Recognizing & Understanding Stereotypes and Bias
For Hiring Committees

Introduction

 

-Cops_in_a_Donut_Shop_2011.jpg

Police officers buying donuts and coffee, an example of perceived stereotypical behavior in the US

 

 

Psychologists once believed that only bigoted people used stereotypes. Now the study of unconscious bias is revealing the unsettling truth: We all use stereotypes, all the time, without knowing it. We have met the enemy of equality, and the enemy is us.

 

Each of us has a biased world view because we are all limited to a single camera perspective. That is we can only see what comes before us, we can only hear what is around us, and we can only read that which is in front of us. No one has the definitive version of reality, including the the author of this lesson. Our social locations helps inform our world view - our race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, culture, etc.Our world view impacts how we view, respond, and react to every experience. Our job in this lesson is to learn what stereotypes and biases are, how to recognize our own biases, and how move beyond them to a more balanced ability to evaluate and understand people.

 

 

Learning Objectives

 

Participants who successfully complete this workshop should be able to:

How Learning Objectives Can be Met

The participant in this lesson can expect to achieve the above learning objectives by engaging in the learning activities described below.

Learning Activities:

The learning activities in this lesson include:

 

As you work through this lesson, you will encounter many activities to help reinforce your learning of this material. Some of the activities are graded, and some are not. All of the graded activities may be attempted as often as necessary for you to demonstrate your understanding. Upon completion of this lesson and all the graded activities, and after achieving a score of at least 80%, you will be provided with a Certificate of Completion.

 

This seems like a lot to cover, so we had best get busy...........

 

 

Definitions:

Stereotype

From Wikipedia

A stereotype is an exaggerated belief, image or distorted truth about a person or group — a generalization that allows for little or no individual differences or social variation. Stereotypes are based on images in mass media, or reputations passed on by parents, peers and other members of society. Stereotypes can be positive or negative. (from Southern Poverty Law Center)

One theory as to why people stereotype is that it is too difficult to take in all of the complexities of other people as individuals. Even though stereotyping is inexact, it is an efficient way to mentally organize large blocks of information. Categorization is an essential human capability because it enables us to simplify, predict, and organize our world. Once one has sorted and organized everyone into tidy categories, there is a human tendency to avoid processing new or unexpected information about each individual. Assigning general group characteristics to members of that group saves time and satisfies the need to predict the social world in a general sense.

 

Possible prejudicial effects of stereotypes are:

Some of the stereotypes we typically encounter in ourselves and others can include:

World Map of Useless Stereotypes.jpg

The World Map of Useless Stereotypes by Christoph Niemann

 

I think you get the picture - any and all characteristics can, in our minds, create a picture of that entire person and place that individual into a stereotypical group. It is not just characteristics that set an individual apart that creates a stereotype, but also characteristics that cause us to place an individual as a member of a group, then infer that that individual is exactly like all other members of that group or that all members of that group are like that individual.That picture can then influence our jugements about that individual. Stereotypes can be positive (blonds have more fun) or negative (the Irish drink too much) in their original intent, but are still an abbreviated and inaccurate characterization that can cause harm.

 

In the video below, Dr. Leeno Karumanchery, President and CEO of Diversity Solutions Inc., explores some of the complexities involved in how and why women and other minoritized groups get stereotyped.

 

And one more short 3 minute video: Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts!

 

 

Bias

From Wikipedia

Bias is an inclination to present or hold a partial perspective at the expense of (possibly equally valid) alternatives. Bias can also be defined as:

Many of the human behaviors we discuss under this topic are technically known as biases, and also because the normal meaning of "bias" refers to our noticing these sorts of behavior in someone else. When a behavioral economist says that people in general have some specified bias, he is saying that people tend to behave in a way that is wrong according to the theories of his or her field.

Bias can come in many forms. Anything biased is generally one-sided. A cognitive bias is any of a wide range of observer effects identified in cognitive science and social psychology including very basic statistical, social attribution, and memory errors that are common to all human beings. Social biases, usually called attributional biases, affect our everyday social interactions. And biases related to probability and decision making significantly affect the scientific method which is deliberately designed to minimize such bias from any one observer.

These processes include information-processing shortcuts, motivational factors, and social influence (Wilcox, 2011). Such biases can result from information-processing shortcuts called heuristics. They include errors in judgment, social attribution, and memory. Cognitive biases are a common outcome of human thought, and often drastically skew the reliability of anecdotal and legal evidence. It is a phenomenon studied in cognitive science and social psychology.  Bias can also be defined as an acceptance of a stereotype as fact, despite objective evidence to the contrary

We can easily see the relationships between these two terms- Stereotype and Bias: We have specific beliefs about individuals or groups based on some known characteristic (stereotype), and we have an inclination to hold a partial perspective (for or against) these people (bias) based on that characteristic.

Below are some subsets of cognitive biases with examples (from YorkPsych)

Self Perception Biases

selfperceptionbias.jpg

photo credit:jcoterhals@flickr

Self Perception biases are the tendency to allow one's dispositions to affect one's way of interpreting information. Self perception biases are distortions of one's own view of self.

1.Bias Blind Spot - the affectation or tendency to be ignorant of one's own biases. This is a case of the blind not knowing or ignoring that they are blind. (Pronin and Kugler, 2007)

2. Illusion of Control - the belief of being in at least some control over events and outcomes that you actually have no effect on. The devoted fan who gets out his lucky hat that "always brings the game back whenever the Giants are down" is a good example of this bias. (Kahneman and Tversky, 1972)

 

Perception Biases

Perception biases are inaccurate views or conclusions drawn in various ways. They explain certain behavioral vicissitudes as well as how collective debates can result in so many various opinions.

1. Attentional Bias - the tendency for one's emotions to determine or affect one's focus. Emotional propaganda plays on this; for instance, certain charity commercials will show pictures of starving kids in Africa to draw attention away from the fact that only a fraction of the money donated actually goes to charitable causes.

2. Availability Heuristic - basing jugements or estimations on what most easily comes to memory. Because we remember cases or events that stand out as unusual or unexpected, this usually results in false assumptions or estimations. (Tversky and Kahneman, 1972) The availability heuristic is hypothesized to be to blame for the misconception that couples are more likely to conceive after they have adopted a child. People tend to remember all of the people who conceive after adoption and tend to forget about all of the cases in which the couples did not conceive after adopting.

3. Hindsight Bias - "the I-knew-it-all-along bias", it is the tendency to believe you knew something when you truly did not. This also includes viewing completed events as more predictable than they actually were. (Pohl, 2006) Hindsight Bias can easily be observed outside the science building as Yorkies walking out of a math test will ask one another what they got on the Option A and frustratedly proclaim they knew that was what they were supposed to do, but for some reason didn't apply it at the time.

Logic and Decision Biases

Cognitive biases in logic and decisions are shown mostly through how people go about solving problems in different ways, make various choices, and judge different situations.

1.Base Rate Fallacy - Base Rate Fallacy is the inclination for someone to base his jugements on specifics rather than the big picture. An example of this could be a York Senior who chooses a college for having a strong chemistry program and ignores other aspects such as its location in the middle of a desert.

2. Anchoring‍ - the inclination for someone to allow one piece of information to outweigh others when making a decision. An example might be a couple considering the fact that the girl they hired to baby sit their children goes to Stanford to be more important than the side facts that that girl skips half her classes, rides a motorcycle and brings her boyfriend with her to babysitting jobs.

Probability Biases

A probability bias arises when someone misinterprets precedents or past information and acts on this inaccuracy.

1. Normalcy Bias - the bias best represented in the freshmen class as Yorkies who are used to flying by in classes believe that since they have never received a B before, it simply cannot or will not happen. This is a logical error based on previous experience that most usually will throw the freshmen into shock. (Hsee and Zhang, 2004)

2. Gambler's Fallacy‍ - the propensity to believe that happenings of the past determine what will happen in the future. Just as its name predicts, this is most commonly exemplified by gamblers whom mistakenly tend to think along the lines that since they lost their game the last 6 times, they have a much greater chance of winning this time, or the next time, or the time after that. (Hsee and Zhang, 2004)

Predictive Biases

Predictive biases are most usually related to someone holding the inaccurate belief that they prematurely know information about events or people based on large or general ideas rather than specifics.

1. Optimism Bias - the higher tendency to expect positive outcomes of planned actions, rather than negative. People known as optimists tend to be the reassuring, confidence boosting, Mrs.Sherry-type people who always encourage you to hope for the best.

2. Pessimism Bias - opposite of the Optimism Bias, this is the habit of anticipating negative outcomes rather than positive. Pessimists sometimes suffer from depression, and typically have less hope for success of planned actions.

3. Stereotyping - a bias in jugement, stereotyping is setting expectations for or drawing conclusions about an individual, based on the group they are tied to. Racial, religious and political stereotyping are most common as one will assume that because someone looks a certain way, believes a certain way or votes a certain way, she is like the majority of all others who affiliate with them.

‍Conformity Biases

Conformity biases are the most socially based cognitive biases that are exemplified by people young and old in instances varying from politics to surfing.

1. Availability Cascade - the idea that if you believe something enough, it becomes the truth. This idea is subjective to each individual as, for instance, religious upbringing results in different people having concrete belief in opposing concepts.

2.Ingroup Bias - the tendency for someone to be more comfortable or friendly with people whom he perceive as like himself, or as in the same group as himself. This most basically explains the "cliques" of typical high school as people with common interests gravitate to each other. (Garcia, Song and Tesser, 2010)

 

This video by Mr. Wray, hits the winner bell on two fronts. First, it is a great overview on cognitive bias and second, it is in the form of a song.

 

 Here is something to carefully consider - we all stereotype, and we all have biased perceptions. We even apply stereotypes to ourselves (or they are applied by someone else) , and then modify our own behavior based on those stereotypes - I am a mature, college educated professional, and so should wear a tie to work and probably would not get a tarantula tattooed on my bald head no matter how much I wanted to.

Below is a very good video that describes what is referred to as "Self-fulfilling Prophecy", or the "Stereotype Effect". - we become what we are stereotyped as.

 

 

Unless you are a psychology or sociology major, there really is not need to memorize all the various types of cognitive biases listed above (and there are many more that aren't listed). These lists are provided so that the reader might recognize in themselves these same kinds of fallacies. These examples help us to also better understand the people around us, and how they view the world.

Let's test our understanding of these definitions with a short quiz. Don't panic, you can retry this quiz as many times as you like.

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Maya_Angelou_Quote.png  

 

 

 

In order for us to be able to move beyond our own biases and be able to apply critical thinking skills to our evaluations of individuals, we must first be able to recognize and address our own biases. If we can recognize our own biases, we can then identify the questions we must ask that inform us about the true individual..

 

 

 

How We See Ourselves and Others

From SGBA e-Learning Resources Written by Barbara Clow, Yvonne Hanson & Jennifer Bernier

We saw in definitions on the previous page that stereotypes are pictures of people we form in our minds based on some outward characteristic, and that a bias is an opinion we form or have about that person based on the stereotype. Are our stereotypes and biases wrong? Are they right? When our brains take that mental shortcut to a stereotype, does this represent the entire person? Can we recognize when there might be more to an individual than what is readily visible and apparent?

Often the best way to learn is to do, so let's try an activity...

Look in the mirror and describe yourself, thinking about the categories of diversity listed in the table below. Compare yourself to the image in the category and decide if you are similar or different from the person or idea represented in that image.

 Activity 1

 

Category of Diversity

 

Think about how you relate to the categories of diversity below

How We See Others

 

Are you similar or different from the person or idea represented in the image?

Questions to Consider

 

Roll over the word "Questions" below to reveal some further questions to consider for each picture

Sex

Woman.png

Questions

Gender

Gender.png

Questions

 

Ethnicity

Ethnicity.png

Questions

 

Income

Income.png

Questions

 

Employment

Employment.png

Questions

 

Education

Education.png

Questions

 

Age

Age.png

Questions

 

Sexual Orientation

Sexual_orientation.png

Questions

 

Housing

Housing.png

Questions

 

Family Structure

Family_Structure.png

Questions

 

Ability

Ability.png

Questions

 

 

 

Activity Discussion

This exercise helps us see that there are all different kinds of diversity in the world and that people are diverse in different ways. There are some things we have in common with one group of people and not another. There are some things that make us different from one group of people and not another. This exercise also demonstrates the effects of stereotypes and bias, in which we form an impression of an individual based one or a very few obvious characteristics. 

You may have found it difficult to answer the question "Is this person like me or different?" The point of this question is that we don't ever know enough about another person just by looking at them to recognize the points of similarity and difference between them and ourselves. For example, we might be heterosexual, but also married like the couple in picture 8, but why should we assume that the two men in picture 8 are a couple, or married, or even homosexual? There are many cultures in which this display of closeness between men has nothing to do with sexual orientation. We might not be Chinese, but we might have been married in a wedding dress or suit that looks just much the one in picture 3. Then again, what makes us so anthropologically discriminating to be able to identify this couple as Chinese - might they be Korean, Vietnamese, or even Americans of mixed Asian descent? We might not have Down's syndrome, but we might have a job and an income that allows us to dress well for work, as does the young man in picture 11.

 What this exercise also demonstrates is the power of first impressions - we look, we stereotype based on some characteristic, then form a bias based on that stereotype. In the next section of this lesson we will learn more about this.

Activity 2

Here is another related activity.....

Think about the following behaviors that you might observe and/or experience when meeting or socializing with others. How might you react to or interpret these behaviors? What might these behaviors mean to someone from a culture other than your own? After you think about your possible reaction to the behaviors below, roll over each behavior with your cursor to reveal some other meanings.

Using incorrect grammar

Paying the bill for dinner at a restaurant

Asking questions about someone's mother and father

Burping loudly after a meal

Shaking hands when you meet someone

Arriving late for an appointment, class or meeting

Crossing a heart when making a promise

Holding hands in public with someone of the same sex

Repeating the same story

 

 

  

We react to behaviors based on our own cultural norms; and in fact, seldom recognize that there may be other cultural norms, or that they are as valid as our own. Our own culture, and how we were raised within that culture - the things we are taught to respect as acceptable behavior - also contribute to our biases. People who behave like we do are the same as us and are therefore good, while people who do not behave as we do are different and may not be good. Sociologists call this in-group and out-group bias.This is a very old social phenomenon, and is a survival instinct that is most likely biological and hard-wired into our brains. Those with the same characteristics and behaviors as us are part of our in-group and are safe, while those with different characteristics and behaviors are part of an out-group and are not safe.For many years American children were taught the concept of "Stranger Danger" to protect children from people who might hurt them, despite the overwhelming evidence that children were most often hurt by someone close.

In the previous activity we learned that characteristics create a first impression (stereotype) that can bias our mental picture of the entire individual; and now in this activity, we have learned that behaviors also create a first impression that can bias our mental picture of an individual. In the next section of this lesson we will learn a bit about how powerful these first impressions can be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before we move on, let's see how well we understand the material on this page.....................

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The Power of First Impressions

In this section we are discussing first impressions (Halo/Devil Effect), because first impressions result from characteristics that trigger stereotypes and bias. We see an expensive suit, and we immediately form an image of a consummate professional (stereotype). We note a degree from a prestigious university and we "know" that person must be incredibly competent (bias). We see a shabby suit and and a degree from a community college, and we might believe this person is an incompetent loser. Read on....

The Halo/Devil Effects

From enVision: Creative Commons Attribution By License

What exactly is the Halo Effect?

A psychology textbook provides a "simplistic" definition of the Halo effect as a subjective bias about a person's one outstanding trait extending to influence the total judgment of that person.First Impression 1.jpg

 

First Impressions are powerful!

E. L. Thorndyke expanded that it (halo Effect) is "...an extension of an overall impression of a person (or one particular outstanding trait) to influence the total judgment of that person. The effect is to evaluate an individual high on many traits because of a belief that the individual is high on one trait. Similar to this is the 'devil effect,' whereby a person evaluates another as low on many traits because of a belief that the individual is low on one trait which is assumed to be critical."

So, to clarify, if possible, when an individual is found to possess one desirable trait, then that individual is automatically assumed to have many other desirable traits as well. A kind of an "angelic halo" surrounds the person, in the eyes of the beholder, and they can do no wrong. If a person is bestowed with good physical beauty, then this person is also presumed to possess a host of other positive attributes as well, such as social competence, intellectual competence, and personal adjustment.

The inverse phenomenon called the "Devil Effect," and sometimes the "Horn Effect", doesn't seem to get as much attention, even though its impact is just as prevalent in society. Here, if a person seems particularly deficient in a critical trait, then that person is automatically assumed to be deficient in many other traits as well, related or otherwise. For example, an employee who is constantly "late" to work (perhaps due to other non-work responsibilities in the morning) is assumed to be negligent in their work-related duties, not committed to the job/company/project, and perhaps even lazy overall.

 

 

First Impressions are powerful!

 

Ultimately, these faulty biases may prove to become factual due to the Pygmalion effect, or "self-fulfilling prophecy ", further reinforcing future errors in perception due to bias and predisposition by the observer. The person working long hours (perhaps compensating for technical incompetence), assumed to be a good worker is given greater opportunity and thus attains greater, albeit undue, career advancement (cf: The Peter Principle). Conversely, the worker who dresses shabbily is assumed to care little about their job, and therefore bypassed for greater opportunity when the situation arises, regardless of suitability or capacity otherwise. Essentially, this phenomenon is a psycho-social application of the Law of Proximity, whereby certain unrelated observations, found in the comparable subjects in a narrow sample set, are assumed to have a high correlation, when, in fact, no such correlation exists.

 

First Impressions are powerful!

Application

There are a number of different ways in which the psychology of the halo (or devil) effect may manifest. As you will see, the halo effect is a form of a cognitive bias.

Instead of seeing the observable behaviors of a person, instead we see a certain picture. From this picture we draw conclusions about them which have no bearing in reality.

A person who is highly connected or good friends with those deemed to possess positive traits is erroneously assumed to possess those same good traits in "birds of a feather flock together" fashion.

If we know the societal role or other demographic information, the person targeted by the halo effect (or devil effect) will be perceived as "just like" all others who have held a similar role. We do not see the distinctions between people of this group and instead simply see:

Teacher

Congressperson

Frenchman

Negro

Blue Collar Worker

Inner City Dweller

Noticing only one or two characteristics, unrelated conclusions are drawn based upon personal experience, social bias, or group norming.

People who smile are honest.

Blondes are unintelligent.

With a person or group, characteristics are noticed which are very similar to our own or those we respect greatly. While similar (no pun intended) to the Social Bias listed above, instead of having a desirable social standing, instead this person possesses actual traits which are noticeably similar to those who have created a strong bias in the observer. So, while the person is obviously a distinct and unique individual, the fact that he reminds you of your shiftless, no good, brother-in-law, impacts further observations.

The very first impression left with the observer overrides all subsequent impressions, until a very strong and distinct impression is made to alter the existing path. The first impression is a psychology concept similar to that of inertia or momentum in the physical sciences. 

Consequences

Ultimately, the halo effect, much like many psychology concepts, can be used as a tool for motivating others to a desired end, or a phenomenon to specifically be alert to when relating to and evaluating situations and people.

Left alone, the halo effect can negatively impact all areas of management. Interviewers can wrongly infer that a candidate has a slew of required characteristics or attributes, simply because the candidate exhibited others which were desirable.

Managers responsible for employee ratings, can let the strong rating of one critical factor influence the ratings for all other factors exhibit the halo effect. The halo effect is also demonstrated when an overall global impression influences ratings. This problem occurs with employees who are friendly (or unfriendly) toward you or especially strong (or weak) in one skill.

Having clear and specific ratings standards can help avoid the halo effect. Another means to traverse the hazards of the halo effect is completely assess the performance on one performance factor before moving on to the next factor. Finally, simply being aware of the halo effect and how it works may afford one the opportunity more objective judgment and to be able to see if its harmful effects are at work.

We tend to think of the power of first impressions in regards to job applicants making a good impression when they come for an interview, and in that case a first impression can be incredibly powerful. However, I would like you to also consider the dangers of first impressions. Everybody applies stereotypes to individuals and has biases based on those stereotypes. A very positive (to our biases) first impression can cause us to hire a person based on a $2500 suit, perfect hair and a degree from an Ivy League college instead of their actual knowledge, skills and abilities.

First Impressions are dangerous!

 

Below is a brief (6:21 min.) video that explains the halo effect through a series of experiments that are interesting as well as informative - okay, maybe even a bit frightening....

 

In the final sections of this lesson, we will learn some tips for recognizing and overcoming our biases in the interview process, and all our interactions with individuals.

 

But first, another little quiz............

 

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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.

Example:

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 organisation 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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Common Stereotypes to Avoid During Job Interviews

In the previous section we learned what question we can ask to help eliminate our biases during the interview process, so let's also take some time to see what questions we should not ask.

From: Ohio Employer's Law Blog

The following are some examples of general stereotypes that could unintentionally pervade an interview and create liability problems under the employment discrimination laws:

•Stereotypes in the advertising for candidates (i.e., "young grad").

•Applicant's appearance makes him/her seem unable to do the job.

•Not hiring or promoting married women because they are not "primary earners".

•Refusing to hire or promote pregnant women, unwed mothers, or women with pre-school age children.

•Minimum height and weight requirements.

•People with disabilities and women will be absent more than other workers.

•Older workers have "peaked" or run out of gas therefore do not hire or promote.

•Younger people have high energy levels and are very open to learning new technology.

•She was "macho", needs to take a course in charm school. She should walk more femininely, and talk more femininely.

•Disabled individuals should be deemed candidates for short term employment only.

•Assuming women don't have physical strength.

•Women and minorities cannot do a job or do not want certain jobs.

•Candidates who are shy during the interview, will not perform well on the job.

 

The fact is that many interview questions may seem innocuous enough, but may create serious discrimination problems. Being careful of what we ask job candidates helps us to know a candidate as an individual with skills, knowledge and traits that may make that individual perfect for a job; instead of reacting to our own stereotypes and biases. The following is just a sample of some exemplar questions that are problematic, as compared to legitimate questions to extract lawful information:

Age

•When did you graduate high school?

•How old are you?

•How many years until you plan to retire?

•How many years seniority did you have at your prior company?

-vs-

•Can you submit a birth certificate or other proof of age if you are hired?

•Are you over 18? [work eligibility]

 

National Origin

•What county are you from?

•That is an interesting accent, where were you born?

•Where were you or your parents born?

-vs-

•Are you eligible to work in the United States? [work eligibility]

 

Criminal Records

•Have you ever been arrested? [race]

-vs-

•Have you ever been convicted of a crime? [honesty, qualifications]

•Caution, however, that the EEOC may even find this question illegal. See EEOC targets use of arrest and conviction records

 

Disability

 

•What is your medical history?

•Do you have any medical conditions or disabilities?

•How will they affect your job performance?

•Have you ever filed a workers' comp claim?

•Do you have a history or alcohol or drug addiction?

•What medications are you taking?

-vs-

 

•Do you know of anything that would limit your ability to perform the essential functions of this job, and if so, what accommodations can we make that would enable you to perform those functions?

•How would you perform this particular job task?

 

The following are some additional considerations of stereotypes to keep in mind when interviewing members of protected classes:

•Ask questions that are relevant to the job itself. For example, do not ask an applicant for her opinions on birth control, abortion, women's lib, etc.For other examples of behavior-based interview questions, click the link in this page's sidebar.

 

Gender

 

•Be careful not to draw assumptions about women's competence based on her soft voice or feminine appearance or attire.

•Be professional and consistent in addressing men and women. If using first names, do so for all candidates.

•Avoid flirting, patronizing, or making sexual/ethnic jokes during the interview.

•Avoid bringing up stereotyped prejudices: women shouldn't travel alone; they are too emotional; they aren't aggressive enough. Don't tell negative stories about former women employees.

•Don't go to the opposite extreme by boasting about your liberation, by pointing out how fair minded you are, or by giving an instant replay of every female or minority success story you know.

• In making a selection or recommendation, avoid making assumptions such as the following:

(i) Supervisors or managers might prefer men or employees of certain ethnic/racial origins;

(ii) Clients or customers might not want to deal with women or minorities;

(iii) Women's work might lack credibility;

(iv) The job might involve unusual working conditions that would disqualify the applicant.

General

•When interviewing people with disabilities don't ask: "What happened to you?" or "How will you get to work?"

•Do not place undue emphasis on conditions of employment (such as travel, heavy lifting, long hours, etc.) in hope of discouraging the candidate and getting him or her to withdraw from the competition.

•If asked, give accurate information about the number of women or minority employees already in the organization. If a candidate asks, and if you don't have women or minorities in your own department, then arrange for the person to meet other women or minority staff members. Do not assume that this person will necessarily want to meet other women or minority employees.

•If you're going to discuss the town or city, mention everything and do not try to over-emphasize the town's aspects as a family place in which to live and bring up children.

•In general, avoid references to a candidate's personal happiness (i.e., social and/or sexual). Don't assume that your town or city is not the place for a single person or for minorities.

•Obviously, do not indicate that you're interested in hiring a women or minority person as a statistic to improve your department's Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity profile. It's unlawful to apply different standards based on an applicant's sex or minority status.

•Don't ask the applicant about what kind of accommodation(s) he or she may need for the job until after the interviewer has established that the applicant is qualified for the job and is considering that person for employment. You can, however, explain what the interviewing and hiring process involves and ask all applicants whether they will need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any part of the process itself.

•Treat the applicant like an adult; don't be patronizing.

•If an applicant has an obvious disability or discloses that they have a disability during a job interview, you cannot ask about the nature or severity of the disability. You can discuss the job functions and whether the person can perform the functions with or without an accommodation.

•Accommodations for interviews must be provided.

•Citizenship requirements or preferences may be unlawful under Title VII if they have either the purpose or effect of discriminating against individuals because of their national origin.

•Be careful how applicants with disabilities are evaluated. Do not make judgments based on communication skills of people with hearing and speech impairments.

•Be sensitive to cultural differences:

(i) Do not assume mispronunciation of English as a lack of education;

(ii) Do not interpret silence as inability or unwillingness.

These lists give some guideposts to avoid liability. They are not meant to be exhaustive. The general rule of thumb is that unless you are absolutely sure that an interview question is 100% job-related, just don't ask it. Stick to the job requirements and how a candidate's work-related background fits with those requirements.

Following the practice of only asking job-related, aptitude-related and behavior-based questions will minimize the effects of your own stereotypes and biases.

 

Okay, let's see how well we understood this section....

 Hyperlink to Align Activity 

 

 

Conclusion

We have learned in this short lesson that we all stereotype, because that is how our brains process the large amounts of data that comprise an individual. We have also learned that we all have biases, but we seem to tend to only recognize them in others. I am hoping that we have also learned how to recognize and better understand our own biases. For those of you who might still doubt that you also might be biased, I would like to introduce Project Implicit.

Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaborative network of researchers investigating implicit social cognition - thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. Project Implicit is the product of a team of scientists whose research produced new ways of understanding attitudes, stereotypes and other hidden biases that influence perception, judgment, and action. Project Implicit was founded as a multi-university research collaboration in 1998 by three scientists - Tony Greenwald (University of Washington), Mahzarin Banaji (Harvard University), and Brian Nosek (University of Virginia), and was incorporated as a non-profit in 2001 to foster dissemination and application of implicit social cognition. Project Implicit supports a collaborative network of researchers interested in basic and applied research concerning thoughts and feelings that occur outside of conscious awareness or control. Project Implicit expanded into a substantial web-based infrastructure for supporting behavioral research and education that is available to other laboratories. Finally, Project Implicit provides consulting, education and training services on implicit bias, diversity and inclusion, leadership, applying science to practice, and innovation.

What is very cool about Project Implicit's web site is that you can take some rather eye-opening tests to evaluate your own biases. By taking these evaluations, you are adding data to this very worthy international research project. If you are brave enough or honest enough for this kind of deep evaluation, navigate to this web site: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/ and click on "Go to the Demonstration Tests". Once on the page for the demonstration tests, pick one or many and try them out. If you just want more information of Project Implicit, follow this link to their home page: http://www.projectimplicit.net/index.html