Articles related to talent and competitive advantage have kept the pages of the Harvard Business Review and other publications full for decades. Despite the importance of talent, companies still rely on interviews as the primary selection tool.
But why is this “time-tested” tool so poor at informing our most expensive and risky investment?
The simple answer is humans are biased and noisy.
Reason #1: Unconscious Bias
Unconscious biases are learned assumptions, beliefs, or attitudes that we aren’t necessarily aware of. Examples include how someone looks, where they went to school etc. They include factors that do not necessarily predict success in the role in either case.
Reason #2: No Two People See the World in the Same Way (Noise)
How does this impact hiring? Each interviewer interprets the candidates’ answers differently. Why?
- Other interviewers influence your opinions: “Xavier only likes her because Paola likes her,” Vanessa exclaimed during the candidate selection meeting.
The statement may have been true, but not for the reasons insinuated. Xavier is not trying to get closer to Paola. Instead, his brain was tricked into liking the candidate because a person he respects likes her.
Like a virus, Xavier and eventually the entire committee caught Paola’s impressions. It is fair to say that the candidate was hired, in part, because she met Paola first and not Vanessa.
Reason #3 You Can’t Predict which Version of You will Show Up
Our mood can determine which version shows up for the interview. Joseph Forgas, who has written over 100 papers on the impact of mood on judgment, reports that people in a good mood are generally more positive and more forgiving of candidates’ missteps. A negative mood has the opposite effect but makes interviewers more objective. He says, “The same smile that is seen as friendly by an interviewer in a good mood may be judged as awkward when the interviewer is in a negative mindset.”
Reason #4: Random Errors and Miscommunications
If researchers can predict the other reasons, reason three includes variables that only affect the current interview. In his NY Times article, Jason Dana gave a great example.
A friend of mine once had a curious experience with a job interview. Excited about the possible position, she arrived five minutes early and was immediately ushered into the interview by the receptionist. Following an amicable discussion with a panel of interviewers, she was offered the job.
Afterward, one of the interviewers remarked how impressed she was that my friend could be so composed after showing up 25 minutes late to the interview. As it turned out, my friend had been told the wrong start time by half an hour; she had remained composed because she did not know she was late.
So, How do You Work Around These Errors?
We are not suggesting you stop interviewing, but there are ways to limit the impact of Bias, Noise, and other factors.
- Create a structured interview that focuses on competencies and culture fit. All interviewers should follow the same script and questions. Phrase the questions to elicit competency-based responses. Rate the candidates on the same scale prior to discussing them with others.
- Use a pre-hire assessment. These tools do not know what the candidate looks like, how they talk, who they love, etc. And once built properly, they will give consistent results day after day.
Our Psybil® battery of assessments was built to counter bias, measure things that matter, and provide reliable and consistent results.
- Strategic Thinking
- Problem Solving
- Social and Emotional Intelligence
- Risk Management
- Execution — Energy and Motivations
- Toxic Behavior and Culture Fit
Let’s have a conversation about your hiring and talent development needs. Perhaps we can help. And even if you decide not to do business with us, you’ll learn some things that may help — and we know we’ll learn from you as well. Reach out to us at [email protected].
About the Author: Dave Popple, PhD is founder and president of Psynet Group