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Structured interviews: How to avoid cognitive bias?

eye 81 Published on 08 Aug. 2023
tag #Cognitive bias

Are you hiring on gut feeling? You're not alone. And yet, as we all know, it's easy to fall into the trap of cognitive bias in recruitment, which can distort our judgements and lead us to make decisions based on subjective criteria. 
In this article, we'll give you the keys to overcoming these biases and conducting more objective and effective recruitment interviews. 
You'll be amazed at how a little organisation and structure can transform your selection processes and your final decisions!

Assessing a candidate: the various approaches

There are many different ways of assessing candidates. Some people trust their instincts, relying on a general impression or 'gut feeling'. Others prefer to take references from former employers or colleagues. Although these methods can produce interesting results, they are also subject to cognitive bias.

Cognitive biases: what exactly are they?

Cognitive biases are mental shortcuts that we often take without being aware of it. They are automatic mental processes that influence our decision-making, sometimes unconsciously. When it comes to recruitment, these biases can lead to errors of assessment and cause us to make choices that are not always objective.

The most common cognitive biases in recruitment include :

Confirmation bias: the tendency to favour information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs about a candidate, while ignoring contradictory elements.

The halo effect: the tendency to generalise our general impression of a candidate to all their skills, even if we have not specifically assessed these skills.

Similarity bias: the tendency to favour candidates who are similar to us or who share our interests and personality traits.

The most important thing to remember is that these feelings, even unconscious ones, have an impact on our decisions, and lead us to make costly mistakes.

Countering cognitive biases with the structured interview

Now that we are aware of cognitive biases, how can we overcome them in the recruitment process? That's where the structured interview can help. Unlike unstructured interviews, where questions can vary considerably from one candidate to another, the structured interview follows a predefined framework and objective evaluation criteria.

The structured interview uses standardised questions, established in advance, which enable consistent and comparable information to be gathered between candidates. This approach eliminates the possibility of favouritism or subjective judgements based on superficial impressions.

In addition to providing a solid basis for assessment, the structured interview also helps to minimise memory errors and oversights, as all candidates are assessed on the same criteria and using the same process.

Scientifically proven method

Numerous scientific studies have shown that structured interviews are more reliable than unstructured interviews. A 2003 study published in "Personnel Psychology" revealed that structured interviews are more reliable for assessing candidates' skills. Other studies have shown that they can reduce unconscious bias in the recruitment process.
The benchmark study by researchers Frank Schmidt and John Hunter* attributes a predictive success rate of 26% for a structured interview versus 14% for an unstructured interview.

Psychometric tests: a valuable complement

By combining structured interviews with assessment methods such as psychometric tests, we can achieve a prediction rate of 60 to 70%.

Psychometric tests are essential complementary tools for evaluating candidates objectively. These tests measure an individual's cognitive abilities, specific skills and personality traits, providing a more in-depth and comprehensive assessment.

Psychometric tests can help identify candidates whose skills and personality traits best match the requirements of the position to be filled. Combined with a structured interview, they enhance the objectivity of the recruitment process and enable informed decisions to be made, based on tangible evidence.
When used in conjunction with the interview, they reduce selection errors by 24%*.

In conclusion, the structured interview, combined with psychometric tests, is a powerful strategy for overcoming these biases and assessing candidates objectively and fairly. 
So, are you ready to adopt the structured interview to recruit without bias? 

Try the 100% customisable structured pre-selection video interview - SMART INTERVIEW.

*Schmidt, F.L., Hunter, J.E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings, Psychological Bulletin, vol. 124

Lucia Mititel

Communication & Marketing Director - Central Test

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