HR professionals are aware that inherent biases in hiring practices can cause problems. The wrong candidates might get hired and then leave shortly after. What’s worse is that your company could get hit with a lawsuit over hiring biases if they violate equal opportunity laws.
While all people have biases based on their backgrounds and life experiences, removing bias in recruiting processes is possible. This fact is why many organizations use panel interviews to help mitigate bias in hiring practices. Having many people assess candidates’ skills and suitability for positions can help point out unconscious biases in recruiting.
That said, panel interviews present separate problems for biases in hiring processes and practices. Below are some of the most common hiring biases recruiters and HR pros need to watch out for.
Anchoring Recruiting Bias
This type of hiring bias happens when a recruiter paints a picture of the ideal candidate in their mind. Sometimes this ideal includes characteristics of the outgoing employee who currently fills the position. It could also be a set of qualities and work styles that top performers in the company embody.
Recruiters and hiring managers who have an anchoring bias evaluate candidates based on an ideal standard. The existence of this tendency usually means that most candidates can’t live up to the standard. As a result, the position stays empty for a long time. The company loses out on potential employees who might have done a great job in the role.
Another potential outcome with an anchoring recruitment bias is that the wrong candidate wins the position. The hiring manager bases their decision on whether the applicant looks like a model employee or has the favored personality characteristics. With an anchoring bias, recruiters overlook or dismiss candidates’ actual skills.
This choice does the company and an applicant a disservice. While evaluating candidates based on an ideal may result in a good hire, it ignores who can do the job the best. Additionally, anchoring biases in hiring processes all but discourages diversity. Companies can simply end up hiring carbon copies of previous employees.
Confirmation Bias in Recruitment
A confirmation bias happens when a recruiter makes a quick judgment about an applicant before an interview or in the first few minutes of an interview. The hiring manager proceeds to ask questions that reinforce their biases about the candidate. For example, a recruiter may form an unconscious bias in recruiting processes about overweight interviewees.
The recruiter might assume these candidates have disorganized and negligent habits. This preconception could prompt them to ask questions that aren’t relevant to the job that confirms these beliefs. For instance, the recruiter might probe about the person’s cleaning habits instead of sticking to questions that demonstrate skill sets.
Other confirmation biases may come from people’s personalities or resumes. Say a hiring manager has a bias against introverts. If a candidate is soft-spoken during the interview, the recruiter may dismiss that person over someone with a louder voice. However, being introverted or soft-spoken doesn’t mean that an individual won’t excel at the job.
Confirmation biases from resumes or cover letters may originate from recruiters’ impressions of different schools or companies. They may look at specific organizations as more favorable than others. Hiring managers might ask these candidates about their experiences there rather than asking questions directly related to the position.
Conformity or Bandwagon Effect
Conformity is an unconscious bias in recruitment that happens with panel interviews. Say a panel has up to five different decision makers. The panel interviews seven candidates over two days and then gets together to discuss them. Four of the five panelists vote for Candidate A. However, the fifth panelist doesn’t believe Candidate A is a good fit.
They’d rather give their vote for Candidate C instead. But because everyone else is so adamant about hiring Candidate A, the fifth panelist doesn’t object. They go along with the crowd and agree to hire Candidate C. This panelist may not say anything because of peer pressure or because they don’t want to start trouble.
Some people also doubt their perceptions and opinions. It’s easier to conform and go with the crowd. Yet, this is one of the types of bias in hiring processes that can spell trouble later. That fifth panelist may have noticed a red flag about Candidate A that the others missed.
Had that panelist expressed their concerns, the company might have gotten a better hiring outcome. Even if Candidate C didn’t get the job, the panel could have discussed more deeply what skills a successful employee should have. They might have realized Candidate B was the best choice instead.
Affinity Biases in Hiring
A typical bias hiring managers have has to do with affinity, meaning a candidate shares something in common with the recruiter. It may be the same alma mater, a mutual friend, or a former company. Similarities may also include being from the same state or city. An affinity bias makes the hiring manager look at that candidate more positively.
Because of the similarities between the candidate and recruiter, the latter may dismiss facts about the applicant’s experience and skill set. Say the person is applying for a tech support job but lacks any relevant customer service or technical skills. Due to the recruiter’s affinity bias, the candidate gets the job anyway.
However, other candidates previously interviewed and who had applicable skills didn’t receive offers. That’s because the hiring manager didn’t share any personal similarities with them. Unconscious bias recruitment decisions can leave qualified applicants perplexed when they get rejection emails or don’t hear back.
Sadly, this means qualified workers will be less likely to consider that organization in the future. The company loses out on a skilled employee and the person misses a chance to showcase their talents. Any bias in hiring process decisions like these can also have a domino effect as these rejected candidates tell their friends about their poor experiences.
Let’s face it. Some people are more charming than others. They can establish a rapport within seconds and give others the impression that they’re more than capable of handling anything you throw at them. The problem with this is that sometimes all that charm is just an act. That person is faking a likable personality and likely doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
A halo recruiting bias happens when a hiring manager forms a good impression of a candidate based on charm, wit, or a referral. Consequently, anything the applicant says in the interview is gold. A candidate may give answers that may seem out of line or indicate a lack of knowledge doesn’t fit with the hiring manager's initial impression. Therefore, the recruiter overlooks them.
The same thing can happen if a current employee who’s a top performer refers an applicant. The department lead or manager decides to interview that person even if they’re not the most qualified for the job. Before the interview even takes place, the recruiter may have already decided to give the candidate a chance.
Another applicant in the pool might get edged out because of a preexisting halo bias. While referrals typically turn into successful employees, setting aside a halo hiring bias can make the process more equitable. This solution may require removing referral information from the application hiring manager’s worksheet.
Horn Bias Recruitment Effects
A horn bias is the polar opposite of a halo bias. It happens when a candidate makes a bad impression or gets off on the wrong foot. Say the person has an interview at 9:15 in the morning. However, they don’t walk in the door until 9:45. Although they explain their car blew a tire on the interstate, the hiring manager already has a negative opinion of them.
What they say in the interview and whether they demonstrate their job-related knowledge doesn’t matter. The recruiter went ahead with the discussion as a formality. Yet, the candidate doesn’t stand a chance of getting called back for a second interview or job offer. That initial snafu ruined the applicant’s chances because the manager formed a horn bias.
Other factors that can cause recruiters to have a horn bias against a candidate are:
- Dishelved appearance
- Genetic skin conditions that negatively impact the candidate’s appearance
- Driving a beat-up or dirty vehicle
Sometimes horn biases are evident in the way a hiring manager asks questions. Other times, it may be more subtle or unconscious. For instance, a recruiter might secretly believe people who drive dirty cars are poor performers. While this bias isn’t necessarily accurate or fair, candidates won’t know unless the recruiter directly reveals it.
Relying on Stereotypes
Like other aspects of life, stereotypes can creep into the hiring process. These are types of biases in recruitment decisions based on negative perceptions of specific characteristics. They’re often related to age, gender, country of origin, culture, religion, or physical appearance. In most cases, basing hiring decisions on negative stereotypes is illegal.
For example, gender and age are protected under the law. An employer cannot legally discriminate against candidates based on the fact that they’re female. Yet, a hiring manager in the tech industry may have an unconscious bias against females applying for coding jobs. Most of these applicants may never get a callback. If they do, they’re interviewed just for show.
In other words, they don’t stand a real chance of getting a job offer. Rather, the company and recruiter interview one or two females to show that they’re “abiding by the rules.” The recruiter hires one of the male applicants, citing the person was highly skilled and a better cultural fit.
Nevertheless, not all negative stereotypes that impact hiring processes are illegal. For example, an HR specialist may have a bias against people with dark circles under their eyes. They’re going to weed out applicants with this type of appearance, even if they’re qualified. The person’s DNA may predispose them to dark circles but the manager doesn’t consider this.
Attractiveness and Hiring Biases
A physically attractive candidate may automatically surpass other applicants. This tendency is the beauty bias, which establishes a correlation between appearance and success. When a recruiter lets a beauty bias get in the way, they may extend an offer to an underqualified candidate.
This bias makes the hiring manager believe that someone physically attractive will perform better in the role than an average-looking person. Although this conclusion has no basis in fact, it’s an assumption that many are likely to make. Recruiters may also feel more positively about a physically attractive applicant.
Bias in hiring practices exists, although many HR pros like to think they don’t. A typical unconscious bias hiring managers exhibit includes the halo effect. The horn effect, affinity bias, and the bandwagon effect are other examples. Being aware of these unconscious biases is often the first step toward removing them.