Controlling Human Interaction to Eliminate Bias in Hiring

Is controlling human interaction in the hiring process the best way to ensure that the best candidate is offered the job? 

Addressing the issue of eliminating bias from the hiring process, Harvard Professor Iris Bohnet says, “We should stop wasting resources trying to de-bias mindsets and instead start to de-bias our hiring procedures.” Professor Bohnet advocates using “[w]ork sample tests, structured interviews and comparative evaluations” to thwart introduction of bias in the hiring process from personal interviews.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Professor Bohnet criticizes unstructured interviews by panels as well as individual hiring managers. She cites credible research that subjective perceptions tend to undermine the objective of hiring the best candidate. For example:

Gender segregation in the professions has been linked to a mindset of self-replication; i.e., hiring managers tend to evaluate potential performance favorably based on perceptions that the candidate is similar to the manager;

Subjective evaluations of potential performance are generally unreliable indicators future performance; and

Reliance on stereotypes is more pervasive in general assessments of overall potential versus assessment on specific, job-related criteria.

Professor Bohnet recommends a highly-controlled protocol that relies on work-sample testing with objective performance measures and personal evaluations of responses to a single questionnaire administered by different people. The responses to the questionnaires are objectively weighted and ranked and the final candidates are culled before the hiring team meets to discuss the individual candidates.

Is it a fail-safe solution? No. However, it does remove the potential that personal bias will eliminate qualified candidates. Professor Bohnet encourages Human Resource professionals to “fine tune” the hiring protocol to ensure it meets the objectives and needs of their organization.

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