Interviewer Bias: I’ve Had It Up to Here



Tons of articles are written every year about how appearance plays a significant role in whether a person lands a job after an interview. Believe it or not, during the hiring process interviewers may have prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another that’s based solely on physical appearance. Though many are guilty of it, no one probably would ever admit it!

img_0080Come on now… Let’s keep it real here! Would you ever admit that you preferred hiring the applicant with the six-pack abs who interviewed last week because you cannot get your mind off how fine he was in that two-piece suit or that a couple of male executives are constantly demanding you hire the drop-dead gorgeous blonde with the apple bottom?

Although both candidates may be qualified, would either applicant be as unforgettable if they were not so attractive? Sure, employers hire individuals who are deemed a “good fit” for their organization; however, physical appearance should not be the primary determinant on who actually gets the job offer. After all, this is not Hollywood! Or is it?

Unfortunately, too much emphasis is subtly placed on the candidate’s weight, height, size, color, age, or gender during in the hiring process. Once, this supervisor whispered, after an interview, that a female applicant would never make it at the manufacturing facility because of all the stairs because she was obese. Although she eloquently shared good examples how her previous experience working in a warehouse had similar physical demands with the panel, he could not get pass not only her weight but also the fact that she was a woman.

Stereotyping bias occurs when an interviewer assumes that a candidate has specific traits because they are a member of a group. This supervisor assumed that an overweight woman would not be able to successfully perform the job because of its physical demands (Seriously, the stairs… really?). The sad thing is that many candidates will never know that the interviewer’s preconceived ideas is reason they were not hired.

I’m not the most attractive candidate, but I can get the job done!


Am I alone by saying I am tired of hearing that attractive people are more successful or that beautiful people get more job interviews? Seriously, aren’t you tired or reading ridiculous articles about this mess too, as if all the unattractive people in the world should just hang it up or go get plastic surgery?

A person’s chances of getting a job or interview should not increase just because they are very attractive. What’s more, people really need to stop-telling students to forget the university because having a pretty face alone will help guarantee a successful career. When a candidate’s good looks overshadow their lack of experience in a particular job requirement, it is also bias. The halo effect bias happens when an interviewer evaluates a candidate positively based on a single characteristic.

Some people are blessed with good looks to get ahead in life, but what about everyone else. Please let’s not pretend that this is not happening. Discrimination based on physical appearances is just as blatant as age discrimination and the marginalization of people with disabilities. Consider a candidate that has a noticeable eye disability that makes it difficult for him or her to maintain eye contact during the interview. If the person is qualified for the position, but the interviewer rejects them because of lack of eye contact negative emphasis bias occurred. The potential hire may have a lazy or wandering eye, but that does not mean he or she is not cable of doing the work.

Sure, we can continuously talk about what to wear or what not to wear to help a plain Jane (less attractive job seeker) make their best impression during the interview, but what good will that do if they’re destined to fail based solely on looks. Granted, telephone screenings and online skills assessments can help reduce the effect of biases based on physical appearance, but what about when the applicant show ups for the interview or the hiring manager looks them up on LinkedIn?

People approach interviews with all kinds of preconceived ideas or biases that can have a negative impact on hiring decisions. Since hiring managers are including more team members in the interview and or hiring process, training is essential for everyone. Being aware of the following types of interview bias can help reduce the impact on the selection process.


Interviewer Bias


Average/Central Tendency

If the interviewer has a problem choosing the best candidate and gives them the same rating, average bias is evident.



The contrast bias occurs when an interviewer compares candidates to each other or compares all candidates to a single candidate.

Example: If one candidate is particularly weak, others may appear to be more qualified than they really are.


Cultural Noise

Cultural noise bias occurs when candidates answer questions based on information they think will get them the job—what they think the interviewer wants to hear.

Example: A candidate who has been an individual contributor may tell an interviewer that they prefer working as part of a team, if the interviewer stresses teamwork as a key job requirement.


First Impression

This bias can work either for or against a candidate, depending on the interviewer’s first impression.

Example: A candidate who is very nervous and that stutters during the first few minutes of the interview may be viewed as less qualified even if during the remainder of the interview they are poised and well spoken.


Gut feeling

The gut feeling bias occurs when the interviewer relies on an intuitive feeling that the candidate is a good (or bad) fit for the position without looking at whether the individual’s qualifications meet the criteria established by the job specifications and candidate profile.


Halo Effect Bias

The halo effect bias occurs when an interviewer evaluates a candidate positively based on a single characteristic.


Harshness/Horn Effect

Harshness bias, or the horn effect, occurs when the interviewer evaluates a candidate negatively based on a single characteristic.



Knowledge-of-predictor bias occurs when the interviewer is aware that a candidate scored particularly high (or low) on an assessment test that has been shown to be a valid predictor of performance.



Leniency bias occurs when an interviewer tends to go easy on a candidate and give a higher rating than is warranted, justifying it with an explanation.


Negative Emphasis

The negative emphasis bias occurs when the interviewer allows a small amount of negative information to outweigh positive information.

Example: An applicant is unable to maintain eye contact during a job interview. Although the job involves telemarketing and all communication with the customer will be on the phone, the applicant is rejected by interviewer due to lack of eye contact.


Nonverbal Bias

Nonverbal bias occurs when an interviewer is influenced by body language.

Example: A candidate who frowns when answering questions is rated negatively in an interview even though the answers were correct.


Question Inconsistency

Question inconsistency bias occurs when an interviewer asks different questions of each candidate. Although this is acceptable to a certain extent in order to delve more deeply into each candidate’s qualifications, there is no baseline for comparison if there are no questions that were asked of all candidates.



The recency bias occurs when the interviewer recalls the most recently interviewed candidate more clearly than earlier candidates.



The similar-to-me bias occurs when the candidate has interests or other characteristics that are the same as those of the interviewer and cause the interviewer to overlook negative aspects about the candidate. 

Example: An interviewer who played college basketball may select a candidate because he did too even though the candidate’s qualifications are not the best for the position.


Stereotyping Bias

Stereotyping bias occurs when an interviewer assumes that a candidate has specific traits because they’re a member of a group.




Let's talk...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.