Interview bias and how to avoid it

Have you ever recruited someone and thought, well they were nothing like they were at the interview?  Maybe your unconscious bias is to blame.

The Horns and Halo Effect

This game show contestant caught my eye.  What was your first thought when you saw him?  Mine was “I bet he is good at making cakes”.

I have absolutely no evidence of whether or not Alan is good at making cakes.  He didn’t say he was. Even if he did, how would I know he was telling me the truth?  Honestly, I only thought this because he looks uncannily like Great British Bake Off host, Paul Hollywood.

That is the “horns and halo effect”.  Something about them reminds you of someone else.  You then attach those attributes to the person in front of you.  They look or sound like someone you have worked with before.  Perhaps you thought they were great.  Perhaps you didn’t.  This bias could affect your decision.


How long to decide

When you go to collect your candidate for interview, you want them to be great.  In reality, within seconds of seeing them, you make your decision.  You interpret their answers through the bias of your first impressions.  You spend the rest of the interview trying to prove yourself right.  This can lead to bad hiring decisions.


How to overcome interview bias

  • Before you start to recruit, decide what knowledge, skills and attitudes you need for that role.
  • Draw up a checklist of the important points things you will want to assess.
  • Plan your interview questions in advance.
  • Look thoroughly at their CV. Check for gaps, unusual claims or job moves.
  • Allow plenty of uninterrupted time for the interview.
  • Ask each candidate the same planned, core questions.
  • Have more than one interviewer.
  • Listen carefully to their answers – don’t assume.
  • Where possible, set them an appropriate test.
  • Now look back at your checklist.  How did they compare?


Your candidates are judging you too.  Their first impressions will help them decide if they will fit in and if you will be good to work for.

If you would like to discuss this further, please contact me.

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