Challenging Cognitive Biases in Hiring
- Steve Williamson, Dir. Product Development, eRep, Inc.
- Monday, March 12, 2018
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The use of objective data in hiring is growing. Psychometric assessments like the Core Values Index are revolutionizing the job market. The CVI helps organizations put the right people into the right seats with unprecedented accuracy; the CVI has the highest repeat reliability score of any psychometric assessment on the market today, above 97%.
With all this data now available...
Why are cognitive biases still prevalent in the hiring process?
In this article, we will discuss the twelve most common forms of bias in hiring and present ways to recognize and eliminate them.
People are over-reliant on the first piece of information they hear. A referral from a co-worker can frame or anchor one's bias toward that candidate, even if better qualified candidates apply later. It can be useful to not review candidates at all until a certain time period has been reached or a pre-decided number of candidates have applied.
The probability of one person adopting a belief increases based on the number of people who hold that belief. It is a form of groupthink, and it can be exacerbated when a person of organizational seniority or power expresses a preference for one candidate over others in a hiring committee. The rest of the group can feel reluctant to hold or express differing views or preferences. Some organizations have taken the bold step of removing the hiring manager from the interview phase to ensure that only objective, unbiased opinions are gathered and considered.
Failing to recognize your own cognitive biases is a bias in itself. People notice cognitive biases in others much more readily than they do in themselves. Using objective data during the screening process and again as an honored input to the hiring decision can reveal biases when our opinions seem to differ dramatically from what the data shows.
When you choose something, you tend to feel positive about it, even if that choice has flaws. This can take the form of opinion inertia, where the longer we hold a view, the more we become emotionally invested in it and reluctant to change it, even when new information comes in that conflicts with our view. It can help to hold off reviewing candidates until you can do so in a batch, removing that first come, first served tendency of opinion inertia.
We tend to listen only to information that confirms our preconceptions. Several of the biases listed in this article work together to skew our thinking. Confirmation bias is how choice-supportive bias can reveal itself. We emotionally hold onto a particular view and jump on evidence that seems to confirm or support it, while ignoring conflicting evidence. This can be one of the tougher forms of cognitive bias to recognize and counteract. Relying on objective data as well as having an open mind to the views of others can reduce the influence of confirmation bias.
Choice-supportive bias and conservatism bias double up when we favor prior evidence over new evidence or information that has come in later in the hiring process. Conservatism bias is also a variation of anchoring bias. As with other forms of bias, considering candidates in batches or all at once, rather than one at a time as they come in, can reduce or negate this effect.
This bias gets its name from the proverbial ostrich burying its head in the sand to ignore danger. The ostrich effect can be considered the opposite of confirmation bias, because we ignore information about candidates that contradicts our current view or opinion. Much like confirmation bias, most people are unaware they are influenced by the ostrich effect. Addressing this bias in our hiring decision is the same, though. Rely on objective data and make a conscious effort to give honest consideration to the views of others on the hiring team.
Have you ever known someone who claimed to be a great judge of character? This overconfidence is one of the most prevalent forms of bias in the hiring process. It is especially common in hiring managers with many years of experience. They can also fall victim to another kind of bias not listed here, the Availability Heuristic, where they cherry pick one or two examples of past experience that seems to support their assertion that they are a great judge of character while ignoring the other hires that didn't turn out so well. Combat this bias by making the hiring decision a group effort where everyone gets an equal vote. It is crucial the group also uses objective data to rank candidates.
This is the tendency to weigh the latest information more heavily than older data. It is the opposite of anchoring and conservatism biases. There are some interviewing guides that suggest candidates who interview last have the best chance of landing the job. If true, this plays into the recency bias some interviewers will have. Screen candidates in batches or all at once to eliminate or reduce the effort of recency in the hiring decision process.
This is the tendency to focus on the most easily recognizable features of a person or concept. In hiring, the screener may give too much weight to certain candidate attributes, like education (see Selective Perception, below) or a shared personal trait. Many candidates have wrongly been hired because they went to the same golf club as the hiring manager, or because their kids played on the same soccer team. This bias can lead to the biggest failures in hiring because it prevents the most important attributes of qualified candidates from being considered. Rely on objective data and give the team a vote on the hiring decision, rather than letting it be up to one individual.
If we expect a candidate to be above the rest because they were educated at a particular school, we can exclude from consideration other equally or better qualified candidates. Selective perception is similar to salience bias because it is a form of tunnel vision. Its danger lies in the exclusion of other, perhaps more important, characteristics in the hiring decision. Use a weighted scoring system with values determined ahead of time, then objectively rank candidates using that system.
Stereotyping is arguably the most well-recognized form of bias. It is the inclusion or exclusion of candidates based on a grouping or other form of classification, rather than consideration of the individual. Stereotyping can be considered a variant of selective perception, and is often used to exclude certain candidates more than it is used to boost a group or individual. Use of objective data and a pre-defined scoring system, as well as encouraging full transparency amongst the team during the hiring process, can expose and eliminate stereotyping.
How to Combat Cognitive Bias in the Hiring Process
In addition to the obvious negative connotations associated with them, all biases manifest themselves as missed opportunities. Organizations experience a double negative when bias is allowed to influence who they hire and who they exclude from consideration.
The first negative is when the wrong candidate is brought on board due to bias-influenced hiring. As we have noted many times in other blog articles, disengaged employees can cost the company up to 3x their annual salary in lost productivity.
The second negative is the lost opportunity by not hiring the right employee. Engaged employees who are the right person in the right seat can outproduce their co-workers by up to 200%.
Combating bias in the hiring process requires a shift toward the use of objective data like the Core Values Index assessment in the screening phase. By measuring and scoring the innate, unchanging nature of candidates and comparing their scores to a Top Performer Profile™ for the role, employers can efficiently and accurately exclude from consideration all candidates that would ultimately underperform in the role, while simultaneously narrowing the field down to those who are hardwired to succeed.
If you are involved in the hiring process at your company, contact eRep today to schedule a consultation and learn about the power of the CVI and how it can help you put the right people into the right seats.
Go to eRep.com/core-values-index/ to learn more about the CVI or to take the Core Values Index assessment.
Innovator/Banker - Dir. Product Development, eRep, Inc.
Steve has a career in information technology, software development, and project management spanning three decades. He is the author of a series of fantasy novels called The Taesian Chronicles (ruckerworks.com), and when he isn't writing he is an aspiring multi-instrumentalist and composer, a virtual pilot in a home-built flight simulator, and a cyclist.
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