How Biased Are Your Interviews?

Vol. 16 No. 2

PSN eletter vol15 no2 biasinterviews

Choosing mission-appropriate candidates for your school today is much different than it was even a decade ago. From where you post the job listing to how you review resumes and check references, it’s a whole new process.

Hiring managers know discrimination is illegal. Really, everyone knows discrimination is illegal. However, knowing the federal and state laws defining discrimination are not something all managers understand. Those tasked with hiring (or firing) should take a crash course in compliance—and best practices—before starting on a search. Knowledge is the first step in protecting your school. However, there is another element to consider when making final hiring decisions—your subconscious.

Social media platforms have made it easier than ever to research potential candidates. You can capture small glimpses of both their professional and personal lives in a matter of minutes. Checking references—and their lives—is equally as simple. This also introduces the element of subconscious to the mix.

Greg Moran, founder and CEO of the predictive hiring software company Outmatch, said he believes many hiring managers fall prey to their own subconscious biases about factors such as physical attractiveness, height, weight, and charisma.

"Overt bias is exceedingly rare, but unintentional, abstract bias can occur," Moran told Business News Daily in an interview. "It's human nature; employers use their gut reactions to job candidates and hire people like themselves that they get along with. This can be dangerous, because employers don't even realize there's bias in their hiring process."

How can we make decisions while putting our personal “attractions” aside?

Have a method to your hiring process.

Create a checklist of qualifications your perfect candidate needs. By involving your school’s attorney, you can create a list that defines your ideal candidate without discriminating. When screening, this checklist will guide you, not your gut instinct.

Have your interview questions prepared.

The candidates that make it to a face-to-face interview should all answer the same questions—and their answers should all be documented. This keeps you focused during the meeting and prepared for investigation in the event of an employment claim. The EEOC guidelines require valid and reliable information to be captured for potential candidates. Be aware that collecting inconsistent information across protected classes can make you vulnerable to legal scrutiny.

Let’s illustrate the importance of having prepared questions. Say a woman comes in for an interview wearing New York Giants scarf. You’re a huge Giants fan and your mind is still replaying the game on Sunday. Here’s someone you can talk to about it! Even better, she’s female, so you’re not discriminating by only talking to men about the game! Right? Wrong.

Sports fans aren’t a protected class under the federal law. If you were to hire this candidate, you haven’t violated a federal law. However, in this scenario, there are two clear biases made. And, although her qualifications might be spot on, your decisions will have been affected by her passion and ability to talk about your favorite team. There could have been equally, if not better, fitted candidates for the position, but you’re smitten with the likelihood of recapping games on Monday mornings. Avoid the risks. Stick to the interview questions—and basing your final decisions on those answers. Document everything. There will be time to build working relationships later.

Avoid social media.

HR Managers have conflicting opinions about incorporating social media in their hiring processes. It can work in your best interest to scan candidates and it can work against you. Remember, the EEOC guidelines require valid and reliable information to be collected for potential candidates. Social media is not a valid source for most information and it can range wildly in consistency from one candidate to another.

For example, out of your final three candidates, one might have all her social platforms set to private so you can see very little; one might not have any social presence; and another might have open profiles on numerous social sources allowing you to learn a great deal about her interests and lifestyle. Clearly, now you have differing information, potentially with protected classes.

One way to avoid this is to limit your candidate “research” to one social site, LinkedIn. This is an accepted professional social site, and limits the amount of personal information you can uncover.

Better yet, during the interview process, obtain candidate consent to view their LinkedIn profiles—and other social sites if that is part of your hiring process. Your school attorney can create a consent form for this use.

As you move into the hiring season, revisit your practices. Take the time to meet with your school’s attorney and formulate a consistent questionnaire that keeps you not only compliant, but also focused on finding the perfect, mission-appropriate candidate for the position and your team—not just your on personal preferences.

Additional ISM resources of interest
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 14 No. 5 10 Compliant Midyear Hiring Practices
The Source for Academic Leadership Vol. 7 No, 5 It’s Hiring Season—Know What Not to Ask
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 14 No. 4 The Best and Worst Job Applications
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 11 No. 9 Improving Your HR Practices, One Step at a Time

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