With many transitioning their hiring practices to be almost fully remote--from applications and interviewing to selection committees and offer letters--we need to get serious about addressing our own biases when we are being invited into the homes of a potential hire.
With the backdrop of social unrest and the George Floyd protests, now more than ever we must examine our own biases when making hiring decisions that will shape the fabric of our teams. Of course, these are no substitute for actual unconscious bias training and a robust and inclusive hiring process that takes months, sometimes years, to develop. However, if you're looking for a few good reminders to keep top-of-mind when conducting your next Zoom interview, consider the following.
Backgrounds matter, but not as much as you think.
It's cliché, but the hiring process is a lot like trying to find a needle in a haystack. That's why, in order to make instant judgments, we sometimes project our preferences, beyond common interview answers, onto an interviewee. For instance, if you personally like to keep your home neat and tidy, you may unconsciously think that a messy house may mean the person will be an unorganized, sloppy employee.
However, you have to forego all judgement when it comes to the state of someone's house during a video interview. You just don't know the personal situation of any potential new hire--you don't know if they have kids making a mess, roommates who work odd shifts, or other external factors that have no bearing on whether they would be an all-star employee.
Similarly, some interviewees may choose to use a fake Zoom background instead of opening up their home to you in an interview. Don't be offended or read anything into it. It's normal not to want your potential boss to see your dirty laundry or awkward family photos. Ask your questions, and move on.
Interruptions happen. Acknowledge them and be kind.
Being invited into someone's home means that interruptions may happen, no matter how many times the interviewee has asked their friends, family, and pets to not disturb them for the next hour.
Sure, an impromptu interruption may ruin the flow of a conversation or interrupt a thought here and there, but these are part of working from home. Be consciously aware of any bias that interruptions could unveil in the hiring process. Acknowledge them, be understanding, and then continue your conversation.
Messy hair, don't care.
While some hair salons are starting to open their doors, not everyone will feel comfortable heading back to their hairdressers right away.
If the person you are interviewing has long, grown-out roots or has a few more gray hairs than their LinkedIn profile suggests, it shouldn't bias you in the slightest. If it does, this is the time to take a mental check and make sure you are not prejudging someone on something irrelevant.
At the end of the day, snap judgments happen--but we need to be hypervigilant and actively work to combat them. We must internally acknowledge our own biases, instead of being embarrassed and pretending that they don't exist.
Before each interview, check in with yourself and set an intention for the interview. You should use the interview process to vet your employees for the things that matter, and ask the deep questions that will be relevant to their prospective position. Any other judgments should be quietly acknowledged and then tossed aside.