Structured Interviewing

While most HR professionals are well trained in interview practices, departmental hiring managers frequently are not. This factor can lead to unintentional hiring bias, which can ultimately result in teams having a very homogenous makeup. One way to actively reduce bias during the recruitment process is by using structured interviews. In a structured interview, questions are planned out in advance and every candidate is asked the same set of questions, in the same order.

The goal is to discover skills and competencies, rather than seeking commonalities with the candidates which often come about from non-structured interviews (“I see you’re originally from Pennsylvania? Me too! Where about? Do you enjoy fishing?”). This is not to say that a few icebreaker questions to put a candidate at ease and gauge their communication/social skills cannot be used.

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At first glance, the unstructured interview appears attractive due to its loose framework, and conversational flow. These same features make this type of interview very subjective, which reduces its accuracy and invites in bias and legal challenges. In a structured interview environment, candidates can feel confident that they are being assessed on their skills, rather than any subjective factors. Because the questions are the same for every candidate and asked in the same order, every candidate has an equal opportunity to provide the same information.

Here are some other tips that can be useful in reducing bias during the recruitment and selection process:

Educate your hiring managers on the high bias areas in interviewing — start out by educating your hiring managers and your recruiters about which interview steps have the highest probability of bias.

Use advanced technology to screen resumes because it is so objective — vendors in recruiting are beginning to offer machine-learning driven software that can screen, and sort resumes objectively with a minimum of bias.

Mask or redact any resume elements that may lead to screening bias — Start with names because research has shown that they are at the top of the list for triggering biases. You should mask names, (and substitute a random number) because a name might indicate gender, race, national origin, or even age. Mask other resume elements such as grades, education level, and home address. Redact items manually using MS Word’s hidden font, white color font, or inserted black boxes.

Use an interviewing committee — it is quite common for managers to hire individuals who who are most like them. This poses a problem and diminishes the amount of diversity in an organization or on a team. One way to eliminate this “just like me bias” is to use an interviewing committee. The hiring process will be more objective by leveraging the perspective of others.
 
The leader should reserve their comments until everyone else has weighed in — when you have a team of interviewers, any positive or negative comment from the leader will directly influence the decisions of others. So, the best practice is for the leader to wait until everyone has completed their assessment and made their comments before revealing their own.

Require a score sheet to keep resume assessments focused — the most effective bias reducing tool for resume screening and the easiest to implement is to require resume screeners to use a score sheet that is unique to each job. Because these scoresheets only contain valid selection factors for the particular job, they allow resumes to be assessed only on the predetermined selection factors and leaves no room for biased judgement.

Require an interview score sheet — one easy to implement bias reducing tool for interviews is to require all interviewers to use an interview score. Because these score sheets only contain valid and objective selection factors, they force interviewers to assess candidate interviews only on the predetermined items. These sheets can also reduce an interviewer’s use of informal “knockout factors” like handshakes, eye contact, tattoos, and body language.
 
Give the candidate a real problem to solve — an effective way to assess a candidate during an interview is to assess them based on how they would solve a real existing problem that they are likely to encounter in the position.
 
Take some time over the next few months to change one thing about the recruitment and selection process in your organization and reflect on the results following the change. Continue to work on small changes and speaking with other organizations to share information on what is working well and where there are challenges.  
To learn more about these tips and structured interviewing, connect with Kesha Carter, CCSI Chief Diversity Officer. Check out our flyer for more about building diversity and inclusion for organizational growth.
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Kesha Carter
Chief Diversity Officer
Coordinate Care Services, Inc.