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5 Types of Hiring Bias Every Recruiter Needs To Know

Adrian Dixon

June 2, 2017

Using our gut instinct when hiring unfortunately often involves using some kind of hiring bias we’ve learned through our experience. 50% failure rate due to hiring biasThat’s a big reason why hiring historically has had a 50% failure rate.

Like all biases, a hiring bias is a mental shortcut that cause us to interpret information in a way that creates our own subjective reality, which can lead to inaccurate judgments.

With unconscious bias in recruiting making headlines these days, here are 5 types of hiring bias you should watch out for during your recruiting process.

Hiring bias #1: Overconfidence effect

This effect describes when someone’s subjective confidence in their judgments is greater than their objective accuracy.

For example, when a person is overly confident that trusting their gut instincts leads to good hiring decisions.

Overconfidence is often the result of confirmation bias (see below), which causes people to remember the examples of when relying on their gut instincts led to a good hire while ignoring or forgetting the times it led to a disaster.

Hiring bias #2: Halo effect

This type of bias occurs when we assume that because people are good at doing A they’ll also be good at doing B, C and D.

The halo effect often occurs when a recruiter likes a candidate and uses that as a basis for assuming he or she will be good at the job rather than conduct an objective analysis of their job-related skills and abilities.

Hiring bias #3: Similarity attraction effect

This is the tendency for people to seek out others who are similar to them.

Research on hiring found that employers prefer candidates who are similar to themselves in terms of hobbies like the sports they play even when those things aren’t correlated with on-the-job performance.

Hiring bias #4: Confirmation bias

This bias occurs when people favor information that confirms their beliefs and ignores or discounts disconfirming information.

Confirmation bias is one of the reasons why hiring managers are inconsistent in the interview questions they ask across candidates. By asking questions that confirms their pre-existing beliefs about each candidate, this often results in a process of comparing apples to oranges.

Hiring bias #5: Illusory correlation

This is the tendency to perceive a relationship between people, events, or behaviors even when no such relationship exists.

Illusory correlation is the reason why hiring managers ask interview questions such as, “What kitchen utensil would you be?” These types of questions are believed to provide insight into a candidate’s personality even though there is no evidence that they actually predict job performance.

Reducing the effects of hiring bias

The evidence shows that trusting your intuition doesn’t lead to better hiring results. So what can you do to counteract hiring bias?

Although it’s impossible to completely eliminate the effects of hiring bias, the best tools we have to help include using data-based candidate screening methods such as AI for recruiting and a well-designed structured interview process.

AI for recruiting

AI can be programmed to ignore demographic information about candidates such as gender, race, and age that can contribute to bias during the sourcing and screening stages.

AI for recruiting software can be tested for hiring bias by using it to screen, rank, and grade candidates, and then assessing the demographic breakdown of those candidates.

Structured interviewing

Research has found that structured interviews are more predictive of on-the-job performance.

A structured interview process begins with a kick-off meeting between you and the hiring manager. Together, you define the purpose and business needs of the role, outline which skills and qualifications the ideal candidate should possess, and decide how you’ll evaluate candidates on this criteria.

The idea is to standardize the interview process to make it more fair, objective, and accurate.