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Step 5 Bias Training and Tools for Interview & Candidate Selection:

Inclusive Bias Free Interview & Selection

Your Inclusive Person-Centric Hiring Solution

Managing Interview Bias

Bias Training

Candidates want to be selected when they interview. Hiring managers and recruiters want to find the “right person” and fill the position as fast as possible.

In this Step, we explore how the “right person” can sometimes be lost through interviewer bias.

  • It’s a problem for candidates and hiring managers alike.
  • We will explore what interviewer bias is and reflect on the different types of bias and their impact.  

We will also demonstrate ways to avoid interviewer bias and provide a sample interview guide.

  • Explore how competency-based questions and consistent rating criteria instruction can help minimize bias in candidate selection.
Bias Training

What is interviewer bias?

Interview bias happens when the interviewer judges a candidate not on their skills and competencies but on undeclared subtle or potentially unconscious criteria.  

  • Most interviewers would say that they genuinely try to be well-intentioned, objective, and fair.  
  • The truth, however, is that we are all influenced by unconscious biases that are formed from the direct experiences we have had with people, events, and situations.
  • We have also been influenced by indirect experiences learned through our culture stories passed on from generation to generation, books, and media.

If our biases or pet peeves are not checked, the weight given to one small act could overshadow all of the other qualities and contributions a candidate has to offer.  

  • For instance, an interviewer could ultimately reject a candidate based on their handshake, not making enough eye contact, or because they crossed their arms during the interview.

Why Minimizing Interview Bias is Important?

Unconscious bias in interviewing often leads to bad hiring decisions followed by high turnover rates.

  • If left unchecked, interview bias in its many forms will have a negative impact on the efforts the organization has taken to become more inclusive and bring more diversity to its workforce.
  • This animated video by the Royal Society was designed to engage members of their selection and appointment panels to recognize bias in themselves and others towards the different ways different candidates present themselves, and to explore how to minimize biased judgment in the interview and selection process.

Common Types of Interview Bias

Interviewer bias can show itself in many ways and significantly influence the selection process.

  • Human Resource providers and platforms use slightly different names to define common types of interview bias, but how they show themselves and impact candidate selection is fairly consistent.
  • This list of interview biases is credited to The Society for Human Resources in the Academy to Innovate HR course – Ways to Avoid Interview Bias in your Selection Process.



This is when you judge someone based on their group, rather than their individual characteristics. For instance, you reject a male candidate for a receptionist job because women are more friendly. Or you reject a woman for a position with a high travel requirement because she probably has children and won’t want to travel. Both ignore the genuine candidate sitting in front of you.


Inconsistency in questioning.

Instead of asking each candidate the same or similar questions, you adjust your questions to the candidate in a way that prevents you from getting the whole picture. For instance, you may drill a candidate with a degree from the local university about their course work and what they learned but assume a Harvard candidate learned everything they needed in the class.


First impression.

You may prefer the candidate who enters confidently and gives a firm handshake to the candidate who appears nervous and has sweaty hands. Unless the job requires the candidate to meet with new people frequently (such as in a sales position), this type of first impression bias can eliminate quality candidates.


Halo effect.

If the candidate gave a spectacular TEDx Talk, you might be so focused on that one thing that you judge them as being better in all areas. This is not a fair analysis of their skills and work history. Don’t let one brilliant aspect of their resume overshadow the areas in which they are weak.


Horn effect.

This is the opposite of the halo effect – if the candidate scores poorly in one area, you assume they do poorly in all areas. You may reject a candidate who makes grammar errors in his or her cover letter while he or she is a brilliant programmer. If grammar isn’t a critical part of the job, it shouldn’t be a crucial part of the evaluation.


Cultural noise.

This type of bias happens when a candidate is trying to impress you rather than share their valid preferences, and you don’t pick up on it. They may advocate a specific position because it’s the politically correct one, but you don’t learn anything about the candidate. If a candidate says, “I’m happy to work from home or in the office, I just don’t care!” it’s doubtful that it is true. If the position is open to either, that’s fine, but if it’s 100 percent on-site, you want to know if the candidate is okay with that.


Non-verbal bias.

Are you judging candidates based on body language rather than skills? This bias can result in rejecting neurodivergent candidates or candidates from cultures that don’t share the same body language preferences as your culture. Remember, people with autism may not look you in the eye, use stims to keep themselves calm, or have other body language that seems different. It doesn’t mean they are less qualified.

A person from a culture that defers to authority may look down as you talk, while someone from a culture where eye contact is a sign of respect may look directly at you. Neither is an indicator of potential in the job – it’s just nonverbal bias.


Contrast effect.

If the first candidate was weak, does the second look extra strong? Instead of comparing candidates to a standard, you compare them to each other. It gives mediocre candidates who interview after poor-performing candidates advantages over strong candidates who interview after other strong candidates.



This type of bias is also referred to as affinity bias. You feel strongly about a candidate because you have a lot in common – you like the same music, went to the same school, or grew up in the same neighborhood. This doesn’t relate to their existing skills.


Central tendency.

This is the type of bias that happens when you’re holding out for the perfect candidate. You find fault with everyone, so you class everyone as “middle of the road” and keep looking for that elusive purple unicorn (or ninjas as we call them these days).

How to Avoid Interviewer Bias in your Selection Process

Knowing that interview biases exist is the first step.

  • Intentionally incorporating ways to avoid or minimize their impact is essential to help the hiring and selection process to be inclusive and fair to all candidates.
  • The tools and resources presented in the 10 Tips To Avoid Interview Bias have been developed from HR hiring experiences and a modified similar list prepared by Academy to Innovate HR online blog.

Start by Creating a Structured Interview Process & Guide

A well-developed Interview process that incorporates a number of the tips listed below will help the organization consistently prepare for, structure and conduct their interviews.

  • This ensures that all candidates will have the same experience.
  • As well, it will assist interviewers to minimize bias and confidently arrive at a fair assessment of all candidates.

By incorporating the tips outlined below into your interview guide/process, you will have the flexibility you need to adapt the specific content i.e. questions and priority competencies that you are seeking for any hiring campaign.

  • This is where all of your efforts in the previous steps i.e. Community Outreach, preparing your Person-centric Job Description and Inclusive Job Posting will really pay off.

Learn more: Explore the benefits of using an Interview Guide and 7 key elements in this Academy to Innovate HR blog.

10 Tips to Avoid Interview Bias


Recruit from a wide variety of places

If the job is remote or will provide relocation costs, then don’t limit your recruitment geographically (other than legal requirements, or time zones, depending on the work). Advertise in a wide variety of places. This will bring you a bigger, more diverse candidate pool. Then use the methods below to find the most qualified candidate.


Build a diverse shortlist

Logically, if your company’s talent searches look for candidates from a wide variety of places and sourcing channels, you’ll end up with a more diverse group of people to assess, interview, and eventually shortlist as finalists. Research from the Harvard Business Review suggests that building a diverse shortlist that groups candidates based on gender or ethnicity, can reduce unconscious bias and increase the chances of them becoming the favorite candidate.


Develop a rubric and use rating criteria to assess candidates

Before you begin the interview process, determine which skills are essential, and look at those skills individually. This will help you avoid stereotyping, first impression bias, and contrast effect, among others. Usually, the hiring manager and recruiter will have already determined the competencies, skills, and knowledge required for the position when putting together the job description (so it makes sense to use these in the interview).


Require anonymous test assignments

These should be short and not actual work that benefits the business. Every candidate receives the same assignment – whether it be writing a piece of code, analyzing a data set, or writing up a brief description of how to handle a specific problem. Judge the work product without identifying the candidate. Basing judgment on work produced alone eliminates almost all the biases if the work is directly related to what the job needs.


Have multiple people interview candidates

Having more than one interviewer and encouraging each interviewer to ask questions that are of particular interest or relate to their expertise and how they may interface with the new hire will help to reduce bias.


Use standardized competency-based questions

Develop a set of competency-based questions that you ask every candidate. This way, you don’t veer into similar-to-me bias as well as inconsistency in questioning. You won’t accidentally forget to ask one candidate about X, and then reject that candidate because X is an important skill.

Some organizations start with a phone screening and/or interview. This avoids any judgment based on someone’s looks, body language, or other factors related to their external appearance. However, there are other factors that need to be considered if using this approach. Ensuring the time for the call has been scheduled to meet the candidate’s schedule is essential.  Here too, the structure is important.

So phone interview or not, make sure to ask each candidate the same questions in the same order.


Take notes as you go

Instead of waiting until the candidate leaves to write down your impressions (which tend towards similar-to-me bias, stereotyping, and halo/horn bias), write down your impressions as you go. Using a standardized interview guide with room to capture the candidate’s answers, tips for what the organization is looking for, and consistent criteria for rating the response will help the interviewer in arriving at a more bias-free assessment.


Reduce the chit-chat in an interview

It’s normal to start with “How are you?” or “I hope your drive in was okay,” but that can quickly turn to questions that exacerbate bias. The drive-in question tells you about a candidate’s neighborhood, which may increase the “like me” factor. (Oh, you’re from Doylestown? I grew up there!) or the stereotype bias (Oh, you’re from Doylestown? I always thought stuck-up rich kids lived there.)


Leave politics out of it

Unless your business focuses on political subjects and the candidates share these beliefs, focus on skills alone. Provide candidates with your code of conduct, so they know how your business operates, but don’t ask about their opinion on the day’s popular debates. Be clear about the job requirements instead of asking candidates to try to guess what you like.


Don’t use your “gut”

Sometimes you may just like a candidate or feel that this person is the best person. If you use the above methods to evaluate candidates, you’ll have a quantifiable answer as to the best candidate. Your gut is simply your own biases disguised as intuition.

Getting Started!

Interview Bias Types Reflection

Interviewer bias can show itself in many ways and significantly influence the selection process.

  • Human Resource providers and platforms use slightly different names to define the many types of interview bias, but how they show themselves and impact candidate selection is fairly consistent.

This reflective activity invites you to explore some common interview bias examples and consider those that you have observed and/or need to consciously be aware of when interviewing.


Learn more: Check out these terrific free online Interview Bias Training Resources:

Guided Interview Process - Question & Scoring Tool

This sample-guided interview process and scoring tool demonstrate how to incorporate many of the tips to avoid interview bias outlined above.

  • It continues with the Admin-Tech Specialist sample role introduced in the Job Description and Job Posting steps.
  • You can adapt this resource to meet your needs based on the competencies and indicators that you have identified as essential for success in the role.  

We invite you to explore other interview guides to develop a structured interview process that works for you, however, we recommend that your interview guide/process incorporates most if not all of the elements introduced in this segment.

Step 5: Completed

In this step, you have explored the challenges that interview bias brings to the selection process.

  • We know that we cannot eliminate interviewer bias completely.
  • The way the human brain unconsciously processes information and daily interactions will always result in introducing a degree of innate preferences.
  • On the other hand, following standardized interview and evaluation practices and training interviewers on the impact of interview bias will help to reduce their influence.
  • Further, in advance of each new hire campaign, a refresher training that reviews the effective use of tools to minimize bias in the interview will have a  significant impact on your company’s bias reduction efforts.  

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See the detailed list of all resources and citations used in the development of this step on the Resource Citations Page.