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Jun 23, 2016
by James

Stop First Impression Interviewer Bias Before It Starts

Posted in Interview Process Excellence

First Impression Interviewer Bias happens when you judge a job candidate too fast.


When you look at the job candidate above, what do you see?


Do you see a confident, high-performer, ready to ace the interview?


Or a timid young girl with no confidence?


No matter what you saw, you probably had an opinion, right?    It’s a natural human response.


The problem with first impressions is that interviewers make fast judgements on candidates — often times in the first few seconds of meeting them.   And whether they know it or not, they’ve already made their hiring decision before the first question is even asked.





First impression interviewer bias is the conscious (or unconscious) impression that you have of a candidate in the first few moments of meeting them.


Types of interviewer bias include:


–  Appearance ( how attractive or unattractive the candidate is or how their dressed).


–  Age, gender, race and religion.


–  Verbal bias.  For example, if a candidate speaks too loudly, too softly, to fast or too slow or with a lisp or with an accent.


–  Non-verbal biases exist as well.  Things like timid body language, a weak handshake or the lack of eye contact can all form a certain impression.




In an interesting study conducted at the University of Toledo, Psychology researchers found that it only takes an interviewer about 15 seconds to form a decision about whether or not they think a candidate will be successful in a given position.    And in most cases, they reach the same conclusion as an interviewer who conducts a full interview.  This indicates that bias could be at work causing both groups to make the same decision early in the process.


To add to the matter, first impression bias can cause an interviewer to let down their guard after they’ve made their initial assessment.   Then, whatever the candidate says or does after that doesn’t really matter all that much.   In these instances, interviewers find reasons to like or dislike the candidate to support their initial impression.   This is often referred to as “The Halo” effect and it works for both positive and negative first impressions.




So what can you do?  Well, the easiest way to manage interview bias is simply by being aware of it.  And understanding that it’s a natural human response when meeting new people.


But if you can tell yourself not to form an opinion about a candidate until after you’ve asked all of your planned questions and reviewed your notes, you’ll be well on your way to making a data-driven decision, instead of an emotional one.


That’s why we recommend using a structured interview with an interview guide to allow interviewers to focus on what’s really important — finding the most qualified candidate for the job.


For more information, download our guide on how to identify and stop interviewer bias before it starts!

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