You’ve put a lot of work into inclusive recruiting and sourcing at your tech company, but the candidates receiving offers don’t seem to reflect the diversity of your pipeline. It’s a common frustration. Strategies for promoting diversity and equity should be evaluated at every stage of the hiring process, and interviews are often the time when unconscious bias is most likely to creep in.
In this article, we’ll give you some suggestions for coaching your engineering team to give the tech talks that level the playing field. After all, building diverse tech teams doesn’t stop at the engineering team. talent acquisition: this is also the responsibility of hiring managers. You’ll learn how engineers can use structured interviews, job-relevant questions, and progressive questions to help support your diversity initiatives.
Types of biases that can occur during technical interviews
No one likes to think they’re biased, yet we all have unconscious biases that can affect how candidates are assessed in an interview. Some examples are:
- Confirmation bias: This happens when you are looking for information about the candidate that supports what you already believe to be true about them. For example, suppose you are interviewing a candidate and you are concerned that their resume shows a lack of system design experience. You might unwittingly ask them more difficult system architecture questions than you asked other candidates.
- Halo effect: Sometimes a positive aspect of the candidate can cast a light on the rest of his performance. It could be anything from their bright smile to their description of their volunteer work at a coding school. Without realizing it, you might overlook the fact that a candidate struggled to answer technical interview questions.
- Affinity bias: When you have something in common with a candidate, it’s harder to be an objective interviewer. From a diversity perspective, this creates a vicious cycle where candidates who look like people who already work at your company are more likely to receive high marks in an interview.
- Conservatism bias: Humans tend to “anchor” on the evidence that is presented first, and we are slow to update our beliefs when new information comes to light. This is why we talk so often about the importance of a first impression! However, it is essential that interviewers assess a candidate’s performance as a whole.
Before you say “that’s not me”, we also all have what is called a bias blind spot: studies have shown that the majority of people believe that their own prejudice is lower than that of others.
How to remove bias from technical interviews
Without removing humans from technical interviews, there may be no way to completely eliminate bias. And personal interaction is important in an interview. You could end up working with this candidate for years, and vice versa, so it’s good to get to know each other!
Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the bias traps described above. Recruiters can encourage recruiting teams to practice consistent and repeatable methods for the elaboration and realization of a technical interview. Interviewers will always be a key part of the process – they will just have a method to be objective when it comes to assessing if the candidate is qualified for the job.
1. Structured interviews
Structured interviews are interviews that use a consistent set of questions, stages, and assessment metrics for candidates. Research has shown that structured interviews allow employers to successfully predict how candidates will behave on the job. In addition, they help reduce biases when hiring by make the interview process more objective and consistent.
To create a structured interview, start by deciding which skills the team wants to measure, then develop questions that you can reuse over and over again. This ensures that there is no improvisation during the interview, this is where subjectivity can be introduced as some candidates may get harder or easier versions of questions. Also, make sure the order of the questions stays consistent.
2. Employment issues
To hire diverse candidates, it’s important to keep the questions focused on real, on-the-job skills. This will ensure that candidates are not hired based on how long they have spent studying algorithm puzzles online or based on their understanding of an abstract analogy.
Technical interview questions that assume knowledge of a certain culture or way of life, even something as seemingly innocuous as the operation of an ATM, may not be common knowledge for everyone. the world. If engineers are struggling to come up with practice questions, ask them to think of a simpler version of a problem they’ve recently encountered in their work.
3. Progressive Questions
The order of questions in a structured interview is critical. And this order should progress in complexity from easy to difficult. This allows the candidate to experience a little success right away, which will build their confidence and create the same positive “anchor” for everyone.
Progressive questions that build on a problem are also inherently relevant to the job. Most technical problems in the workplace require engineers to take an initial solution or piece of code and keep modifying it as new information and requirements arise. Designing progressive questions is also easier for engineering teams, as they will be able to use the same technical interview across a range of experience or skill levels, expanding based on how far someone has traveled. .
While you can implement these strategies manually, there are also tools that can tailor your technical interviews in a way that combats bias, while making it easier for your engineering team to pass. all their time developing structured interviews and jobs. relevant and progressive questions. CodeSignal is one such tool that provides a platform to perform consistent and structured technical skill assessments. Request a free demo here.