Overcoming Bias: 3 Things to Consider When Interviewing

Overcoming Bias: 3 Things to Consider When Interviewing

by Catherine Iste, MultiBriefs

Organizations often say they are committed to a diverse workforce or transparent hiring. But organizations are made up of people, and people naturally judge others on their own individual set of parameters. In many cases, they do not even realize how much their own perception can cloud their image of a candidate.

While it may be a challenge to overcome different types of bias during an interview, keep these three things in mind and you will be in a better position to minimize it.

1. Appearance


Usually it is pretty easy to tell whether you look like everyone else that is interviewing you — whether it is age, gender or ethnic background. If it seems you do not, it may help to highlight how your different perspective won the day.

For example, in behavioral interviews you are normally asked to describe a situation in which you did something, something happened, etc., and explain how you handled it. Come ready to answer that type of question with a story that highlights how your solution was unlike what was previously tried, and it saved the day.

No one wants to admit he/she may have a bias based on appearance, but by talking about how your alternative perspective helped solve a problem it might also help overcome subtle judgments against you.

2. Background


The beauty of LinkedIn is that you can learn almost as much about your interviewers as they can about you. Check out whether you have groups, schools or people in common. Even if the interview panel went to Ivy League schools and you were out west at a state school, you can still find common ground in subject areas of interest.

If you cannot find anything in common with anyone at the organization, you could use the difference as a bonus again. Be ready with an example or story about how your difference gives you a leg up. It also doesn’t hurt to acknowledge and compliment the differences in your backgrounds.

3. Fit


The other “F-word” when it comes to interviewing. Usually, I ban my clients from using this word as it is an easy way to cover up bias. In addition to the above differences, it can also describe differences in personality or any other inappropriate reason the interviewers do not like the interviewee.

So how do you address it? The best way is to take it head on: Ask about culture and fit. When you get the chance to ask your questions at the end, say: In addition to skills and ability, fit is a critical component. What characteristics would you use to describe your ideal candidate when it comes to fitting in the culture? Once they give you those characteristics, find ways to parallel your personality with what they said.

One final and important point: If you have gone through an interview where you felt like you were up against the biases listed above, you should consider how deep you think those issues might go.

Do you really want a new job in that kind of environment? Remember, you should be interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Weigh the pros and cons and make your own decision about whether are the best fit.