager may not have done their homework and use superficial expectations to anchor into their candidate of choice- by favoritism. It puts up a mental block to be able to critique all candidates fairly.
  • Effective Heuristic: Ha! This one sounds fancy but happens more often than not. Especially with multi-generational workplaces. This is when an interviewer may judge the candidate on superficial attributes like tattoos, hair, or weight. One recruiting consultancy completed a study where alarming biases were found in HR professionals by German researchers. The study showed that participants underestimated the ability of obese individuals to achieve supervisory positions while the ability of ‘normal-weight’ individuals was overestimated. 

Okay, so why did I give you all this information? Well to be aware of the landscape of interviewing. Not saying these happen often but they DO happen. I help clients work through some of these situations; but even for myself I get stuck in certain situations. I try to do my homework on the front-end of the company’s culture, knowing who they employ, and refer into positions. It can help tell a story of the intangibles that occur in workplaces. I hope this was insightful and jogs your brain to be aware of the ways you can show up and show out at any interview!

Xo- Jas