No doubt you pride yourself on being scrupulously fair when you interview candidates for a job in your department or on your team. You make every effort to assess applicants without regard to sex, race, color, creed, age or disability.

But there’s another kind of discrimination that, while not illegal, can harm your efforts to hire the best people.

Unconscious bias
According to a recent study by researchers at the Wharton School and Harvard University, hiring managers are at risk for unconscious bias against the last applicant of the day.

Why is that? Is it because you’re tired after four interviews and you don’t give the fifth candidate your full attention?

Not according to the study.

The researchers found that interviewers felt an unconscious need to balance applicants’ ratings – between good and not-so-good – each day. If on a given day you’ve given four candidates good ratings, you’ll tend to automatically downgrade the fifth. (Or it could work the other way, with an inadvertent bias for the fifth, after you’ve seen four blah applicants.)

Across the board
This all makes little rational sense, because what you really want to do is make your ratings reflect the entire span of interviews.

It’s possible, say, that you might interview five lousy candidates one day and five great ones a week later. In that case, you shouldn’t be downgrading the last person on that second day.

What you can do: Create a simple spreadsheet with all the applicants’ ratings and keep it in front of you as you interview. It’ll remind you of the big picture and help you avoid the “false balance” trap.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *