You are here: Home




Overcoming Bias in Your Interviews, Part II

One of the biggest hiring mistakes you can make happens in the first 10 minutes of an interview.

First impressions, which are based on emotions, biases, and stereotyping, lead to more hiring errors than any other single factor.  Even the most seasoned interviewers can fall into the first-impression trap and accept or reject an applicant within the first five to ten minutes of the interview.

Once the initial impression is made, the interviewer notices information to support that perception and disregards information that doesn’t.  Many managers admit that when they “like” the candidate, they stop asking questions and start to sell the virtues of the position and the company.

In Straight from the Gut, Jack Welch admits that he made much better hiring decisions once he learned to stop overvaluing first impressions.

What's In A First Impression?

Over 75 percent of people say they get nervous going into a job interview. Temporary nervousness can cause a candidate to speak rapidly, have sweaty palms, avoid eye contact, cough or have a strained voice, or respond slowly. These effects will likely subside within the first 10 to 20 minutes of an interview. By that time, however, the wrong conclusions may have been drawn.

On the other hand, candidates who have strong presentation skills and who can more easily mask the signs of nervousness can leave a first impression that causes the objectivity of a good interview process to break down. Remember, the interview that results in no unfavorable information is a poor interview.

Identifying Emotional Bias

Even though good hires are seemingly hard to find, keep in mind that "interview performance" is not a good predictor of future work performance. How can you tell when you are responding emotionally to a candidate?

A positive emotional response to a candidate can cause the interviewer to:

  • Ignore negative data
  • Ask easier questions
  • Globalize strengths
  • Begin selling the job

A negative emotional response to a candidate can cause the interviewer to:

  • Ignore positive data
  • Ask harder questions
  • Amplify weaknesses
  • Get bored and stop listening

Minimizing Emotional Bias

We're not suggesting that you completely throw your intuition out the window while evaluating a candidate. The most effective interviews combine both intuitive and factual information. Here are some tips.

#1 List key performance factors.

What are you looking for in a candidate? It is much easier to stay focused and objective during an interview when you know what you're looking for. At RFH, we specialize in helping you determine what performance factors are important in the position, AND we give you ways to validate those criteria. Having a blueprint to follow helps you assess the candidates consistently and get the critical information you need about their future job performance.

#2 Know your interview style.

Understanding your own tendencies is the key to changing your interviewing style. If you are typically more intuitive or emotional, make sure to include fact-finding questions for a more balanced perspective. On the other hand, if you tend to over-value specific experience, education and technical competence, you'll want to also consider character traits like motivation and interpersonal skills.

#3 Learn to identify emotionally-biased comments.

As your hiring team discusses the candidates, listen to the types of statements that are made. Whether positive or negative, be wary of superficial remarks based on personality reasons.

“A real team player with a positive attitude.”

“I like him, I think he would fit in with our environment.”

When emotional bias is under control, the comments will be based on fact.

“She has a great technical background. I am impressed with her problem-solving ability.”

“He is a strong candidate. His sales accounts over the past year have doubled, and he is comfortable with every step of the selling process, from cold calls to closing the deal.”

Asking good behavior-based questions is the key to collecting real information about the candidates' experience, knowledge and character.

It is impossible not to form an initial impression when you meet someone. However, in an interviewing situation, a good tip to remember is to re-evaluate that impression after 30 minutes. You will likely be surprised at how your perception has changed! And remember, interview performance doesn't predict job performance!

Free Consultation

Sample Image

Contact us now for a complimentary 30-minute consultation.

Hire right the first time!

Newsletter Sign Up