Moving Beyond Biases and Stereotypes

We have learned that we all have biases and we all stereotype - its part of our human nature. So how do we move beyond our biases when engaged in employment interviews so that we can make informed hiring decisions that are truly based on the applicant's ability to do the job? One tool is the use of performance-based interviewing. There is much more to this process than can possibly be covered in this short lesson, but a brief introduction to the topic can be very useful here. The main point is: If you want to limit bias and hire people based on their ability to do the job, then only ask questions during an interview that directly relate to the candidate's ability to perform the duties of the job for which they are applying.

Performance Based Interviewing (PBI) is a method to increase the effectiveness of the interviewing process in selecting and promoting quality staff. With PBI, the interviewer carefully defines the skills needed for the job and structures the interview process to elicit behavioral examples of past performance. The job-related questions help the interviewer better evaluate applicants fairly and improve the match between people and jobs. This method is also referred to as competency-based or behavioral interviewing

Much of the following information is from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

What is Performance-Based Interviewing?

Performance Based Interviewing (PBI) is a selection process that uses interviewing techniques to ask job applicants questions about the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAOs) they have that are important in order for them to do a good job. Studies show that the way people behave in the past is probably the way they will behave in the future. PBI questions ask job applicants to tell about what they did (their behavior) in the past. When deciding who is the best applicant, the interviewer will look at the degree to which each applicant possesses the important knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics necessary for successful job performance.

How are PBI Interviews Different from Traditional Interviews?

Traditional interview questions usually ask applicants to describe what they would do in a specific situation. PBI questions ask applicants to describe what they have done in a specific situation. Traditional interview questions often only require a "yes" or "no" answer. PBI questions require applicants to describe or tell about their experiences. In traditional interviews, the interviewer does most of the talking. In PBI interviews, the applicant does most of the talking. In PBI interviews, the interviewer takes notes. When all the interviews are finished, the interviewer refers to the notes to refresh his or her memory.


Traditional interview question: How would you handle an upset customer?

Performance-based question: Please tell me about a time when you had to deal with an upset customer. What was the problem? What did you do? What was the outcome?

Let's watch a short video (5:45 min.) to introduce us to the process of performance-based interviewing.............


Benefits of Performance-Based Interviewing


Limitations of PBI

While PBI is a good system and can help minimize or eliminate bias, it is not perfect. Some of its limitations include:

1.Underlying flawed assumptions that all high performers in a specific role achieve their outcomes using the same or at least similar qualities and behaviors. This is no longer supported by recent research which shows that people doing similar jobs possess a wide diversity of underlying personality strengths, although their skills and domain knowledge may be very similar.

2. Competencies are derived through understanding what standards are required for "competent performance" in a job. Whilst we believe it is important to define these minimum standards, competencies don't fully capture the person's strengths and potential, in other words, their true sources of energy and excellence at work. The result is that a competency-based approach encourages mediocrity and well-rounded performance rather than excellence.

3. Candidates can easily prepare for and rehearse competency-based interview answers as the process is incredibly transparent and predictable. There is now even a plethora of books available to help candidates prepare their answers to more commonly asked questions. This undermines the accuracy and reliability of this type of interview as a robust selection tool.

4. Candidates often find the whole competency-based interview process to be tedious and repetitive; it does nothing to engage their attention and energy and often leaves candidates feeling neutral or de-energized by the process at a time when the organization is hoping to create the best possible impression amongst top candidates.


 While not perfect, PBI is an improvement over traditional interviewing practices, and does limit bias in the interview process. Below I have attached a document with sample questions you may want to try.

Sample PBI Questions


Before we move on to the next section, let's test our understanding.....


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