Bias Eraser #3: Confirmation Bias In Hiring

At first, I couldn’t quite place it. But I knew something wasn’t going right. Here I was, unexpectedly laid off in the middle of the COVID nightmare, pounding the virtual pavement in a daily quest to find a job and get my family back to safety and stability. Not to mention my own sanity.

On the Other End of Biased Hiring

Every day started off as an adventure. I’d put on my nicest Zoom-friendly shirt, check my schedule, and prepare for the interviews and networking calls that lay ahead. At first, it was exhilarating as naive optimism led me to believe that every conversation had the potential to change my unemployed fate. But as the months rolled by, I noticed a concerning pattern emerging… way too many of the conversations sounded the same.

And way too many of my answers too. About three months in I realized I was getting stung by the bias bug.

It was Confirmation Bias, to be exact.

The Definition of Confirmation Hiring Bias

Confirmation Bias is the “tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.” In the hiring process, it occurs when a person forms an initial impression of a candidate and spends the rest of the interview searching for information to confirm that impression.

In practice, this means that a tiny piece of information, such as where someone graduated from school or the name of a previous employer, can lead an interviewer to form a hypothesis about the candidate that they spend the rest of the conversation trying to validate. While they are trying to confirm or disconfirm a hypothesis, their unconscious bias during the interview obscures important details about someone’s potential talent.

Interview Bias Types

So, what causes bias hiring and unconscious confirmation bias during interviews? Here are some reasons:

  • The resume is one of the more traditional sources of confirmation bias. A previous employer or a school can easily contribute to an image about an individual’s characteristics and overshadow who they really are and what they are really like.

  • Social media posts and pictures provide ample opportunities to form a hiring bias.
    Information we obtain online about a job candidate likely influences us to form an opinion about them, positive, negative, or even just inaccurate. We will likely measure them by that imagined standard resulting in confirmation bias during the interview.

  • The first few minutes of an interview can leave a lasting impression that creates confirmation bias throughout the whole conversation even if someone didn’t start the interview with a preconceived notion. We all jump to conclusions when we first see or meet a new person. These conclusions may not reflect their actual qualifications.

How Does This Apply to Me?

The fact is, after 20 years in the talent industry as a tech executive, revenue generator, product developer, and people leader, many of the people I interviewed knew one thing about me: my Ph.D. As each interview unfolded, it became apparent that I was already boxed in. Everyone evaluated me as a “scientist.” I had a “Ph.D. curse.” So many of my interviews took a predictable course with a laser focus on my science skills, even though I had much more to offer.

The main point is that Confirmation Bias led people to form an erroneous idea of me before we even met. That type of bias hurts. In COVID times or not, a few details in a resume, a social media post, or the first minute of an interview disadvantage many talented people. It can be the difference between a missed career opportunity or the ability to put food on their family’s table.

Simultaneously, organizations are also missing out big. By failing to objectively evaluate a candidate’s potential, they miss out on great talent that can have a meaningful impact on their business success.

Three Steps to Eliminate Confirmation Bias in Hiring

It’s time to erase that bias from the hiring process. We can all get better at seeing the reality of what candidates have to offer instead of seeing them through a flawed lens. To get started, you should absolutely:

    1. Front-load recruitment and hiring processes with objective talent evaluation tools.
      At, we offer a “blind” hiring system that uses predictive analytics to identify candidates’ success potential in terms of client performance metrics. Because it’s based on objective data, the only impression that a hiring manager or recruiter can form is based on performance potential not words on a resume or stray comments during an interview.

    2. Use a well-designed structured interview process.
      Don’t let interview informalities create hiring bias. Anything that introduces irrelevant facts can lead to confirmation bias in the hiring process. A structured interview process functions to ask all candidates the same job-related questions and score them clearly to create a level playing field.

    3. Push the resume review to the end.
      Resumes still serve a purpose, but since they are such a notorious source of bias, review them after using objective measures and structured interviews to evaluate candidates. When analyzing resumes later, confirmation bias will affect fewer candidates, and the remaining ones will be of high enough quality that decision-makers are confirming potential, not irrelevant unconscious beliefs.

It takes work to hire in a fair and unbiased manner. Doing it right brings in better talent and benefits society as a whole. Let me know when you want to get started.

We help you push aside hiring bias and other barriers to hiring the perfect sales agent. Book a demo today. 

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