Biased Interviewers in a Job Search

All of us as human beings have biases. Some people just have more or stronger ones than others. That’s not always a problem. However, if you’re engaged in an active job search or planning one, biased interviewers can definitely pose a huge problem.

Ways in Which Biased Interviewers Can Hurt You

An article by Greg Moran on RecruitingTrends.com, “Three Tips for Managing Biases that Destroy the Interview Process,” points out some critical elements of this situation from the perspective of HR and hiring managers, but it’s worth reading as a job seeker.

Moran asks some pertinent questions, such as, “Did you ever feel like you were asked questions that had more to do with the personal interests of each interviewer versus the job itself? Similarly, did you ever sense you were selected to interview not because you had all of the right skills for the job but because the hiring manager liked just one characteristic on your resume…?”

Biased interviewers could keep you from being seriously considered for a position that’s a great match for your qualifications. On the flip side, if they like something about you, they could help you land a position that you really aren’t that well suited for–which is almost sure to end up as a disaster. Either way, the outcome of those interviews hasn’t done you any favors.

What About Your Interview Biases?

Not only do you have to contend with possibly biased interviewers in a job search but also with your own interview biases–or biases that have affected other key aspects of your job search.

As Moran’s article puts it, “For example, candidates may unintentionally overvalue or undervalue their performance accomplishments on a previous job [on the resume or in an interview]. Hence, such miscommunication is likely to inaccurately rank a candidate because the interviewer will either wrongly disqualify or qualify them….”

How to Overcome Interview Biases

Moran offers a few tips for interviewers in this regard:

  • Adequately Leverage a Comprehensive and Job-relevant Profile.
  • Construct and Utilize Interview Questions that Verify Job-relevant Criteria.
  • Organize Data and Verify It to Improve the Decision Making Process.

From your standpoint as the job seeker, I suggest considering at least the following:

  • Review posted job requirements as impartially as you can, to make sure you’re not fooling yourself about your chances. If you don’t feel able to do this on your own, consult someone whose opinion and objectivity you respect.
  • Conduct the thorough research you should already be doing for companies and positions you want to pursue, but consider the information specifically in the light of the interview process. What kind of questions might the interviewer ask you that you haven’t yet figured out a realistic answer to or that your research hasn’t yet revealed an answer to? How does that play against your personal biases?
  • Take advantage of the pre-screening phone interview as an opportunity to gather a little advance information yourself, instead of treating it as a one-way street with the caller asking all the questions. If what you learn sends up a red flag for you, maybe you have a bias you need to be aware of and work around or possibly you will decide not to pursue the position after all.

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