Unconscious Bias in the Interview
Newsletter volume 2 number 3
If you think you are impartial and open-minded, think again as unconscious bias may cloud your judgments far more than you realize. Research on how we form impressions about those we first meet suggests we do this much faster than we realize. That's the conclusion to be drawn from Dr. Jonathan Bargh's studies on the way emotional evaluations color our smallest perceptions. "There's nothing that's neutral," says Bargh, a psychologist at New York University and a pioneering researcher into how the brain processes information. "We have yet to find something the mind regards with complete impartiality . . ."
Still, what about all those times when we don't "mull over" our initial impressions, but simply accept them as reliable judgments? The idea is alarming, particularly with regard to the interview situation, where interviewers have traditionally made critical decisions about applicants based on first impressions. Furthermore, Bargh's findings seem to have profound implications for such widespread social attitudes as ethnic and gender biases. But Bargh maintains that these biases can be overcome by thinking about them, just as other prejudices can be unlearned. "The more you think about an opinion, the weaker the influence of these unconscious biases," he claims.
Interviewing Today's Workforce® seminars a technique for avoiding unconscious bias in the interview. We show interviewers how to alter their thinking so that they can move through their "cultural comfort zone" and increase their objectivity. Bargh's research seems to confirm the importance and effectiveness of these techniques, and we are increasing the emphasis of unconscious bias training in our seminars.