Inclusive Interview Design
Interviews are the most common way to evaluate a candidate who’s made it past the first screening round. However, common biases such as affinity bias (judging someone more positively because they are like us) and stereotype congruency (tending to favor those who fit stereotypical demographics of leaders) tend to come out during the interview process. Interview formats also frequently favor extroverts and those who are quick thinkers -- which does not always translate to job success. The good news is, it’s possible to design and conduct interviews in such a way that the impact of those biases is reduced.
Designing the interview process
Reduce the use of panel interviews. Forward-thinking companies are relying less on panel interviews and instead utilizing a series of solo interviews more often. This reduces the risk of groupthink.
Work towards diversity of interviewers. According to research, a sense of belonging is one of the main factors that influences whether a candidate will accept a job offer. Encountering an interview loop where the candidate does not see any interviewers who look like them is a surefire way to make them feel like they don’t belong. Wherever possible, include women, people of color, and individuals from other underrepresented groups in the interview process.
Wait to conduct interviews until you’ve recruited a diverse selection of candidates. In a study on the relationship between finalist pools and hiring decisions, researchers discovered that “when there was only one woman or minority candidate in a pool of four ﬁnalists, their odds of being hired were statistically zero. But when we created a new status quo among the ﬁnalist candidates by adding just one more woman or minority candidate, the decision makers actually considered hiring a woman or minority candidate.” By diversifying the candidate pool before interviews, you move beyond tokenism and reduce bias.
Developing interview questions
As discussed in another article, standardized hiring scorecards, which list the skills, credentials, and personality traits of the ideal candidate, are a useful tool to compare candidates fairly. We recommend that you create a correlating scorecard of interview questions that aligns with those traits. Refer also to the tasks and goals outlined in the job ad to help design questions that are focused on what is required to succeed at the job. A few guidelines include:
During the interview
Ask the same questions in the same order, every time. For more talkative candidates, this may mean you’ll need to redirect them if their answers take too long. For more reserved candidates, you may need to ask the same question in two different ways, to give them the space to fully answer.
Take notes. Less reliance on memory reduces the impact of unconscious bias. We’re more likely to remember feelings and impressions rather than specific information, so taking notes ensures that we can fairly compare candidates’ responses.
Score candidate responses immediately after the interview. Reserve time after each interview to look over your notes and score the candidate responses to each question right away. This again reduces reliance on memory, and allows each interviewer to assign scores for themselves, rather than falling prey to group think.
When the round of interviews has concluded, gather the scorecards from all interviews and compare candidate results one line at a time. This helps you focus on the quality of the answers, rather than on personal impressions, where affinity bias is likely to appear.
Lastly, go back to your standardized hiring scorecard, which should include scores from other steps in the job application process. Tally the results to choose your final candidate(s). At this step, it is extremely important not to fall back on choosing candidates based on likeability and feelings of affinity. You’ve put in the effort to create a more equitable comparison system -- now is the chance to put it to work!