How to beat interview bias

A 2015 report, published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, on the behavioural science of recruitment found that managers invariably employ people with similar hobbies, life experiences, dress sense and mannerisms, despite the fact that none of these characteristics have any bearing on a candidate’s ability to do the job in hand (People Management magazine March 2016). As a candidate should you be worried given the amount of effort and energy you put into your application, CV and interview preparation? Could it be pointless if simply your face doesn’t fit and is there anything you can do about it anyway?

Well, we all have unconscious bias which triggers automatic judgements and assessments, and social scientists have long recognised that we are wired to like and trust people like us. The key is that this is recognised, and most organisations will be aware of the need to train their managers in interview skills. Plus, despite the report findings, managers still want to appoint the person who has the skills and capabilities to do the job well. Therefore the time you spend demonstrating this through your application and CV is worthwhile in order to get to interview stage.

And once you’re there understanding what managers are looking for can be helpful:

  • Can you do the job? – do you have the right skills and experience to undertake the role.
  • Will you do the job? – do you have the commitment, energy, enthusiasm and interest in the role and the organisation to perform the job to the best of your ability
  • Will you fit in? – are you a match with the organisational culture, the team and potential colleagues

Being mindful of these underlying questions when you are doing your research, interview preparation and when you are responding to their direct interview questions can help you shape your answers. You still need to be authentic, after all there’s no point pretending to be someone you’re not, but they can help you think about the most relevant examples and responses.

These questions can help you too, as don’t forget your unconscious bias will kick in as well, especially around question 3. The job and the organisation needs to chime with your values and motivations – if you’ve ever felt like a square peg in a round hole at work then it is usually because there is a mismatch between your values and your team/organisational values. You will get clues about these things at the interview from how people dress, office layout, the formal or informal approach to the interview, their responses to your questions and the language they use. Behavioural science can work for you too. Don’t forget the interview is a 2 way process – you don’t want to just take any job you want to take the right job for you.

For info on coaching to be successful at interview contact Sarah at [email protected]

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