Connecting the Dots Blog

HR Expert Tip: 5 Ways to Avoid Bias in the Hiring Process

Understand Employee Selection Bias

Bias can get to the point that we only bring in the same type of people as ourselves. If we only select applicants who think, look, and act like us, then we miss out on the diverse knowledge, experience, and skills that others can contribute. As hard as we try to stay unbiased when interviewing applicants, the likability factor is difficult to overcome. 

Overcome the Likability Factor

Playing off of standard stereotypes, here’s an example of what I mean. I’m from the South, so I tend to be biased toward people from the South. They look like me, talk like me, act like me, think like me. In an interview, I can even finish their sentences, because I know how we do things in the South. 

Expanding on this idea, the opposite can be true when I interview someone from the North. Unlike someone from the South who may be chatty and talkative, a Northerner might be direct and to the point. As an interviewer, I may apply my bias and think the applicant is rude and inconsiderate; hence this is not the type of person I want to work with. But the applicant sees it differently. The applicant isn’t prone to long conversations and doesn’t want to waste the interviewer’s time. The applicant thinks that short answers are appropriate, even considerate. 

Recognize Common Types of Bias

Do you see how our biases can creep into the interview setting? I described a geographical bias, but that’s just one of many biases we may hold. Race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and age are some of the others to be aware of.

How to minimize employee selection bias

1. Expand Your Circle
Minimizing an employee selection bias starts long before the interview process. My advice is to get to know all kinds of people. Include diversity in your friend groups, in the shows you watch, profiles you follow on social media, and books you read. This exposure starts to break down barriers and helps you see things differently. 

2. Be Aware of Stereotypes
If we’re not familiar with a group of people, we may think they all share similar personalities, backgrounds, and cultures. In reality, there’s so much diversity even within a minority group. It’s really important to understand these groups better so we can pick up on these differences. That’s where stereotypes can be so dangerous. We have to consciously stop and say, “Is that a stereotype? How can I go beyond it and look at the person as an individual and not as a particular part of a group I think I know?”

3. Follow a Structured Interview Process
In employee selection, 15dots minimizes bias by following a structured interview process:


• Ask the same questions of everyone
• Use the CARE® Technique (for Circumstance or Assignment Response Effect) to capture complete answers 
• Have a four-person interview panel, instead of one-on-one interviews
• Rate applicants on a Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS) based on behaviors that the applicant describes
• Trust your scores, interviewers, and interview process when making final hiring decisions

If after taking all of these precautious we still hire applicants because they speak in a nice southern drawl, we go back to all of the biases we tried so hard to let go. It's absolutely critical to open the gates to applicants unlike ourselves. Thereby, we bring in diverse knowledge, experience, and skills that contribute to an organization’s strong foundation.

4. Open the Gates to Diversity 
An often-overlooked aspect of bias in a selection process is at the very beginning, in the sourcing of candidates. When it comes to sourcing candidates, recruiters, HR teams, and sourcing teams often look for candidates in places they know and like. They attend recruiting events from schools they attended, or their friends attended, give priority to people who share similar hobbies, or post in certain newspapers that they themselves tend to read. It may not even be conscious, but this bias unfairly restricts potentially qualified candidates. Only validated qualifications based on a standard process should be used to select candidates into or out of a process. When it comes to the beginning of a process, very few restrictions, if any, should be placed on the applicant pool to increase diversity and reduce bias.

5. Train to Be Unbiased Interviewers
15dots offers expert-led virtual structured board interview training sessions in which participants learn how to minimize employee selection bias in an interview. They gain the confidence and learn the techniques to be effective interviewers. Contact us to register or to learn more.



Cheryl L. Jackson is a business consultant with a doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology. She has over 15 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies. Cheryl specializes in selection and assessment, organizational design, and change management. She is a member of the 15dots team and has a passion for advancing employee engagement in the workplace through employee selection, development, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Cheryl is a lecturer, entrepreneur, author, and speaker promoting engagement in all areas of life.

Read more posts by Cheryl Jackson

HR Expert Tip: 5 Ways to Avoid Bias in the Hiring Process

Understand Employee Selection Bias

Bias can get to the point that we only bring in the same type of people as ourselves. If we only select applicants who think, look, and act like us, then we miss out on the diverse knowledge, experience, and skills that others can contribute. As hard as we try to stay unbiased when interviewing applicants, the likability factor is difficult to overcome. 

Overcome the Likability Factor

Playing off of standard stereotypes, here’s an example of what I mean. I’m from the South, so I tend to be biased toward people from the South. They look like me, talk like me, act like me, think like me. In an interview, I can even finish their sentences, because I know how we do things in the South. 

Expanding on this idea, the opposite can be true when I interview someone from the North. Unlike someone from the South who may be chatty and talkative, a Northerner might be direct and to the point. As an interviewer, I may apply my bias and think the applicant is rude and inconsiderate; hence this is not the type of person I want to work with. But the applicant sees it differently. The applicant isn’t prone to long conversations and doesn’t want to waste the interviewer’s time. The applicant thinks that short answers are appropriate, even considerate. 

Recognize Common Types of Bias

Do you see how our biases can creep into the interview setting? I described a geographical bias, but that’s just one of many biases we may hold. Race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and age are some of the others to be aware of.

How to minimize employee selection bias

1. Expand Your Circle
Minimizing an employee selection bias starts long before the interview process. My advice is to get to know all kinds of people. Include diversity in your friend groups, in the shows you watch, profiles you follow on social media, and books you read. This exposure starts to break down barriers and helps you see things differently. 

2. Be Aware of Stereotypes
If we’re not familiar with a group of people, we may think they all share similar personalities, backgrounds, and cultures. In reality, there’s so much diversity even within a minority group. It’s really important to understand these groups better so we can pick up on these differences. That’s where stereotypes can be so dangerous. We have to consciously stop and say, “Is that a stereotype? How can I go beyond it and look at the person as an individual and not as a particular part of a group I think I know?”

3. Follow a Structured Interview Process
In employee selection, 15dots minimizes bias by following a structured interview process:


• Ask the same questions of everyone
• Use the CARE® Technique (for Circumstance or Assignment Response Effect) to capture complete answers 
• Have a four-person interview panel, instead of one-on-one interviews
• Rate applicants on a Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS) based on behaviors that the applicant describes
• Trust your scores, interviewers, and interview process when making final hiring decisions

If after taking all of these precautious we still hire applicants because they speak in a nice southern drawl, we go back to all of the biases we tried so hard to let go. It's absolutely critical to open the gates to applicants unlike ourselves. Thereby, we bring in diverse knowledge, experience, and skills that contribute to an organization’s strong foundation.

4. Open the Gates to Diversity 
An often-overlooked aspect of bias in a selection process is at the very beginning, in the sourcing of candidates. When it comes to sourcing candidates, recruiters, HR teams, and sourcing teams often look for candidates in places they know and like. They attend recruiting events from schools they attended, or their friends attended, give priority to people who share similar hobbies, or post in certain newspapers that they themselves tend to read. It may not even be conscious, but this bias unfairly restricts potentially qualified candidates. Only validated qualifications based on a standard process should be used to select candidates into or out of a process. When it comes to the beginning of a process, very few restrictions, if any, should be placed on the applicant pool to increase diversity and reduce bias.

5. Train to Be Unbiased Interviewers
15dots offers expert-led virtual structured board interview training sessions in which participants learn how to minimize employee selection bias in an interview. They gain the confidence and learn the techniques to be effective interviewers. Contact us to register or to learn more.



Cheryl L. Jackson is a business consultant with a doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology. She has over 15 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies. Cheryl specializes in selection and assessment, organizational design, and change management. She is a member of the 15dots team and has a passion for advancing employee engagement in the workplace through employee selection, development, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Cheryl is a lecturer, entrepreneur, author, and speaker promoting engagement in all areas of life.

Read more posts by Cheryl Jackson

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