First impression
Candidate evaluation is a complex process and is subject to a variety of biases. Research has identified a number of evaluation errors. It should be emphasised that, although some interviewers may be more susceptible that others to a particular source of bias, it is unlikely that anyone is completely free from bias of any kind. Some of the most common biases which occur are as follows.


There is a wealth of evidence that, in first encounter situations such as interviews, people who are physically attractive are evaluated more favourably that those who are less attractive. This is true over a whole range of human characteristics and occurs both when the person is the same sex and when they are of the opposite sex. This factor is unavoidable.


Contrast occurs when interviews fail to assure absolute standards of judgment when assessing candidates. Instead, the assessment of the candidate is influenced by the quality of the immediately preceding applicants. For example, if an interviewer sees two or three weak candidates followed by an average candidate, the latter is judged too leniently. It is a little hard to control this variable.


Common observations of peopleís behaviour, both at work and in everyday life, suggest that most individuals possess both favourable and unfavorable characteristics. The individual candidate who is superior on all favourable characteristics is extremely rare as is the individual who has no redeeming features. Yet research evidence indicates that interviewers frequently perceive people in these black and white terms. Candidates tend to be judged as all good or all bad. This halo effect is particularly likely to occur where a candidate has a single outstanding characteristic. For example, if a candidate is unusually high on one attribute, interviewers typically tend to minimise or ignore any weaknesses they have in other areas.


Strong impressions of a personís character are often made by observing body language. In many instances this can be helpful. However, there are often subtle cultural and gender difference in body language which can lead us to making the wrong assumptions about a person. For example, in some cultures, individuals will not look an interviewer in the eye to show respect. Unfortunately, this is often misread by interviewers as evidence that the interviewee is "hiding something", or as evidence that they are a "shifty character - couldnít look me in the eye". In some cultures, the body language displayed is opposite to that we are used to leading to other assumptions such as "she wasnít interested in anything I was saying - she never looked at me once when speaking to me".

Research also suggests that women and people from certain cultural backgrounds are more self-effacing in interviews. For example, they are more likely to give credit for their achievements to their team rather than to themselves. This can lead to wrong assumptions being made. Research has also found that, in general, women will often only apply for jobs if they feel they can do 90% of the job description/tasks/duties whereas, in general, men will apply for a job if they can do as little as 40% of the job description/ tasks/duties.


This is the process whereby people are assumed to possess or lack certain characteristics as a function of their membership of particular social groups. Such beliefs are very widespread and often interfere with rational judgment about candidates. Typical examples include beliefs about people on basis of their racial origins, their social class backgrounds, their disabilities or their sex. Questions related to race, sex, social background and disability are not permissible and there is legislation to outlaw questions in these fields in the United Kingdom.

Increasingly it is not a person's "Intelligence" that is the major issue in getting a job. The concept of an "Adversity Quotient" (AQ) i.e. your ability to respond effectively to adversity may be more important than your intelligence. The AQ is determined by: having a sense of control over unexpected situations; willingness to assume responsibility and take action, no matter who caused the problem; ability to keep a crisis from spreading versus disabling catastrophising; and the ability to see beyond a crisis. It takes the ability to "get small" to cope in these difficult situations. 

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