Balancing Connection and Objectivity: A Fresh Perspective on Job Interviews

We’ve all been there: You’re interviewing a candidate, and you just click. It feels like magic, like you’ve finally found the perfect person for the role. But you also know what it’s like when that connection is missing. You’re just going through the motions, wondering if the candidate is right for your company. This instinctive attraction to people we connect with, often subconscious, can be a detriment to organizations by overlooking potentially great hires.

The Distracting Magic of Affinity Bias in Job Interviews 

It’s simply human to connect more easily with people who share similar traits like education, life perspective, or work experience. This can fuel an affinity bias (also called an implicit bias, as it can be unconscious) against qualified candidates and prevent your organization from finding the best hire. If we only hire people we “click” with, our workplace will lack diversity—a critical factor for overall productivity, innovation, and business growth. So let’s look at what you can do when you don’t click with a candidate and how to ensure this drive for connection doesn’t prevent finding the best candidate for the job.

What To Do During an Unengaged Job Interview

No matter how much you prepare, you might still find yourself facing a quiet or otherwise unengaged interviewee—this can be due to anxiety, cultural differences, or even neurodivergence. Unless the job requires constant interaction with new people, concerns about this should be set aside. Here are a few techniques to get a candidate to open up:

  • Shift to Future-Focused Questions: When standard questions about a candidate’s experience don’t yield engaging responses, pivot to future-oriented inquiries. Ask where they see themselves in ten years or how they envision your organization evolving with their contribution.
  • Use Hypothetical Scenarios: Pose questions like, “If you were starting a company tomorrow, what would its top three values be?” This approach can reveal deeper insights into a candidate’s values and strategic thinking.
  • Explore Interpersonal Dynamics: Questions about managing workplace conflicts, moments of pride, or responses to criticism can showcase a candidate’s emotional intelligence and soft skills.
  • Encourage Candidate-Led Conversations: Allow candidates to steer part of the conversation. Ask them to describe their ideal role or the aspects of their previous job they found most fulfilling. This not only engages them but also provides insight into their motivations and fit for your organization.

Techniques to Reduce Job Interview Bias

At Spot on Talent, we encourage structured job interviews, objective measurement, and skills-focused hiring to ensure you get the best candidate. This keeps us focused on the things that matter and prevents us from getting distracted by characteristics that may not impact job performance. For instance, hiring managers may be focused on things like educational background, when skills or experience could be as important. Here are a few tips we believe in:

  • Structured Interviews
    • Standardize Questions: Develop a consistent set of questions for all candidates. This reduces variability in questioning and allows for fairer comparisons. It also helps to reduce non-work-related conversation, including small talk. This chit-chat can easily introduce opportunities for job interviewers to prefer candidates based on shared interests or backgrounds.
    • Scoring Systems: Implement a scoring system to evaluate responses objectively. This minimizes the influence of personal biases and focuses on candidates’ competencies.
  • Diverse Interview Panels
    • Include Various Perspectives: Ensure your interview panel is diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, role, and professional background. This collective diversity helps counteract individual biases and promotes a more holistic evaluation of candidates.
    • Training on Bias Awareness: Regularly train job interviewers on recognizing and mitigating their biases. Awareness is the first step toward fostering an inclusive interview process.
  • Blind Resume Reviews
    • Anonymize Candidate Information: Remove identifying information such as names, addresses, and photos from resumes before the interview process. This practice helps reduce unconscious bias related to gender, race, and other personal characteristics.
    • Focus on Skills and Experience: Emphasize the evaluation of candidates’ skills, experiences, and achievements without the influence of personal identifiers.
  • Use of Technology
    • AI and Data Analytics: Utilize AI tools and data analytics to identify patterns of bias in your hiring process. These tools can provide insights and suggest adjustments to promote fairness.
    • Video Interviews: Consider implementing video interview platforms that offer features like blurring the candidate’s appearance or masking their voice to focus purely on their responses. You can also offer candidates the ability to do phone interviews.

By integrating strategies to improve interviewing with techniques to reduce bias, organizations can create a more engaging, fair, and effective hiring process. This approach not only enhances the candidate experience but also supports the broader goal of building an inclusive workplace. Embrace these strategies to unlock the true potential of every interview, ensuring that both the interviewer and candidate leave the conversation with a sense of rapport and mutual respect.

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