At career.place, we have a strict policy of ‘eating our own dog food’. A term I first encountered when working at Microsoft and have lived by ever since. It means we use our own products and do as we advise.
One of these practices had an inadvertent but profound effect on how we evaluated our candidates – the exact effect we intended for our customers.
Specifically, we advise organizations to use diverse teams when evaluating candidate responses to smooth out any lurking biases of an individual team member. It only takes minutes for each member of the team to rate and comment on the candidate responses and, in addition to neutralizing bias, it also adds transparency to tracking why or why not to pass candidates through the process, making decisions easily defendable.
Doing as we advise, we had two to three people review each candidate response to a scenario question within career.place. And… we discovered a discrepancy with some of the ratings between two of the reviewers.
Teamwork, the bias neutralizer
Here is what we found:
One of the reviewers would rate candidates lower if they had a spelling or grammar error. Their comments alluded to the candidate being lazy, had no attention to detail, or was not putting in enough effort.
Another reviewer had no sensitivity to small spelling or grammar errors, completely ignoring them in any comments.
Clearly there were different biases at work.
It turned out, the first has the common bias that spelling/grammar errors are unprofessional, the second does not view spelling errors being a representation of ability.
What caused this discrepancy? The second person is me, and I am dyslexic.
I don’t consider small grammar/spelling errors negative indicators for two reasons: 1) I am usually oblivious to them, so I can’t be influenced by them even if I wanted to, and 2) if I do see small spelling or grammar errors, I think that perhaps those individuals are like me.
Candidates as seen through the facets of diversity
What makes each of us different affects how we perceive others. One person’s evidence of unprofessionalism could be another person’s every-day reality. Even with anonymous candidates, a turn of a phrases, word choice, organization, references, sentence structure, can all trigger biases.
Our hiring experience reinforced the importance of working as a team when evaluating candidates.
Consider your preferences and sensitivities – do you prefer long, detailed answers or concise, highly structured content? Are you an analogy person or prefer ‘on the nose’ descriptions? What about a reference to a TV show you don’t watch, a sport you don’t enjoy, a topic you find boring? What if an answer uses a methodology you have never implemented or a process you don’t prescribe to (even if it is produces similar results)? Does the misuse of ‘than’ vs. ‘then’ drive you nuts, or are you completely oblivious to it?
By having a team with different backgrounds, interests, experiences, preferences, and sensitivities reviewing candidate responses, the biases will be neutralized and the best candidates for what they provide (and not those that would avoid your bias pitfalls) will be left to shine. It only takes minutes, it avoids potential diversity and compliance issues, and it makes a world of difference in finding the right hires for the right reasons.