Bias Series: What is Confirmation Bias, And Why Should Hiring Managers Care About It?

So, you are a hiring manager and it's time to hire. 

I may be biased, but it is one of the most exciting and important things you can do to achieve your goals and set your team up for success - hire great folks.

My first blog in the Bias Series focuses on Confirmation Bias, and how you can guard against it to make sure you run a fair and inclusive process.

Confirmation Bias

What is Confirmation Bias?

Confirmation bias is a cognitive bias in which an individual seeks out, interprets, or remembers information in a way that confirms their pre-existing beliefs or opinions.

This means that people tend to notice and remember information that supports their existing beliefs, and ignore or forget information that contradicts them.

How Confirmation Bias can affect interviews?

In the context of job interviews, confirmation bias can cause interviewers to overlook or discount information that is inconsistent with their preconceptions about the candidate.

For example, an interviewer who believes that candidates with Ivy League degrees are always the best hires might ignore evidence that a candidate without such a degree has valuable skills and experience.

Confirmation bias can also lead to interviewers asking leading questions that elicit responses that confirm their pre-existing beliefs.

For example, framing a question like: "You're comfortable with complexity, aren't you?" vs. "Can you describe a time when you had to solve a complex problem at work?"

This can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy where the interviewer selects the candidate who confirms their beliefs, rather than the candidate who is actually the best fit for the job.

How to guard against Confirmation Bias

Guarding against confirmation bias during job interviews requires conscious effort and awareness of one's own biases. Some strategies to avoid confirmation bias include:

  • Developing structured interview questions: Structured interview questions focus on specific job requirements, rather than general traits and are designed to elicit consistent information from all candidates. This approach can help prevent interviewers from selectively seeking out information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs.

  • Keeping an open mind: Interviewers should try to approach each candidate with an open mind and evaluate them based on their own merits, rather than their preconceptions. When running the interview, be curious not judgemental. You can assess answers after the interview is finished.

  • Seeking diverse perspectives: Interviewers should seek input from other members of the hiring team to help avoid confirmation bias. Multiple perspectives can help reduce the impact of individual biases and lead to more objective hiring decisions. Working as a team to dive into areas of doubt or concern can also help.

  • Staying focused on job requirements: Interviewers should focus on the specific requirements of the job and assess candidates based on how well they meet those requirements. This can help prevent interviewers from getting sidetracked by irrelevant factors such as educational background or personal interests.

The first step to counteracting biases is to be aware of them. Do you have any other tips for reducing confirmation bias during the interview process?


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