Reducing Bias in Your Interview Process

 When you are hiring, you want to be as fair as possible, and also find candidates who might be perfect for the role even if they don't obviously rise to the top of the list.

It can be frustrating when your usual interview techniques aren't bringing diversity to your team. So how do you implement foolproof strategies to level the playing field?

Counteract the external factors affecting your judgment

Everyone has unconscious biases and you are not going to change that. Before every call, take a few minutes to set aside whatever else is on your mind, by reminding yourself, 

"This is a human being who has hopes and dreams associated with this job, so I need to be fully present for them."

Stay hydrated, stretch and walk around the room, take a few deep breaths, lean back in your chair and arrive prepared.

Set up an objective scoring system

For each role, define the outcomes your new team member will be working towards. What skills and qualities will they need? Share this with hiring team and agree on the priorities.

  • For a Product Manager in an early-stage startup, you might need someone who's adaptable.
  • For a Design Lead in a cross-functional team, you will be looking for collaboration skills.

Use a scale of satisfactory, good, or excellent to give objective scores during the interview. Take notes and ask follow-up questions to clarify specific strengths and weaknesses.

Always ask the same questions

Develop interview questions to pinpoint the qualities you need.
  • For the adaptable Product Manager: "Tell me about a situation where you've needed to handle a lot of uncertainty "
  • For collaborative Design Lead: "Imagine you have built a prototype for a new product feature and you are struggling to get a commitment on the direction. What's your process?"
Create a question bank for each role that interviewers can use and add to. Ask all candidates same core questions and use your scoring system to evaluate their answers.

Remove small talk

Just because someone is better at chatting doesn't mean they are more qualified to do the job. Don't let a pleasant social connection inhibit your judgement when evaluating their skills.

You can say, "I hope you don't mind but I'm going to jump straight into the questions. I'd love to get to know you better and there will be opportunities for that later in the process. For today, we want to give everyone a level playing field."

Use other tools to assess and compare

Giving people work upfront lets them show off their technical skills, so you're not only reliant on interview performance and you can compare everyone's work under similar conditions. Here are some other ways you can evaluate the skills needed for the role:
  • Pre-interview by video
  • Take-home assignments
  • Ask your core questions in written format

Suspend emotional judgements for 30 minutes

In her book Hire With Your head, Lou Adler writes:
"Suspend any and all judgement for the first 30 minutes - in that time our fight or flight response is activated and will be triggering emotional judgement. Doing this could eliminate 50% of hiring mistakes."

Don't avoid, mitigate

Bypassing unconscious bias is the key to inclusive hiring. Counteract external factors, develop an objective scoring system and use the same question for everyone, and you'll be on your way to growing a more diverse team!

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