Skip to main content

What can recruiters do to avoid falling into the trap of substitution and to help line managers put their biases aside?

Written on .

The following suggestions have been adapted from Lou Adler’s book, Hire with Your Head:

  1. Before screening a candidate, either in person or via résumé, acknowledge your own biases. Make a conscious decision not to pass judgment for 30 minutes.
  2. Some orchestras have musicians audition behind a curtain to avoid biases. Phone screening can be the company’s curtain. A phone interview forces the interviewer to focus on content rather than on appearances, nerves, or any number of superficial factors that may be irrelevant to whether the candidate can perform.
  3. It has been said that we have two ears and one mouth and should therefore listen twice as much as we speak when interviewing. Although it’s only natural to speak more when we like someone, we often get excited and chat away thinking, “What a great candidate! We are connecting.” This is a common mistake. Zip it, and listen.
  4. Imagine that you’re speaking to a consultant, not to someone interviewing for a job. This paradigm shift has the interviewer listening more and treating the candidate as an equal. The interviewer should naturally be asking open-ended questions and be seeking solutions to problems.
  5. Studies (e.g., Meehl, 1954) have shown that a structured interview is the most effective and yields the greatest chance of success. By focusing on five or six standard factual questions, interviewers are required to adhere to quantifiable parameters. Studies have shown that performance predictions using this method prove to be more accurate than ones based solely on gut instinct and intuition.

We are all human and therefore biased. However, if we use a more scientific method, it can tilt the scale to our advantage.


Meehl, P. (1954). Clinical versus statistical prediction: A theoretical analysis and a review of the evidence. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Share This Post