Personnel selection is a crucial task in any organization. It is vital for companies to hire the best candidates for vacant positions, as this can have a significant impact on the efficiency and success of the company. The job of the personnel selector is highly demanding. In a short period of time, they must be able to make an objective assessment of the professional candidate applying for the position and decide whether to continue in the process or not. However, this determination can be influenced by selection biases or cognitive biases.
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So, what are these cognitive biases really? How do they impact personnel selection? What types of cognitive biases exist? Is it possible to avoid them?
Cognitive biases within a personnel selection process.
The first thing to understand is that biases can occur at any point in the personnel selection process. From creating the job offer to the final candidate selection, there are several points at which biases can arise. Therefore, it is important to be aware of possible biases at all stages of the process.
Cognitive biases are preconceptions or prejudices that a person has about an individual or thing they are unfamiliar with, which affects their perception of reality. These prejudices can have a particularly dangerous impact in the field of Human Resources.
In the personnel selection process, cognitive biases can unconsciously manifest through the information that the recruiter receives from the candidate, such as their appearance or initial conversation. However, these biases can lead to misinterpretation and evaluation errors.
Types of bias in personnel selection processes.
Several types of biases that can influence the candidate selection process have been identified. Among them are:
- The Halo effect occurs when a particularly positive characteristic of a candidate’s profile is emphasized so much that it influences the overall evaluation of that person, preventing their potential from being carefully examined. For example, it is common to assume that a candidate who graduated from a prestigious university is the best option for a job without considering other important attributes.
- The Horns effect is the opposite of the Halo effect and occurs when a characteristic is perceived as negative and this affects the overall profile evaluation, preventing the analysis of other candidate attributes. For example, a candidate may be dismissed for having graduated from a less prestigious university without taking into account other important aspects.
- The affinity and similarity bias is common and relates to the existence of a common factor between the candidate and the selector, such as sharing a community or place of origin. This bias arises because people naturally seek to be close to those they consider similar to themselves.
- The contrast effect is another bias that can influence the selection process. As multiple profiles are reviewed or several interviews are conducted without finding the ideal candidate, there is a tendency to compare them, which can distract from the profile that is really being sought. In addition, prejudices and stereotypes, such as race, gender, or physical attributes, can also affect hiring processes.
- The confirmation bias occurs when someone has a first impression of someone, usually during the first few minutes of the interview, and looks for evidence to support their own opinion to validate it.
- The conformity bias occurs when a member of a selection team feels influenced by the majority that leans in favor or against a candidate, and decides to join them instead of expressing their own opinions.
It is important to note that these biases may be more or less present depending on the company or even on the culture of each country. Therefore, it is essential for selectors to be aware of their existence and work to avoid them throughout the entire selection process.
How to avoid biases in a selection process?
It has been shown that cognitive biases can influence the selection process, so it is important to take measures to reduce their effect. Four tips can be followed to avoid biases:
- Identify the cognitive biases that may be present in your selection process.
- Evaluate all candidates in the same way and according to the same criteria.
- Do not be too influenced by prior information you have about candidates, such as their resume or social media, but instead focus on the candidate themselves.
- Avoid asking questions related to shared personal values or interests with the candidate, and instead ask relevant questions to the position and pay attention to the candidate’s demonstrated skills and attitudes.
Additionally, it is important to let the candidate express themselves and not influence their responses, take the necessary time to reflect on each candidate, and avoid emotions affecting decision-making.
Other recommendations include:
- Consolidating a diverse selection and recruitment team in terms of age, gender, and profile to ensure a broad and balanced vision. Using standardized tests to improve the objectivity of the selection process.
- Use specific skill tests related to the tasks that the candidate will have to perform in the future to evaluate their performance based on the quality of their work and not on their appearance, age, or personality.
- Adopting practices such as “blind” resume review, removing personal data and photographs to avoid activating biases.
- Seeking the advice of experts in profile search who apply diversity criteria and auditing HR processes and policies to ensure they are neutral in terms of gender, age, culture, profile diversity, or experiences.
In conclusion, it is important to avoid biases in selection processes because they can lead to unfair and inaccurate decisions in choosing candidates. Cognitive biases are tendencies or prejudices that develop in our minds and make us lean towards certain people or groups, while ignoring or dismissing others. In the context of selection processes, these biases can be based on characteristics such as age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality, which can lead to unconscious discrimination and the exclusion of qualified candidates.
Moreover, biases can also affect the quality and effectiveness of the selected team. If people are selected based on prejudices or stereotypes instead of skills and experience, this can weaken the team’s ability to meet organizational objectives and face market challenges. Therefore, it is important to have impartial and objective selection processes and avoid biases as much as possible to achieve fair and equitable candidate selection and build strong and effective teams.