business people are waiting for a job interview. There are three women and one man and two empty seats. Does this create an impression of a possible interview bias?

Interview Bias: Beware of Top 5

By Trevor Sheffield

December 21, 2022

Interview bias occurs far more often than it should. If you work at a staffing agency, interviewing potential employees on behalf of employers is likely a large portion of your job responsibilities. It’s important to recognize that as human beings, we are all subject to bias—often without even being aware of it. Interviewers have a responsibility to acknowledge and set aside their biases when they are getting to know potential job candidates in order to offer all applicants a fair and equal chance. 

Additionally, biases against those of a differing race, gender, or sexual orientation than the interviewer can cause legal problems and prevent your workplace from being a safe and diverse location. As you consider which biases may be affecting your own interview process, the following five are ones to be especially aware of.

Stereotyping Interview Bias

The stereotyping interview bias is perhaps the biggest interference between companies and the hiring of a diverse workforce. Diversity, equity, and inclusion policies are cropping up in more and more places to combat stereotyping bias, but statements and policies are only as effective as those who act on them. 

Indeed explains that stereotyping interview bias can be defined as judging a candidate based on perceived qualities of a group as a whole instead of individual characteristics. The best way to combat this kind of bias is by remembering each candidate is an individual human being. While some characteristics can be shared between groups, values like work ethic and ability to complete a job are individual traits that cannot be determined by physical features or stereotyped assumptions.

Generalization Interview Bias

Another common bias interviewers face is generalization bias, which is where the interviewer assumes that a candidate’s behavior and mannerisms in an interview extend to all aspects of the candidate’s life. Remember: job interviews are short, and getting to know a person as a whole takes time and effort. There’s no way to learn all the details of someone’s life and their mannerisms in a job interview. Keep in mind your relationship with the chosen candidate will grow and develop over time. The way you knew them during your hour-long interview may not be their entire personality.

Contrast Effect Bias

Indeed explains, “The contrast effect bias occurs when an interviewer compares a candidate to the individual who interviewed before them.” Consider this example. You’ve just interviewed a candidate who doesn’t have the necessary experience to fill the position you’re looking at. Your next interview ends up being with someone who is overqualified for the role, however, they may not be the right cultural fit for your organization. It’s easy to see the difference in experience between the two candidates and assume the second one is the answer to all of your problems. But in reality, they only seem to be such a good fit because you’re comparing them to the interviewee before. 

Nonverbal Bias

You’ve probably learned the basics of nonverbal communication. But how seriously do you take nonverbal cues? Watching the way interviewees act may tell you if the candidate is difficult to connect with or unfocused, but remember that interviews are high-stress situations. They can complicate nonverbal communication cues. Nonverbal bias is when a person puts too much substance into the body language of a person instead of the words they say. Take care in your interviews not to put too much stock into a person’s body language.

Negative Emphasis Bias

Taking one negative answer to a question and basing the whole experience with an interviewee on it is negative emphasis bias. To combat this, remind yourself before interviews that qualified candidates will still make mistakes when answering questions. Judge interviewees by their overall qualifications and your overall impressions. The reason interviews have multiple rounds is to allow a more rounded knowledge of those you interview.

Do you recognize any of these biases being practiced in your own staffing agency? We recommend you take the time to discuss diversity and equity within your company and encourage interviewers to examine their own biases for ways they can improve.



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