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The Issue with the Interview: Confirmation Bias

Andrea Weir
Published November 25, 2016

How trusting your gut is hindering you from making the best hiring decisions

 

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Often, the interview stage is considered a pivotal step in the traditional hiring process. While the opportunity to get to know a person face-to-face can be valuable, the evolving landscape of HR practices calls into question its validity.

Of particular interest is the potential for human error. While we may like to think we have a well-honed “gut instinct”, our own judgments may not always prove reliable. It brings into question, should hiring the best candidate possible really be left up to chance?

Top decision makers such as Laszlo Bock of Google say no:

“When it comes to interviewing, don’t trust your gut. More often than not, your gut reaction isn’t a product of hidden wisdom. Rather, it’s a result of unacknowledged biases that can lead you to overlook strong candidates” (Work Rules, 2015)

This is not to say that interviewers are intentionally biased – rather that the possibility of bias occurring is simply part of human nature. Take for example one fascinating concept studied by psychologists referred to as confirmation bias: “the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories”.

A study from The University of Toledo reflecting this concept found that the outcome of an interview could be predicted by judgments made within the first 10 seconds of dialogue. Basically, interviewers may subconsciously make snap judgments of a candidate right off the bat, and spend the rest of their time together seeking new information to confirm this impression, rather than objectively assessing the person in front of them.

The proven best practice here is a combination of assessment techniques. Objective, formal testing for key competencies like social intelligence, problem-solving ability, and compassion coupled with structured interview processes allow for educated, effective hiring decisions.

Tools like Plum can help you implement this practice by providing an accurate assessment of your candidates’ cognitive abilities and personalities. This allows for the minimization of bias.

Check out our past blog for another take on the merits of controlling bias in assessments.  

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