The Illusion of Objectivity: How Biases Influence Hiring Decisions

Imagine a situation where you need to decide between two candidates for an executive role:

Candidate A. This person is extroverted, friendly, with an amazing educational background and work experience. On top of that – they share the same interests and hobbies as you.

Candidate B. This person is experienced yet introverted. They do not seem to share as many interests with you although they have experience in a relevant industry.

The Snap Judgment Trap: Why First Impressions Can Be Misleading

Your unconscious biases will affect your decision on whom to hire, no matter how objective you try to be. It takes one-tenth of a second to make a wrong judgment about someone. Thus, it comes as no surprise that first impressions can be misleading – Candidate B may have turned out to be the executive you’re looking for, but as a result of unconscious bias, you mistakenly assumed that extroversion is automatically linked with good performance.

Unveiling the Culprits: Common Biases in Hiring

There are hundreds of unconscious biases out there, yet which are the ones that are most common in the hiring process?

  1. Affinity/similarity bias: when we favor a candidate because we share a characteristic with them.
  2. In-group bias: the tendency that people have to favor their own group (ethnicity, regional origin, same school, etc.) over that of others.
  3. Halo effect: basing an impression on knowing one positive thing about a person.
  4. Horns effect: when a person’s negative impression of someone influences their perception of that person’s individual traits, regardless of whether or not those traits are actually present.
  5. Confirmation bias: the tendency to focus on and look for evidence that supports our existing beliefs, rather than information that challenges them.
  6. Social bias: when a hiring manager unconsciously favors a candidate who belongs to the same social group or ethnicity as them, over other candidates who may be more qualified.
  7. Illusory correlation bias: when we perceive a relationship between two things where no such relationship exists
  8. Anchoring bias: when people rely too heavily on the first piece of information they receive when making a decision or forming an opinion.
  9. Attribution bias: when we evaluate or try to find reasons for others’ behaviors, reasons that are not always the most accurate.
  10. Beauty bias: when people form opinions or make judgments based on a person’s physical appearance, rather than their actual abilities or qualities.

Taking Action: 4 Strategies to Combat Unconscious Bias

Four tips on how to prevent unconscious bias in hiring:

Tip 1. Educate yourself and your team about hiring bias.

Tip 2. Write inclusive job descriptions.

Tip 3. Collect valuable insights in an unbiased, data-driven way.

Tip 4. Structure the interview process to emphasize diversity.

Building a Fairer Future: Embracing Conscious Hiring

Companies and firms must shift quickly from old, unconsciously biased recruiting to a system that is more in tune with today’s world. Given the complexity of this change, firms will need to recruit, interview, and screen candidates in a whole new way. A relationship with a recruiting firm that understands and stands for the demands of this new world is likely to produce the best results. An effective recruiting partner will partner with the company to identify the right combination of skill and experience to find the top candidates and to convey to them what the hiring company stands for.


BrainWorks is a recruiting organization that partners with clients to match them with recruiters who are experts in meeting their needs. Areas of specialization include: Accounting & Finance recruiting, Accounting & Finance – Interim recruiting, Alternative Investments recruitingAnalytics, Data Science & Data Governance recruiting, Commodities Technology & Training recruiting, Consumer Products recruiters, CRM & Direct Marketing recruiting, Cybersecurity recruiting, Data & Data Insights recruiting, eCommerce & Digital Marketing recruiting, Financial Technology, Go-To-Market Search – Private Equity/Insurance and Financial Services recruiting, Human Resources recruiters, Legal recruiting, Market Research & Consumer Insights recruiting, Medical Device recruiting, Private Equity Recruiting – Portfolio Companies, Private Equity, Private Credit & Corporate Development recruiting, Sales and Marketing recruiting, Supply Chain & Operations recruiting, Tax Recruiting, Technology recruiting. We solve your hiring challenges by leveraging our vast network of highly skilled talent and our extensive, time-tested industry expertise. To learn more about how BrainWorks can help you, contact us.

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