Yale Exposes New Bias That Judges Interviewees Within First Few Seconds Of Interview
Undeniably, the first few minutes of an interview are critical when it comes to making a positive first impression. A study by the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found 60% of interviewers know within the first 15 minutes if the candidate they’re interviewing is suitable for the role. If that’s not alarming, recent research says nearly 30% of interviewers have made up their minds within the first five minutes of meeting a candidate. These snap decisions are heavily influenced by unconscious bias resulting in unequal treatment for job applicants.
Instead of assessing each candidate based on their own individual merit, hiring managers are swayed by perception and favoring people most similar to themselves. This favoritism not only costs companies top talent but could result in lawsuits for unfair discrimination. Consequently, their swift judgment results in overlooking quality candidates, inaccurate assumptions as well as discrimination due to a stereotypical view of what a successful person looks like.
Yale recently uncovered an unconscious bias surrounding an individual’s socioeconomic background. The study revealed candidates perceived to be from a higher social class receive more lucrative salaries and signing bonuses than those with a lower social status. Along with race, gender, age and sexual orientation, to name a few, hiring managers are also influenced by an individual’s income, education and occupational status in addition to their unique expressions and regional dialect.
Here are three perceptions hiring managers make that keep them from establishing equitable and unbiased hiring practices that hamper diversity in the workplace.
Dialect Determines Competence
In a world dominated by artificial intelligence, companies such as McDonald’s are exploring voice-initiated application processes to streamline their recruiting. However, the challenge faced is the smart speaker products are biased towards a white, highly educated, upper-middle-class American with a west coast accent. As a result, individuals with non-American accents or different English dialects face the biggest setbacks through miscommunication.
Artificial intelligence isn’t the only handicap candidates face when it comes to speech. In the U.S., there are at least 24 dialects differentiating people by grammar, vocabulary, syntax, phrases and punctuation rules. Based on five separate findings, Yale researchers discovered that speech patterns influence hiring decisions based on inferences made about a person’s upbringing.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found hiring managers unintentionally perpetuate inequality by judging candidates based on their regional dialect and expressions. The study determined “voices used in tech products like the Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant is associated with both actual and perceived higher social class.” This perception unknowingly influences interviewers to infer competence, intelligence and fitness for a position based only on a few seconds of hearing a candidate speak.
Instead of focusing on gut decisions, interviewers can reduce unintentional discrimination by programming AI to ignore demographic information during the sourcing and screening stages. AI technology coupled with a structured interview process helps prevent prejudice while creating more fair, accurate and objective conclusions that minimize unconscious bias.
Commonality Creates Cultural Fit
Without clearly defined and measurable standards, cultural fit can fall victim to subjective assessment. Few companies have created objective and quantifiable indicators when interviewing candidates. For this reason, hiring managers unconsciously lean towards individuals who share similar interests, experiences and backgrounds. This contributes to less diversified teams and more homogeneous workplaces.
Instead of eliminating cultural fit altogether, companies should focus on leveraging it to make high-quality hires. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends incorporating a candidate scorecard into the interview process to map out specific skills, motivators, abilities and values of each individual. The added benefit of a scorecard prevents interviewers from straying from the process while objectively assessing talent who will add to the culture instead of blend in.
Employment assessments are another way to eliminate bias from the hiring process. Predictive Index, a 2019 Glassdoor Best Place to Work winner, assesses teams and identifies where they lack in terms of diversity. This assessment technology gives insight into hiring the best person for the role, understanding gaps and avoiding unconscious bias in the recruiting process. Companies such as Microsoft, Chevron, IKEA and Dell have found great success in diversifying their workforce since incorporating the Predictive Index tests into their hiring strategy.
Elite Credentials Equal Qualified Talent
Job seekers understand the importance of building and maintaining connections to find the best opportunity. The trouble is, job applicants from higher socioeconomic groups receive more prestigious opportunities with unbeatable salaries creating a widening disparity between social classes. Despite what interviewers believe, talent from privileged backgrounds aren’t always the most qualified for the role.
A common and unspoken about practice that occurs often in the workforce is a person without the skills and competence getting pushed through the ranks of an organization due to their personal connections and level of privilege. Elite education credentials and prior work experience from a highly regarded company often cloud the judgment of interviewers with the expectation that name-brand qualifications dictate the quality of talent. This type of bias gives privileged candidates a competitive edge over disadvantaged ones.
Nevertheless, the 2019 College Admissions Scandal is an ugly example that candidates shouldn’t be favored solely on the name-brand of their education or prior experience. This perception can be detrimental when reviewing applicants because the extent to which they obtained it could be irrelevant to their performance and capabilities.
The mistake interviewers unintentionally make is focusing on the elite credential and disregarding potential red flags that show the candidate is a poor fit for the role. To prevent privilege from clouding judgment, take the time to gain a well-rounded view of the candidate without focusing on one specific piece of information. Relying on a structured interview process reduces bias and helps interviewers gain insight into each individual's background, experience and abilities.
Unconscious bias reduces diversity in the workplace and leads to hiring the wrong person for a job. Consequently, this costs companies thousands of dollars in employee turnover. Reducing unintentional discrimination increases ethnically diverse workplaces contributing to a performance increase of 35% above industry means. Although it’s difficult to completely avoid unconscious bias, it’s vital for companies to invest in training to make staff aware of their own biases and educate them on how best to manage it.
Originally published by Heidi Lynne Kurter at https://www.forbes.com.