Interview Bias: Overcoming the Silent Forces Working Against You
Your job interview is tomorrow. You know your appearance will matter, so you polish your shoes and brush your hair. You realize your interviewer will have your resume in hand, so you've come prepared to explain every minute detail included on it. You've even done practice interviews and prepared your responses to all the trick questions. Are you ready? Not yet.
There remains a single type of preparation that you should do that can make or break your interview-knowing how to handle the possible biases of an interviewer. You need this knowledge because of a simple reality; interviews are subjective, no matter how many objective indicators are introduced. Interviewers are human, and all carry with them some assumptions about different types of people. Despite what may be valid attempts to leave these assumptions behind in the process, even the most earnest interviewer may be letting some of these biases make their way into the decision-making process. The best candidate for a job has many a time been passed over in the interview process because of bias. You don't want to be one of them.
You're not likely to be able to change the bias itself in the short duration of the interview, and you may not be able to recognize it with so much else going on. You can, however, increase the chances that the interviewer will not apply their biases or assumptions toward you. This means preparing for the possible biases of an interviewer before you encounter him/her. You therefore need to recognize the most likely biases people have toward you and prepare to address these biases in interviews to minimize their impact.
Pinpointing Potential Biases
Many people think biases surround visible differences that people have, like race, gender, or appearance. This is true. However, biases usually run much deeper and assumptions are made about a number of other potential differences you may have with your interviewer. An interviewer may unconsciously make assumptions about you based on the way that you speak, your age, or any of the background information you have listed on your resume.
To figure out some of the biases that may surface, give some thought to comments people have made to you in the past that surprised you. Have people thought you were much younger or older than you actually are? Have they assumed you were less intelligent because of your accent? Have you been labeled because of the way you dress? Have people been surprised to learn something in particular about you? Make a list of some of these assumptions or obstacles that could impede on the interviewer from seeing you as the best candidate.
Use your friends to add to your recollection. Ask them what their first impressions of you were. Colleagues from the past are especially valuable since they know you in a work atmosphere and work attire. Have friends read through your resume and create a list of five statements they would make about you based on your resume. Ask them to limit their responses to information on the resume and explain your goal in the exercise so you get honest answers. Combine these statements with ones people have made about you in the past and keep a list handy with all of these assumptions.