Practical tips to keep recruitment bias out of the interview room

A controversial new piece of research has revealed that nearly half of hiring managers allow bias to influence them when selecting a candidate.

A survey conducted by digital recruitment platform SomeoneWho found that just 32% of HR managers feel confident that prejudice does not affect their candidate choice, 48% actually admitted discriminating against candidates. A further 74% said they had witness discrimination and bias in the interview room.

Shockingly, the survey found that:

  • 11% of HR managers would reject a client because their accent was hard to understand
  • 18% would overlook a pregnant woman for a role, while 11% said they would be reluctant to hire a recently married woman for fear she would soon take maternity leave
  • 10% said they would turn down a woman applying for a male-dominated role, while 9% would avoid hiring a man for a female-dominated role

Many of the findings of the research demonstrated obvious and illegal bias towards candidates based on characteristics such as gender, marital status, age and ethnicity.

How to keep bias out of your interview room

While discrimination of this kind is clearly unacceptable, there are other forms of bias – unconscious or otherwise – that can easily creep into the interview rooms of any organisation. To start working on this crucial issue within your business, here are some practical tips to start off with:

  1. Assemble a mixed interview panel

Research by sociologist Lauren Riviera, published in the American Sociological Review in 2012, found that many lawyers, bankers and consultants tended to hire candidates that were most like themselves. This causes the replication of problems such as gender segregation of jobs, for example – men only hiring men for banking roles, female teachers only hiring other female teachers.

To break patterns such as this and to create a fairer, more comfortable interview environment for all candidates, it’s important to put together a mixed panel in terms of age, ethnicity and gender. Furthermore, add in a third party such as an HR representative with little vested interest in the role or the department.

  1. Anonymise the application process

To prevent hiring managers having preconceptions or bias about a candidate before they even reach the interview, consider bringing in an anonymised application process. There is even software that can help with this, or you can consult a specialist digital recruitment agency.

  1. Invest in training

Making hiring managers and panel members aware of the fact that they may be exhibiting bias in the interview room, even if they aren’t conscious of it, can go a long way to stamping out discrimination. Unconscious bias training can be an excellent investment to consider.

  1. Standardise interviews

This is the most important action to take if you want to prevent or reduce bias during the recruitment process. Follow these steps:

  • Agree on what you’re looking for beforehand. Set the standard and agree that you’re looking for a candidate to say certain things.
  • Ask each candidate the same questions
  • Have fixed assessment criteria

Standardising interviews in this way means that every candidate is assessed in the same way. It puts an end to unstructured interviews which can often veer off into personal territory. You may also want to consider setting a job-related task or problem for each candidate to solve.

For more advice and support on the interview process, get in touch with the experts at SOLOS Consultants – digital and IT recruitment specialists.



image courtesy of Sira Anamwong @

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