There are a variety of factors that can negatively impact hiring decisions. One bad hire is one hire to many. Staying alert to the common factors that derail recruiting will minimize mistakes. One such frequent fail is trusting your gut when assessing candidates. Over 39% percent of company leaders say they rely on personal instincts when hiring. And, not surprisingly, 71 percent of the same line managers surveyed would change their hiring decisions if given a second chance.
Relying on gut instinct when interviewing is a bad idea because it introduces unconscious filters that can bring unwarranted opinions, feelings and considerations that get in the way of making objective hiring decisions. As a result, less qualified candidates may receive unmerited advantage and those potentially a better fit overlooked. In an ideal world, hiring managers would select job candidates based on credentials and their track record for results.
People like people most like themselves. As a result, personal bias may show up where common interests are shared or the same sports team or alma mater are followed. According to UCLA Professor and author of Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect explains, “Social connection is as important as food and shelter. It’s been baked into our operating system for tens of millions of years.” These associations are not harmful or negative in and of themselves. Only when they bring unfair advantage when objectivity and balanced decision making is required do they add risk to the hiring process.
Our brain makes broad brushed assumptions or stereotypes to gain greater understanding and influence with others. Social scientists once believed that only bigoted people used stereotypes. However, it turns out, all of us routinely stereotype others, without knowing it.
In a typical interview situation stereotyping can undermine impartial decision making and add risk to employee selection practices. For example, when we are exposed to people of different cultures, ethnicities or religious practices. Despite a commitment to embrace diversity, we are hard wired to view differences as reason for separation not harmony.
Consider the notion, all blacks are good athletes. Fat people are lazy. People with glasses are smart. Mexicans came to America illegally. Arabs and Muslims are terrorists. Jews are greedy and all Irish are drunks. These exaggerated untrue and inappropriate beliefs constantly press up against our inner most desire to be fair, impartial and open minded. Ignore them we fall victim to their lies.
Competency stereotyping tends to be more insidious when making hiring decisions. Intellectually, we know that hair color has no influence on intelligence yet, blondes are commonly jeered as ‘airheads’ or dumb. Yet, could hair color effect a person’s candidacy for a position requiring high intellect? Would an Asian candidate receive higher favor for a job demanding strong competency in math and science? Is it possible a female hiring manager would be disinclined to hire an individual native to a country known for undervaluing women? Alert to the presence of all forms of prejudice, we control its influence and limit the impact.
Individuals who carry a commanding presence may set up hiring resistance against themselves. When meeting powerful people, it is likely you will either get inspired or intimidated. One creates a positive impression the other repels it. It is natural to be wary of people who we perceive as a threat to our status within an organization. Hiring managers may unintentionally overlook strong and potentially exceptional employees in an effort to protect his own power and position.
Allowing all forms of personal bias to negatively influence hiring decisions can lead to hiring mistakes and expose managers and their organizations to considerable risk. In addition, superstars who might have made considerable contribution may be bypassed for lesser qualified candidates. All forms of social profiling sets up untrue unfair conditions whereby the best person for the job overlooked. As a result, we must stay rigorous in our efforts to recognize when personal bias raises its head and adhere to solid hiring practices that reveal individuals who represent the best cultural and job fit.
The best weapon to combat the negative influence of personal prejudice is to rely on a structured selection protocol that standardizes the hiring process among candidates, eliminating much subjectivity. These interviews pose the same set of questions in the same order to all candidates, allowing clearer more accurate comparisons between them. This may seem like an obvious approach, but incredibly it remains underused. The dialogue during the interview will be slightly more awkward than it already is, but the payoff in reduction in risk and discovery of the right people for the company and the job is worth the effort.