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Employers tend to recruit "mini-me" candidates

28 August 2015

Employers tend to recruit "mini-me" candidatesNew research into the psychology of recruitment has found that many managers are influenced by unconscious biases and often recruit candidates that they can directly relate to.

According to a new report from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, employers' initial perceptions of whether a person will be a good fit can be determined by factors which have no real impact on performance, including visual, cultural, demographic and situational factors.

In particular, managers tend to favour candidates that they can relate to - what the report calls "mini-me's"; people that share the interviewer's hobbies and experiences or who present themselves in a similar way at interview.

The report found that:

  • Both male and female managers favour men over women in hiring decisions;
  • Managers tend to spend more time with the first few candidates; those interviewed later may come up against managers that exhibit "confirmation bias" or "selective hearing";
  • Identical CVs seem to get more call-backs when the applicant is typically deemed to have a "white" name as opposed to one associated with an ethnic minority group;
  • Open-ended interviews can lead to different participants being asked different questions to unconsciously re-affirm initial impressions.

The CIPD is urging those with hiring responsibilities to overlook their first instincts about a person and instead gain a more accurate picture of a candidate's suitability for the job before they make their selection.

Jonny Gifford, CIPD research adviser, said: "So many recruitment decisions are based on a 'gut instinct' or what feels intuitively right, and this is a real problem. We like to think we can spot talent, but insights from behavioural science show that our decision-making is actually highly prone to 'sloppy thinking' and bias."

He said: "Regardless of the level of resources and techniques one has to work with, there are steps that employers and recruiters can take to ensure that candidates get a fair recruitment experience and that employers find the person that best fits the role and can drive business performance."

The CIPD's report makes a number of recommendations to ensure that employers make better hiring decisions. These include "anonymising" CVs during initial assessment and committing to a pre-agreed set of questions for each candidate.

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