Bias In Your Interview Debrief

We like to think that HR has provided a process for interviews that yields a decision that is devoid of bias. Devoid of illegal bias anyway. But bias is powerful and pervasive. There are very few times where we can truly say there is no bias in a process. Bias can be difficult to detect.

Let’s face it, bias is a fact of life. None of us ever makes a pure decision. We make decisions based on what we know and what we believe, and the bias is part of that.

When interviewing, there is frequently a step in the process where the various interviewers compare notes. There is a debrief of sorts on the interview process. An opportunity for the interviewers to compare notes and provide the hiring manager with their input so that a decision can be made. There is a great opportunity for different types of bias to enter the process at this point.

Here are some phrases to look out for in the debrief, and what you might want to do about them.

  • “I liked her. I think she would do well here.” You don’t need to know that they liked her, but it would be helpful to know why they felt she would do well here. Because of something she can contribute? Because she is a fan of the right teams? Ask “Why?”
  • “He seems like a real go-getter. I think he would help drive better performance in the team.” What’s the basis for that? Is that part of the position description?
  • “We need someone like this. He will help set a higher standard of performance.” Really? Why isn’t the team leader setting that standard?
  • “She’s a good fit for the team.” Again, what is the basis for that claim, and how does that relate to the ability to perform the job? Is she a good fit because she is just like us?

While all these may be valid observations, they shouldn’t be the basis for a hiring decision. They represent a bias of sorts. A bias that has little to do with the actual position, but something I call a “projection bias”.  Which is really a hope that the candidate will bring some magic in addition to an ability to just do the job.

In the interview debrief, someone needs to remain objective. In fact, everyone needs to stay as objective as possible. Listen for phrases like these and you can improve the quality of your process.

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