How to avoid bias in your interview questions when hiring

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Job seekers can spend hours preparing for a job interview, from researching the company to reviewing frequently asked interview questions – but how do interviewers prepare before speaking to a candidate ?

The National Association of Colleges and Employers estimates that employers will hire 31.6% more college graduates in 2022 than they did in 2021. That means many hiring managers and business leaders have many interviews in front of them, and without certain considerations, they can unconsciously bring prejudice. and discrimination in the maintenance process.

Even the most common aspects of interviews, like using small talk to start the conversation, can get interviewers off on the wrong foot, says Maggie Smith, vice president of HR at compliance training provider Traliant. .

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“As an interviewer, you want to put the candidate at ease, so you’ll strike up a small conversation with the person,” Smith says. “If you don’t really think about it before you start the interview, that’s where you could get in trouble.”

For example, an interviewer may ask about the candidate’s family or where they went to college, not realizing that the candidate’s answer may unfairly inform the employer about them. If a candidate has children, especially if it’s a woman, hiring managers might view it as a liability, while anonymous colleges can encourage bias if the interviewer is an alumnus, Smith says. . Instead, Smith suggests starting an interview by asking candidates why they’re interested in the opportunity.

“It’s a great way to check if your candidate has done their homework properly,” she says. “And it moves the conversation forward without getting into troubling territory.”

As a general rule, interviews should avoid asking questions that expose the candidate’s personal life and ensure that each question is relevant to the position for which they are being interviewed. Smith’s lists asking applicants about their graduation dates or asking about someone’s ethnic or national origin are big questions to avoid, as they can lead to racial or age discrimination. even if the interviewer doesn’t think they said bias.

As for graduates just entering the workforce, interviewers need to be aware of how their experience will differ from that of seasoned professionals, Smith says. Graduates may not have many years of experience, and the experience they do have is likely from work-study programs, internships, and volunteer opportunities. Interview questions should be tailored to highlight what they have learned and the skills they have acquired through their experience.

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Smith also reminds interviewers not to pass judgment on a candidate’s surroundings during a virtual interview — that includes commenting on a family photo or other personal items that may be in their background.

“If your candidate is interviewing in their bedroom, remember that this may be the only private space they have in their home for an interview,” Smith says. “Not everyone is familiar with different technologies, like Zoom or Teams to be able to blur their background. You can’t make judgments based on their physical surroundings alone, because it’s a new world the people.

This advice applies to problems that occur during a virtual interview, whether it’s dogs barking, cats jumping in front of the computer, children interrupting or the doorbell ringing. . Smith advises leaders to politely acknowledge the interruption and allow the interviewee to handle it, without anchor points.

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Interviewers can ensure a more unbiased experience for themselves and the candidate by even asking the recruiter to remove personal information from a resume, such as the candidate’s location or the college they graduated from, Smith suggests. As a general rule, interviewers should try to stick mostly to behavioral-type questions, such as asking for an example of a goal they didn’t achieve and how they did it, or asking for a time when they solved a problem. problem in the workplace. .

“These questions give candidates the opportunity to respond with what they’ve done in the past, which is a great predictor of future results,” Smith says. “Get the answer you need to make an informed business decision.”

Smith emphasizes balancing compassion and professionalism in every job interview. Keep the interview focused on whether the candidate can best fulfill the role, rather than criticizing personal aspects of their life that have no bearing on the job at hand, be it their age, family or an angry dog ​​in the other room.

“As much as anyone can plan, recognize that not everything is under the person’s control,” Smith says. “Think about how you would like to be treated in this situation and react accordingly.”

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