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Diversity and inclusion are critical components of a healthy and thriving workplace, yet many organisations struggle to build a diverse and inclusive workforce. One area where bias and discrimination can creep into the hiring process is during the interview stage.

Unlike online pre-employment tests, which are easily automated, interviews require significant manual input from assessors who may harbour conscious or unconscious biases against candidates from specific groups. These biases can harm an organisation's diversity and inclusion objectives, while also negatively impacting candidates from certain populations.

This process is known as "Strategic Workforce Planning," and in this article, we will outline how HR teams can utilise strategic workforce planning to ensure close alignment between the HR team and the employing organisation as a whole.

In this article post, we explore several strategies for mitigating interview bias and promoting diversity and inclusion in your organisation.

section one

Use structured interviews

Structured interviews are a valuable tool in mitigating interview bias and promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In contrast to unstructured interviews, which can be subjective and prone to personal biases, structured interviews follow a standardised format and use predetermined questions to evaluate candidates' qualifications.

Structured interviews provide a clear framework for assessing candidates, making it easier to evaluate all candidates based on the same criteria. By eliminating variability in questions, interviewers can avoid asking candidates questions that may be inappropriate or irrelevant, which can inadvertently lead to bias. This approach allows interviewers to evaluate all candidates on the same scale, promoting equal treatment and creating a level playing field for all candidates.

Structured interviews also help to reduce interviewer bias by reducing the opportunity for interviewers to rely on personal biases or subjective impressions. Instead, structured interviews rely on predetermined, job-related criteria that have been validated to ensure that they are relevant and reliable indicators of job performance. This helps to eliminate the potential for personal biases, such as age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background, to influence the interview process.

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Another key advantage of structured interviews is their ability to promote transparency and accountability in the hiring process. With a standardised set of questions, interviewers can evaluate each candidate based on objective criteria, creating a more objective and unbiased hiring process. This can help to build trust and confidence in the hiring process, promoting the perception of fairness and equal opportunity.

Ultimately, organisations should never conduct unstructured or conversational-style interviews when making high-stakes selection decisions, particularly if they have D&I objectives. By utilising a strict and unchanging set of questions, rating criteria, and job-related competencies, you minimise the impact of unconscious bias on interviews, helping to build a more inclusive workforce.

section two

Provide formal interviewer training

Providing formal training to interviewers on interview best practices is essential to performing fair and effective interviews. Formal training can help interviewers become more aware of their own biases and how they may unintentionally impact the hiring process. This can be especially important in creating a more inclusive workplace, where everyone has equal opportunities regardless of their background. When interviewers go untrained, they simply fall back on their personal biases and individual preferences when making selection decisions, often without realising it. After receiving formal training, however, interviewers will be better equipped to assess candidates more objectively, reducing bias.

Formal interview training can help interviewers develop the skills and knowledge they need to conduct structured interviews effectively. This includes understanding the importance of asking job-related questions, evaluating candidates based on objective criteria, and avoiding questions or behaviours that may be discriminatory. With this training, interviewers can be better equipped to evaluate candidates fairly and accurately, without any unconscious biases that could affect the hiring decision. Additionally, providing training to interviewers can help to create a culture of inclusivity throughout the organisation.

"When interviewers are trained on diversity and inclusion specifically, they can act as ambassadors for these values and spread them throughout the organisation. This can help to create a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of their background or identity."

- Ben Schwencke

In practice, few organisations provide formal and structured training to staff expected to interview. Consequently, not only are such interviews unlikely to predict real-world performance, but they also introduce unwanted bias, harming diversity and inclusion initiatives. The return on investment that organisations receive from interview training is likely to be considerable, both regarding the quality of hire, and in support of diversity and inclusion objectives.

section three

Address unconscious bias

Addressing unconscious bias is an essential, albeit tricky, part of creating a more inclusive workplace. Unconscious bias refers to the unconscious attitudes and beliefs that we hold about certain groups of people, which can influence our thoughts and behaviours, often without us even realising it. These biases can be harmful, as they can lead to discrimination and exclusion in the workplace.

To address unconscious bias, organisations can provide training that helps employees become more aware of their own biases and learn how to mitigate them. This training can include information on the different types of biases, how they manifest in the workplace, and strategies for recognising and addressing them.

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One effective approach to addressing unconscious bias is through Implicit Bias training. This type of training helps individuals become more aware of their own biases by identifying them through interactive exercises and discussions. By acknowledging the existence of these biases, individuals can begin to develop strategies to mitigate their impact and create a more inclusive environment.

Organisations can also provide training on cultural competency, which can help employees become more knowledgeable about different cultures and backgrounds. This training can help employees develop the skills needed to work effectively with people from diverse backgrounds, which can promote a more inclusive workplace.

It is essential to note that addressing unconscious bias is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort and commitment from all employees. Organisations should make training on diversity and inclusion a regular part of their professional development programs to ensure that employees have the knowledge and skills needed to create a more inclusive workplace. Additionally, although these training programs can be expensive and time-consuming, they are ultimately worth conducting in order to support diversity and inclusion initiatives. Consequently, they should be considered an investment in the organisation's well-being, rather than just an added cost.

section four

Use panel interviews

When done well, panel interviews can be another useful tool for reducing bias and promoting diversity and inclusion in the hiring process. A panel interview involves multiple interviewers conducting the interview and evaluating candidates together. This approach can help to minimise the impact of individual biases and promote more objective evaluations of candidates. Naturally, different interviewers will display different biases, so when the ratings are eventually aggregated, these biases are cancelled out by each other's ratings, ensuring that no one candidate is treated especially unfairly.

One of the main advantages of panel interviews is that they allow for a more diverse set of perspectives to be considered. With multiple interviewers from different backgrounds, panel interviews can provide a more holistic view of a candidate's qualifications and potential fit for the organisation.

This can help to reduce the impact of any one interviewer's personal biases or subjective opinions. Organisations should think carefully about choosing interviewers for panel interviews, ensuring that a wide range of demographics are represented in the panel itself.

In addition, panel interviews can help to reduce the potential for discriminatory questions or behaviours during the interview process. With multiple interviewers present, there is a greater likelihood that any inappropriate questions or behaviours will be identified and addressed. This can help to create a more respectful and inclusive interview process, where all candidates are evaluated based on their qualifications and job-related skills. This keeps the interviewers accountable, as poor behaviour or unfair treatment of candidates will be immediately recognised by their fellow interviewers, helping to keep things professional.

Although panel interviews require greater time, effort, and resources to conduct, the benefits do outweigh the costs. As a general rule, at least three interviewers should be present for a panel interview, which statistically should be sufficient to dilute the effects of personal biases. However, this only works if each interviewer holds different biases, for if all three interviewers share the same biases, then candidates are likely to be negatively affected. Consequently, if a diverse interview panel cannot be found, organisations should seek to increase the number of panel interviewers, hopefully further diluting the effects of personal bias.

section five

Use talent analytics

Lastly, talent analytics is a powerful tool in the arsenal of any diversity and inclusion practitioner. By using data and metrics to measure the effectiveness of the interview process, organisations can identify areas where bias may be present and take steps to mitigate it. Without talent analytics, the outcomes of diversity and inclusion initiatives may be uncertain, making it hard to quantify the success or failure of interventions.

One way talent analytics can help is by analysing interview data to identify any patterns of bias in the interview process.

For example, an organisation may analyse interview feedback to see if certain interviewers consistently rate candidates from certain backgrounds or identities lower than others. By identifying these patterns, organisations can provide targeted training to interviewers or adjust the interview process to reduce the impact of any bias.

Talent analytics can also be used to measure the diversity of interview panels. By analysing data on the makeup of interview panels, organisations can identify any areas where the interview panel may be lacking diversity. This can help to ensure that interview panels are diverse and representative of the organisation's workforce, which can help to reduce the potential for bias in the interview process.

Another way talent analytics can help is by analysing interview data to identify any differences in the evaluation of candidates based on their background or identity. For example, an organisation may analyse interview data to see if candidates from certain backgrounds or identities are consistently rated lower than others.

"By identifying these differences, organisations can take steps to mitigate the impact of any unconscious bias in the interview process."

- Ben Schwencke

Talent analytics can even be used to identify bias at the individual question level. Techniques such as differential item functioning can identify whether specific questions in a structured interview are inherently biased against certain groups, allowing analysts to flag them for review. Such depth of data shows a serious commitment to diversity and inclusion, but does require considerable statistical, psychometric, or data analytic expertise, often requiring external help from a specialised consultancy.

section six

Summary

Interviews are powerful tools for employee selection and assessment, but they come with risks. The personal biases, preferences, and opinions of specific interviewers are likely to affect hiring decisions, almost always negatively. Instead, organisations must attempt to structure their interview processes as much as possible, minimising the potential for bias to impact selection decisions. Concurrently, organisations should aspire to reduce unconscious bias as much as possible, further reducing the harmful effects of bias when subjectivity is unavailable.

To further help minimise bias and support diversity and inclusion objectives, Test Partnership offers a wide range of pre-employment tests designed to reduce your reliance on interviews. When shortlisting, employers can choose from a wide range of thoughtfully fair and validated assessments, helping you to shortlist without bias. For more information on our suite of assessments, please contact us directly or start a free trial today.

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