Before you review your candidates make sure you refresh yourself to biases that can get in the way of selecting the best candidates.

Here’s our checklist for how to avoid bias when reviewing candidates:

  • Before you start, ensure you have a set list of criteria or standardized questions to assess candidates against. (this helps avoid contrast bias, halo/horns bias, & confirmation bias) (basically every bias is helped by doing this)

  • Actively note down all similarities you have with the candidates so you can see potential for bias. Then put these aside and concentrate on their unique strengths & skills that are the better predictors of fit. (similarity bias).

  • If you find that you particularly love or loathe a candidate, but it’s not in the criteria, ask yourself what the reason could be. (confirmation bias, contract bias, halo& horns bias)*

  • Taking note of any gleaming or potentially alarming traits/experiences, and ask yourself to consider them without it - how do you rate the rest of their profile? (Halo/ horns bias)

  • Start by reviewing candidates separately and have a write down your comments. Then come together as a group and allow everyone to share feedback. (group think)

And here’s more info on each of those biases:

Similarity bias: Beware the familiar.

This is our the tendency to connect with and implicitly prefer others who share similar backgrounds, experiences, and interests to us. Not great for creating diverse teams.

Confirmation bias: We see what we like to see.

We tend to look for and accept information that confirms our existing understandings or beliefs, regardless of the quality of the information. In hiring, we tend to form a first impression of someone, then look for things that confirm our initial belief, and ignore information that doesn’t match up.

Halo/ horns bias: What I like About You.

This is our tendency to let one trait/experience, either good (halo) or bad (horns), overshadow other traits, beliefs, behaviours, or actions. For example, if you see that someone is great or terrible at one thing, you’ll assume that they’re also great or terrible at other things. In hiring, this bias can be dangerous, particularly when good traits and born more so from privilege (like completing a paid program at a top college), rather than skill.

Contrast bias: Finally, someone good.

This is when we judge someone in comparison to another, rather than to an objective set of criteria. So for example, if you assess an okay fit candidate after a bad fit candidate, you’re more likely to overscore them.

Groupthink bias: Resist the flow.

When we make decisions with a group of people, this can sometimes result in unchallenged and poor quality decisions. Group think bias happens more often in hiring when the decision is led by an influential person in the team.

Cognitive biases are essentially thinking errors that we make when processing information - they’re our lazy brains attempt to create patterns and connection, even when there are none. They can have terrible impacts, especially in hiring, as they prevent us from accurately understanding information in front of us. The best way to avoid them is to know all humans have them, and to be alert to how they might show up for you.

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