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Unbiased Interview: How to Make It Realistic

October 7, 2015

All of us want to find the best talent for the particular position. Thus, it is essential that you find ways to objectively evaluate every candidate.

Unfortunately, people are naturally biased. Heck, when you intend to be fair, your brain has a hard time being impartial. Subconsciously, you may let one major accomplishment overshadow a candidate’s shortcoming, only remember the last thing the interviewee said, or even favour better-looking applicants.

Of course, that is no excuse to keep the status quo of unfair interviews. If you truly want to find the best person for the job, it is essential that you commit to actions that will help you be an unbiased interviewer and objectively evaluate every candidate you are considering.

How can you realistically do unbiased interview? Here are a few ways.

1. Use the same process for every candidate

Create a standard list of questions you plan to ask, and always stick to it. Ensure that the list is ready before you even start interviewing people. There may be aspects of each candidate’s background you want to learn more about or get specific details on, but the more you can level the playing field, the more you will give everyone an equal chance of impressing you.

Similarly, attempt to have the interview in the same place for all your candidates. Do not let some come in person to the interview and others Skype in. Keep the process as similar as possible each and every time.

Good to note: The time and order of interviews matters as well—but more often than not, there is less you can do about it.

See: 4 Tips for Long-Distance Interviewing

2. Take good notes, immediately

Rather than relying on your recall abilities and opening yourself up to unintentional biases, try to take brief notes as candidates respond to questions. Remember, human memory is notoriously unreliable.

Ideally, write down as much of the interviewee’s exact response as possible without your own interpretations. Then immediately post-interview, jot down your thoughts on the interviewee before you get too scattered and you are forced to trust your own unpredictable memory.

3. Apply a rubric

Ability and fit are both hard to quantify, but you are better off at least trying than avoiding it all together. Ideally, prior to the interview stage of the hiring process, create a rubric for what you are seeking in the new hire. Include qualifications like specific skills and experiences, soft skills like communication and teamwork, and cultural fit with the company.

After interviewing all the candidates, select a numerical range and rate each person. Rubrics helps you avoid giving too much credit for one particular experience or qualification—it keeps things balanced.

4. Confirm your decision

You might think a rubric is only marginally different than going with a gut feeling—and you would be right. Rubrics are only useful if you are able to justify your scores.

Going through the process of reasoning out why you believe something is a huge help in trying to avoid all the subconscious business going on when interviewing and evaluating a job candidate.

Get real evidence—such as the notes you took of the interviewee’s responses—to back up your beliefs in order to avoid falling into the trap of cognitive biases.

5. Ask for other inputs

While you are going through your rubric and justifying your choices, it is best to do this alone to avoid the outside influence. Yes, other people can have a huge influence on your decision.

However, once you are done with that, it is worth seeing what everyone else thought, too. Please note, you want to receive feedback from others to add to the data you have already collected, not to impact the data you have collected.

It’s hard to admit that we can be biased even when we are trying not to be. But studies have shown that it takes more than intention to overcome them, it takes action to right them.

For example, when symphonies introduced “blind auditions” by using opaque screens to hide the musician auditioning, the rate of women accepted into symphonies increased dramatically. In the end, the process might be more cumbersome, but it will also be fairer—plus you will be more likely to get the real best candidate for the job. HR folks, let’s make unbiased interview to be realistic!

See also: 6 Interview Secrets for Truly Learning a Candidate

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