Tips to Reduce Interviewer Bias

What Is Interviewer Bias & How to Avoid Bias in Interviews

As humans, we encounter thousands of decisions every single day. Our minds have evolved to make these decisions more efficiently by using a strategy called ‘heuristics.’ You can think of heuristics as mental shortcuts. While heuristics make us more efficient problem solvers, they also make our decisions highly susceptible to bias. 

What is interviewer bias?

Bias in interviewing occurs when the personal opinions expectations of the interviewer affects the outcome of the interview. This can occur in a positive or negative manner. For example, if the interviewer has some personal things in common with the candidate, that may cause them to sway their judgement more positively when assessing the candidate's skills and qualifications. In contrast, if an interviewer feels that a candidate wouldn't perform a job well because they are too "old", this is an example of how interviewing bias towards younger candidates could have a negative impact. Often, bias in interviewing has a negative effect on diversity in hiring.

Our biases prevent us from making decisions that are impartial and, well, unbiased. When it comes to hiring, reducing our biases during interviews is especially important because the decision to hire a candidate should be objective. We should be promoting processes that are fair. We should be hiring people who are the best fit for the role. Allowing our biases to influence our decisions undermines these objectives.

Making a conscious effort to remove our biases also ensures we give candidates a winning experience. Considering a recent report found that fairness was a key element of the candidate experience for over 1 million candidates, treating your candidates fairly and respectfully is non-negotiable if you want to be competitive and secure top talent.

Examples of Interviewer Bias

Fortunately, there are some simple actions you can take to help remove interview bias from your hiring process.

The first step is to recognize your biases. Drawing attention to your biases improves the quality of your decisions. The most common types of biases in hiring are:

First Impressions and Confirmation Bias

The judgments we initially form about a person tend to have a lasting effect. This is because it’s easier for us to confirm our existing beliefs rather than change them or form new ones. So, if a candidate makes a strong first impression, any positive information we learn after becomes more salient. Similarly, if a candidate makes a weak first impression, negative information becomes more salient as they move through the interview process. 

The Halo & Horn Effects

Have you ever learned something positive about a candidate and assumed other positive things about them? Maybe they worked for a firm you highly respected and assumed they must be talented. This is the halo effect in action. It occurs when we let one positive attribute shape the rest of our perceptions about that person. The opposite is true for the Horn Effect. We let a negative attribute shape the rest of our perceptions about that person. 

The Similar-to-me Effect

Humans tend to gravitate toward others who they share similarities with. So, if you have a candidate in your pool who has similar interests to you, has a similar education as you, or has had a similar career trajectory as you, you’ll tend to favor them more than candidates who are different from you. Even if it doesn’t give you any information about how they will perform on the job.


We’re all familiar with stereotyping. It’s a tendency to generalize about people in a social category and ignore individual differences among them. Our assumptions about a social category come from our own lived experiences and our exposure to diversity growing up. Our beliefs lead us to assume everyone in a category possesses the same traits. 

Conformity Bias

This is our tendency to be influenced by others as we form our perceptions about a candidate. Have you ever found yourself on an interview panel and were the only one who disagreed with your peers? Did you feel any social pressure to conform your opinions to those of others? The act of matching your beliefs and perceptions to the group is conformity bias at work. 

How to Reduce Bias in Interviews  

The next step is incorporating some simple strategies that will help you make bias-free decisions.  

Suspend your judgments

At the beginning of the interview, resist the urge to make a yes or no decision about the candidate. Starting with a scripted list of questions can assist with this and prevent you from immediately concluding whether someone is strong or weak.

Ground your decisions in job-related evidence

Be sure to gather all evidence about a person before you make a decision, and let the evidence guide your decision as you draw conclusions.

Neutralize your bias with reverse logic

 When people decide they instantly like someone, they tend to relax whereas when they decide they don’t, they get uptight. Try doing the opposite. Be more skeptical about those you immediately perceive as strong, and more relaxed about those you think are weak.

Treat candidates as experts

Assume your candidate is a subject matter expert, much like you would a consultant, and give them the benefit of the doubt. This goes a long way in conveying your respect for them in the process.

Give candidates a likeability score

To be more aware of your personal feelings about a candidate, give them a likeability score. Taking a moment at the end of the evaluation process to record this will help you control how your judgments influence your outcome and make you more aware of them in the future. 

Using these practices helps keep fairness at the forefront of your hiring process. The result is not only a process that’s fair, but also one that helps you hire the best and the brightest candidates for your company.

Discover how to reduce bias in your hiring process

Achieve bias-free hiring by leveraging Hireguide’s interview templates to guide your interviews (or create your own!). Templates contain pre-populated lists of job-specific questions and allow you to easily gather evidence about candidates’ skills. Using templates will ensure you’re making data-driven decisions, so you hire the right candidates for your company. Schedule a free demo today.

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