In cognitive psychology, confirmation bias refers to the human tendency to naturally favor information that supports or confirms their own pre-existing beliefs. Regarding recruiting and hiring candidates for jobs, interviewers or hiring managers may latch onto or seek out information that confirms their intrinsic opinions or beliefs, then favor that candidate for filling a position.
The selector may ask interview questions that play on a candidate’s strengths instead of asking questions that challenge the candidate to share information that can result in a better hiring decision. In some cases, the questions may be irrelevant to the job requirements, but the interviewer hopes to elicit responses that support their initial assumption.
When confirmation bias occurs, the interviewer may even discount or ignore details that challenge the first impression they receive, and the selector forms a negative or positive impression based on just one or two related or unrelated details. In short, the interviewer wants to believe they are correct.
According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology in 2015, 60% of interviewers make a decision about the suitability of a candidate within 15 minutes. Even more alarming is that the study showed that more than 69% of decisions by hiring managers were made after just five minutes.
The American Psychological Association (APA) has conducted research indicating that people have a natural preference for avoiding challenges that require them to open up to new beliefs. Also, people naturally seek confirmation and reinforcement that their beliefs are correct.
Other theories suggest that people may rely on confirmation bias because it allows for faster decisions. This theory particularly makes sense when recruiters have many applications or resumes to process.
In most cases, confirmation bias is an unconscious bias. However, the cost of confirmation bias is high because it can cause selectors to make poor hiring decisions.
Suppose a hiring manager grew up in a culture that saw tattoos as being associated with negative behaviors. When this hiring manager sees a tattoo on a candidate, they may make a negative judgment that has nothing to do with the candidate’s ability to perform the job effectively.
Belief Perseverance or Persistence
is sometimes used to describe confirmation or conformity bias in action. With the bandwagon effect, people do something when they see other people doing the same thing. In many cases, this can override their own opinions or beliefs. When this happens in teams or hiring panels, it could be because the urge is strong to find consensus.
occurs when a hiring manager relies too heavily on the first thing they learn about a candidate and use this knowledge as a starting point for decision-making.