When conducting an interview, it can be easier than you think to let your personal biases creep in and influence your view of a candidate. Even when following the structured interview process, it is critical to remain objective so that you do not allow your unjustifiable assumptions to become a barrier to hiring quality talent. Here's how you can overcome common biases so that you do not unfairly venerate or judge the candidate:
Reject the Halo Effect and Pitchfork Effect
The Halo Effect refers to a bias where you find something positive about another person, and then allow that positive impression to yield other unsupported, positive opinions. For instance, if a candidate comes to the interview looking well-groomed and in a professional outfit, the interviewer might think, "This candidate looks sharp and they clearly care about the way they present themselves to the world. This candidate must put forth that same effort and attention into their work. I bet their financial reports are flawless." One positive thought can suddenly give way to a stream of positive thoughts about a person that could be unsubstantiated. In this example, the hiring manager has no idea what this candidate's financial reports look like, much less if they are even accurate.
The Halo Effect can become especially dangerous when the hiring manager's positive feelings interfere with the actual knowledge, skills, and abilities the candidate brings to the table. Perhaps this well-groomed candidate has limited or no experience in creating financial reports, but the hiring manager brushes off the lack of this essential skill because "They put in the effort. I'm sure with their work ethic they would learn how to do those reports in no time." This thought pattern can, and often will, lead to hiring an unqualified candidate.
The Pitchfork Effect is the antithesis of the Halo Effect. The Pitchfork Effect is the tendency to find something negative about another person and then allowing this dislike to taint your opinion of them in all aspects.
In an interview setting, the Pitchfork Effect can cause hiring managers to write off a candidate before he/she can even be effectively judged. Personal dislikes can overshadow an otherwise excellent candidate who is qualified for the position.
The line of thinking behind the Halo and Pitchfork Effects becomes a slippery slope hiring managers stumble down because it subverts the integrity of the structured interview process. Do not jump to conclusions too quickly because first impressions can often be unreliable. Suspend your feelings and seek out evidence that supports whether or not the candidate has the ability to do the job.
Do not just "go with your gut"
Some hiring managers may find it tempting to make an emotional hiring decision that undermines the credibility and fairness of the structured interview process. However, acting on feelings often forsakes the evidence that determines if the candidate is actually a fit for the role (i.e. if the candidate has the right knowledge, skills, and abilities to do the job well).
Moreover, some gut feelings may even border on discriminatory and can land hiring managers and their companies in hot water. Many qualified candidates have been passed over for absurd "reasons" such as not having a "corporate look", not smiling enough, or having a weak handshake.
Stick to the facts when evaluating candidates. If you do have misgivings about a candidate, make sure they are rooted in the objective criteria that distinguish a successful candidate from an unsuccessful candidate.
Allowing emotions to cloud your judgment inhibits your ability to identify quality talent. To find the right hire, check your emotions at the door, follow the structured interview process, and base all decisions in objective hiring criteria.
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