Have you ever interviewed someone for a job, convinced after an hour’s discussion that this person was quite competent and could successfully transform your business, department or office into the envy of all your peers – only to find that once on board, this person was ill-prepared or couldn’t get along with the team?
All too frequently companies hire the wrong person. There are many factors that contribute to these failures – not conducting background checks or drug tests, taking the candidate on his/her word about experiences without further probing, focusing on the wrong work capabilities and/or seeing only the surface because of unconscious biases.
There is a lot to be discussed, yet it pays to focus on two key points: unconscious biases and poor interview techniques.
One factor known to influence hiring decisions is the applicant’s physical attractiveness. The bias in favor of physically attractive people is clear-cut, with attractive people being perceived as more sociable, happier and more successful than unattractive people.
There is considerable research evidence that physical attractiveness significantly influences the hiring process. The more attractive an individual, the greater the likelihood that person will be hired.
However, the reverse of the typical bias occurs for traditional “male” or “female” jobs. For instance, for female applicants applying to a typical “male” job – attractive females are evaluated less favorably than unattractive females. Attractive females are perceived as more feminine than unattractive females and are at a disadvantage when seeking jobs that require traditionally “masculine” characteristics.
These biases are prevalent throughout our society and not only seen during the hiring process, but also in teacher’s judgments of students, voter preferences for political candidates and jury judgments.
Also, in a review of stereotypes in the media across five decades of top-grossing films, researchers found that attractive characters were portrayed more favorably than unattractive characters on a variety of different dimensions.
This is not limited to attractiveness – age, height and weight also play into these biases. For instance, companies are likely to pay more to taller people. All else being the same, tall employees earn about $789 a year more for every inch in height.
Since it is neither fair nor good business to base hiring decisions on superficial or irrelevant issues such as attractiveness, height, ethnic background or sexual preference, training hiring managers to avoid unconscious biases and follow objective interview protocol is important. This begins with honing one’s interviewing skills.