In the last few months, I have been conducting interviews for summer interns. Evaluating interviewees is incredibility difficult when you only have a piece of paper and maybe 30 minutes of discussion to decide if this person is qualified to do the job and would be a good fit for your company.
You usually need to make vast assumptions on a person’s character, personality and work ethic before you make a decision to hire them or not. These assumptions are usually made based on how they answer certain questions, body language and the little information we know from their resume. For example, if the interviewee grew up in Weston, MA, they probably come from a wealthy family and have a good education (based on median income and the public school reputation). Furthermore, if the interviewee has work experience spanning high school and college, they probably have a good work ethic and can handle a demanding workload.
While some of these assumptions will work in the interviewee’s favor, others can negatively impact them. I manage a woman who is a very friendly, intelligent and blonde. She is quick to laugh and wonderful to be around. However, she has mentioned some people misjudge her and assume she is flighty or dumb. This assumption may be based on her hair color, her sense of humor or her age. Regardless, it’s the wrong assumption.
I am currently reading a great book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People and it makes me wonder how much I am affected by my hidden biases during these interviews. Some of my biases I am aware of. For instance, coming from a small town, I root for the underdog – the person who has had to work to get through college and maybe isn’t as polished as an Ivy Leaguer.
We all have biases, make assumptions, and stereotype people. These things, whether hidden are not, can help and hurt interviewees – and that’s not necessarily fair. Those who conduct interviews need to take the time to understand themselves and their own biases and stereotypes and try to keep the assumptions to a minimum.