By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Gallatin, TN

Interviewing is the gateway to a BV practice; it is the most relied on form of candidate assessment. Yet, ironically, there is a lot of academic and professional debate about how effective interviews really are at predicting performance on the job. One study by Schmidt and Hunter in 1998 found that job interviews can predict only about 14 percent of the variability in employee performance. This is a worrying statistic, given how much practice leaders rely on job interviews to help choose top talent.

Why are interviews such a poor predictor of performance? Researchers point out that because interviews are a personal exchange between people, there is huge room for social factors – unrelated to the candidate’s ability to do the job – which can unintentionally influence the hiring decision.

Face it, we’re humans. Our recruitment decisions are vulnerable to subjectivity, biases, and other influences which we should be aware of and take steps to counteract. This will help us make better and more predictive hiring assessments and decisions for our practices.

So, what are these interviewer biases you should be aware of? Though the range of interviewer bias is too great to cover in this article, there are four prominent ones that deserve attention.

  • Confirmation Bias: This is the tendency we have as humans to seek out information that supports a pre-conceived belief. Under the influence of confirmation bias, interviewers look to confirm a possibly shallow impression they may have formed of the candidate from a resume, or second-hand comments, as opposed to having a more open outlook on the candidate’s abilities.
  • Affective Heuristic: very technical, yes. This describes the situation where your decisions are influenced by quick and superficial evaluations; such as the level of attractiveness of a candidate, race, gender, background, etc. – none of which are relevant to the candidate’s suitability for the position. In fact, one study found that applicant obesity actually accounted for 35 percent of the variance in hiring decisions.
  • Anchoring: This is a tendency for BV interviewers to place an arbitrary anchor of expectation of the candidate, which then influences their evaluation of the candidate. For example, candidates who had a high anchor of expectation were evaluated more favorably than those with a low anchor scale.
  • Intuition: In the end, a huge part of your candidate evaluation process ends up being based on intuition because you just can’t get enough data to objectively test every area of the candidate’s fit to the culture and demands of the job. The problem, of course, is that intuition is not reliable; susceptible as it is to factors like emotion, memory, etc. which are unrelated to the hiring decision.

Is there a way out of the interviewer bias trap? What steps can you take to eliminate or at least minimize it to help you make more predictive hiring decisions for your practice? Here are some ideas:

  1. Studies have shown that easing the pace of evaluations increases accuracy and reduces gender bias. Allow plenty of time to read interview materials and take notes.
  2. Carefully structured templates help you produce higher quality reports. In the same way, structured criteria for decision making leads to more accurate evaluations. Develop and conduct structured interviews based on job-related hiring criteria.
  3. Structured processes for recording interviewer observations can also increase accuracy and reduce bias. Once you’ve developed a system for structured interviews and selection discussions, reinforce it through regular use.
  4. Increased accountability reduces the effect of gender bias and increases the accuracy of evaluations. Make sure there is a culture/requirement for interview note-taking. Evaluators should use named forms, and each interviewer selection decision should be justified, documented and filed. What may seem at first like an unnecessary burden can go a long way to sharpen your predictive capabilities when you hire.

BV practice leaders and owners who have done much interviewing know the limited predictive value of job interviews. These interventions won’t eliminate interview bias, merely reduce its impact. This is why it is important that interviews are combined with other forms of assessment method, such as aptitude and attainment tests and assessment centers, in order to increase the predictive accuracy of the hiring process.

You can counteract interviewer bias and add another data point to your hiring process with the Borrowman Baker BV Candidate Assessment, the only pre-employment assessment customized to business valuation.

Click here for more details.

Four Ways to Avoid Interview Bias
John Borrowman