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Unconscious Bias in the Interview Process

Unconscious Bias in Interviews

When learning about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace, the conversation about unconscious bias in the interview process cannot be avoided. To offer a truly equitable workplace, efforts must be made to create an equitable interview process.

What is Unconscious Bias?

According to The Triangle DEI Alliance, Unconscious Bias is, “Social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing,” (https://www.triangledei.org/resources-blog/dictionary-glossary?rq=dictionary). In the interview process, unconscious bias can happen as easily as relating to a candidate that is like you, has similar interests, or has a similar background. Bias comes in when one prefers a person similar to them without putting emphasis in their ability to perform the job. . Comparably, making assumptions about someone’s intelligence based on schooling – if they went to college, where they went to college, how long they attended, can lead to unconscious bias in the interview process.

How Can a Hiring Manager Avoid Unconscious Bias in the Interview Process?  

Recognition and awareness of your own conscious and unconscious bias is a great start for avoiding it in the interview process. If you know the types of biases that exist, understand your own tendencies, and acknowledge the potential for bias, you can avoid biased decision making.

In addition, ensure you are evaluating all candidates on an equal playing field. Identify the core competencies that it takes for someone to be successful in the job for which you are hiring and create behavioral based interview questions to evaluate if candidates have demonstrated those behaviors and skillsets in the past. Prepare for your interview, plan your questions in advance, and make sure you are asking the same core questions of each candidate.

Types of Bias in the Interview Process

Anyone participating in the hiring process should acknowledge and understand biases to ensure fairness and consistency in the interview process. Even if it is not intentional, hiring managers may allow their impressions of candidates or their personal feelings about them to dominate the interview process. By understanding and actively combatting biases, we can strive toward a more objective and fair hiring process. Here are some examples.

  • Confirmation: Occurs when the hiring manager looks for and evaluates examples that confirm pre-existing beliefs. 
  • Gender: Occurs when a hiring manager when evaluating a candidate for a job,  focuses more on the personality for women and feminine-presenting individuals, and more on accomplishments for men and male-presenting individuals.
  • Halo Effect: Occurs when a candidate possesses one exceptional strength, and the manager allows this to affect judgement across other competencies.
  • Horn Effect: Occurs when a candidate possesses one hindering weakness, and the manager allows this to affect judgement across other competencies.
  • Idiosyncratic rater bias: Occurs when the hiring manager evaluates the candidate based on the manager’s own strengths and weaknesses. Opportunity Bias: Occurs when the manager credits or faults a candidate based on factors outside of their control, rather than through the candidate’s actual performance.
  • Similar to me: Occurs when the hiring manager gives higher ratings to those candidates with whom they relate or have more similarities.

For more information on biases and how to identify and combat them, we recommend visiting:


This blog includes contributions from  our past and present co-chairs of the Greene Resources DEI Committee, Mikio Anderson, Jenny Saul, and Melissa Rock.

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