Interviewer Bias Example (with 5 Great Stories)

Interviewer Bias Example: bias is something that happens inside the brain of an interviewer that is likely to skew his or her perception of a candidate

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If you are looking for interviewer bias example, you are in the right place. In this brief post we will explain all you need to know about interviewer bias, provide you with 5 examples, and give you some tips. In fact, if you are interviewing for a position as a candidate, you want to know how to spot interviewer bias. On the other hand, if you are on the other side of the table, you want to prevent this bias from altering your judgement.

Quick Definition of Interviewer Bias

Before diving into the examples, you are here for, let’s set some common ground. We do that by defining interviewer bias. Unsurprisingly, the definition of interviewer bias is quite simple.

Interviewer bias in a job interview happens when the interviewers evaluate the candidate not based on the candidate actual worth, but on projections the interviewer makes on the candidate. Rather than trying to assess the skills of the candidate, the interviewer tries to project (or remove) some skills on the candidate, whether it actually has them or not.

This definition is simple, but spotting interviewer bias is not easy. This is why you’ve been looking for an interviewer bias example, and here you will see not just one but five.

Interviewer bias can be either in favor or against the candidate. In some cases, the candidate is seen in better lights than he should. Of course, in others, it is seen in worse light than it should.

Interviewer Bias Example

Here we have not just one but five examples of interviewer bias.

Affinity Bias

This is one of the most common types of interviewer bias. In this interviewer bias example, there is some affinity between the interviewer and the candidate, and so the candidate is seen in better light that he should.

Imagine the candidate showing up on Monday for an interview, and the hiring manager asks “How was the weekend?”. The candidate responds something like “Pretty good, I went for a hike here and there”. Turns out the hiring manager is also passionate about hiking, and they quickly get along. Now, the hiring manager has a favorable view of the candidate, even unconsciously, despite the fact that no work-related evidence has been presented yet.

When the rest of the interview happens, the hiring manager may be more inclined to dismiss red flags and to emphasize positive characteristics of the candidate.

This is why, to avoid this kind of bias, it is always recommended to never ask personal questions in, before, or after an interview. Not even the most innocent, like about the weekend. At most, limit yourself to “How was the weather?”.

Halo Bias

Next interviewer bias example we will discuss is the halo bias. This is also another type of bias that tends to benefit the candidate. In this case, the candidate has something like a “halo” for which she is seen in positive light.

More specifically, during the course of the interview, there is something that makes the candidate stand out as really good. It might be something she did, something she said, or just the way she appears throughout the interview. In any case, this makes the interviewer think “this candidate is really good”, and after that they tend to dismiss, ignore, or downplay any negative signal.

The halo effect is a common interviewer bias example
With theh alo effect, the interviewer believes the candidate has some sort of halo.

The candidate has some sort of halo in the eyes of the interviewer, which tends to discount any other type of feedback.

Unfortunately, from the interviewer standpoint, this is a bias that is hard to contrast on your own. Instead, large companies tend to compensate for that by having multiple interviewers run a job interview, either all together or have multiple rounds of 1-to-1 interviews. As we will see in other examples, this is a good strategy to contrast pretty much any bias.

Horns Effect

Since we covered the halo bias, we should turn to its opposite as next interviewer bias example. As you can imagine, in this case the candidate has no halo, but some horns.

Of course, “horns” here really means that the candidate appeared as a “bad” candidate once (and maybe even briefly) on one item of the interview, and now the interviewer already made his mind. Anything else that is positive after that will be discarded or downplayed.

To give a specific interviewer bias example when it comes to horn effect, think about a candidate that was not able to answer a question. After that, he gets asked other two questions on more important items and answers perfectly. However, the interviewer is not convinced and even unable to fully process the answers, as he is stigmatizing the candidate for his previous poor performance.

So, the candidate has horns, and getting out of this image the interviewer is projecting onto him is hard, if not impossible. To contrast this interviewer bias example, we can use the same exact strategies we used to contrast the halo effect. After all, halo bias and horns effect are just two sides of the same coin. Hence, have multiple interviewers probe a candidate and never just one.

Confirmation Bias

This next interviewer bias example has to do with confirmation. This can be either in favor or against the candidate, it really depends on how the interviewer feels about the candidate. For this bias, the interviewer already has an idea of the candidate (for whatever reason) and looks for clues that will confirm that idea, ignoring things that would dispute that. In other words, the interviewer tries to confirm and reinforce the idea he already has of the candidate.

Often, confirmation bias comes from some form of prejudice, and it is unconscious. The interviewer may have a positive or negative idea based on the candidate’s age, gender, origin, accent, fluency in the language, whatever. Yet, the most common situation where we experience this interviewer bias example has to do with the context the interviewer is in.

Imagine the interviewer has been looking for a replacement after one member of the team left. His research has been going on for several months and in the meantime the team is struggling with one less member. In other words, he desperately needs someone to fill this position, so he might as well enter each interview with the idea “this candidate is going to be the one I need”. Or, it may be frustrated thinking that there are no good candidates on the market after seeing so many that he will enter the interview thinking “now I am going to see yet another unworthy candidate”. Either case, it works to confirm his own idea.

Just like in the other cases, having multiple interviewers can mitigate this effect. Yet, be aware that if all the interviewers are exposed to the same context, for example all working for the same team, there won’t be much mitigation. Something else that can help you with this on the interviewer side is to document all your feedbacks in writing, and then discuss them with other interviewers.

On the candidate side, you may mitigate this situation just a little by asking confirmation yourself to the interviewers once you are in some form of agreement. For example, ask questions like “Do you think I have the right level of experience you have been looking for?”, ideally after you understand that you have it. Don’t overdo this.

Attribution Bias

Our final interviewer bias example is attribution bias. This is similar to the confirmation bias, but with a twist. It is another cognitive bias, but in this case the interviewer tends to make up reasons for facts and things that happen to the candidate, instead of looking at the facts objectively. He tries to craft explanations, or more accurately, to invent explanations.

An example of attribution bias may be something like the following. The candidate shows up 10 minutes late at the interview, and then the interviewer thinks “he came late because he does not care”. Truth to be told, the interviewer has no way to certainly assert if the candidate cares or not because he cannot read his mind. Yet, he assumes a cause for a behavior, even if such behavior does not imply a specific cause.

This interviewer bias example is dangerous like many others. If combined to the confirmation bias, it can be destructive. In such a case, the interviewer paints a picture of the candidate based on his beliefs (attribution bias) and then frames the rest of the interview so that the candidate lives up to such faulty image (confirmation bias).

If you are an interviewer, the best way to contrast this bias is to formalize feedback in writing, formalizing everything and limiting yourself only to facts. Instead, if you are the candidate, there is little you can do to mitigate this interviewer bias example. This is because attribution is not often apparent, so you might not even realize you are being evaluated with this bias. Still, consider this bias may occur and try to avoid behaviors that people may use as a trigger to build this bias (like arriving late, in this example).

Interviewer Bias Example in a Nutshell

In this brief article, we covered many examples of interviewer bias. Let’s summarize them with a list. In the list, the name of the bias is paired with a sentence (as it would be said by the interviewer) to give you a gist of each bias.

  • Affinity bias: “Oh you go hiking like me, you must be good at the job”.
  • Halo effect: “You did great in this part of the interview, there is no reason to consider other parts when you performed poorly”
  • Horns effects: “You really screwed up the interview, you will not recover in any way”
  • Confirmation Bias: “Since one of my team members left, I am desperately looking for a candidate, yet I am sure the next one to show up will be the one. You are the one!”
  • Attribution bias: “You were late because you do not care”

Interviewer bias can be quite a bad thing. Try to improve your organization and recruiting practices withth this guide on how to hire the best people.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

Alessandro Maggio