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Reduce Unconscious Bias with Interviewing Training

Newsletter • volume 1 • number 3

Conventional wisdom can lead to trouble in today's rapidly changing and complex world. More that one well-intentioned interviewer has told me they have always heard that one has to ask every candidate the same questions to keep interviews legal. They went on to explain that this was required because you have to treat everyone equally.

This is very dated advice. We advance a different theory in our interviewing training program. We advocate that managers consider interviewing training that calls for seeing each person as a unique individual. This entails becoming aware of your own cultural filters so that you are better able to reduce unconscious bias in your interviews.

You want to give people an equal opportunity, but treating everyone the same is not really fair at all. We help clients to focus instead on treating each person as a unique individual. What participants learn in our interviewing training is that they need to expand their cultural comfort zone whenever they encounter an interview situation which is unfamiliar or uncomfortable. Without this ability, interviewers run the risk of being non-objective in their assessments and un-open to cultural diversity.

It's interesting to note that some interviewing training firms are arguing vociferously for the status quo of "treating everyone the same." Some of our interviewing training competitors are saying that because diversity is so complex, the only proper response is to treat everyone equally by asking the same questions of every candidate for a given job. They argue that each candidate is treated fairly because each is treated the same.

This is not what diverse candidates want! They want to be considered and understood as unique individuals. In fact, this is part of the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The next time someone tells you it is necessary or required by law to use the same questions with every candidate, ask them how that relates to interviewing someone who has an MBA versus another candidate who has an undergraduate degree in business administration. Or ask them how it relates to a candidate who speaks English as a second language, or who recently immigrated to this country, or is disabled, or has any of thousands of other qualities which differentiate all of us from one another.