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Eliminating Bias from the Interview Process

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Recruiting is the business of guiding companies and candidates through a series of decisions. Morunda is an Asian-based pharmaceutical recruiting company that helps companies determine the most effective approach for securing the best possible candidates by mapping the available talent within a given market. We walk our candidates through the process of deciding to change companies by giving them up-to-date market information.

In recent years, psychology and behavioral economics have illuminated how people make decisions. Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) discusses how people make decisions. In the book, he offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in business. His suggestions are relevant to recruiting for both internal and external recruiters. Kahneman describes how we can use different strategies to defend against mental shortcomings that may lead us astray. We all have prejudices and make quick judgments; we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. A common experience of recruiters and line managers alike is the psychological phenomenon of substitution. How does this affect the decision-making process? Substitution is a psychological process of thought that underlies cognitive biases and perceptual illusions. It occurs when an individual has to make a judgment (of a target attribute) that is complex and instead substitutes a more familiar set of assumptions (“Attribute Substitution,” Wikipedia). Rather than asking questions to probe and find out the facts, it’s easy for a recruiter to make up a story that supports his or her bias.

Consider the following statements about candidates:

  • He is a marketing manager at AbbVie for the drug Humira.
  • She holds a PhD from the University of Singapore in biochemistry.
  • She is an Eli Lilly marketing director who has spent time at headquarters in Indianapolis.

For many recruiters, these statements will quickly bring an image to their minds, and they may build a story around each candidate from this image.

Based on previous experiences and biases, it’s easy to create a scenario that supports the above statement. Recruiters aren’t the only ones who fall into the trap of substitution. At times, line managers are also quick to pass judgment based on a candidate’s academic qualifications or a past company affiliation.

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