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Post No.: 0814applicants


Fluffystealthkitten says:


Biases in job interviews include judging applicants according to their accent, dialect, hairstyle, skin colour and ultimately the features of a person that (supposedly) denote their ‘class’, which in turn (supposedly) denotes their intelligence, trustworthiness and other pertinent traits. The notion of class has probably existed ever since complex hierarchies first existed. And there’s a ‘halo effect’ assumption that ‘sounding posh means smarter’.


Like also likes like i.e. people tend to most like those who are most similar to them, and this is usually a subconscious bias. But if white and ‘upper-middle to upper class’ people are currently over-represented at the top of certain institutions then they’ll more likely wish to hire other similar people, and it’ll never self-adjust to represent the true diversity of a society. This bias will be further reinforced if private or public organisations use AI to shortlist applicants based on data on their historic and existing employees!


Due to homophily or the ‘affinity bias’ – if someone, say, comes from the same hometown as us, we’ll tend to treat them more favourably. We might assume ‘I’m competent (which is a bias itself!) and since they come from the same background as me, they must be competent too’. We’ll then apply the halo effect and assume they possess other worthy qualities too.


Many institutions and industries, despite their public declarations, don’t really want diversity. They want employees who’ll ‘fit their mould’. Interviewers like those who have things in common with them, and so if they’re posh, it helps to be posh yourself. Consequently, those from rich backgrounds get the jobs that allow them to get richer.


…People who therefore don’t naturally fit in have to play the gamethey have to reshape and ‘polish’ themselves to be more like those ‘posh’ people. Diversity doesn’t improve in organisations but rather those who are different need to mould themselves to follow and perpetuate the existing social code.


Those from ethnic minorities hence often have to work harder to achieve the same success as their ethnic majority counterparts. If you don’t sound or appear like from the same class (the ‘upper-middle to upper class’ in many higher-paid, professional careers) – if you don’t talk the same way, have the same cultural references, go to the same kinds of holidays and don’t fit into those circles – then you’ll more likely be rejected as an applicant compared to someone with similar grades but who does sound and appear like from the same ingroup, or even someone with lower grades but has the right connections.


Artificially imitating a ‘received pronunciation’ voice and other pretences in order to be accepted places extra cognitive workload. What’s one’s accent got to do with one’s acumen anyway?! Shouldn’t we change the prejudiced system rather than the victims of prejudice?


Although there are concerns you may get bored in a role or genuinely won’t fit in with the existing team (even though such concerns can be queried and quashed) – discrimination is often masked with the pretext that you’re ‘overqualified’ even though you understand and accept the salary on offer and the types of work the role entails.


Leadership is thus harder for an ethnic minority person amongst a bunch of insular overt or covert racists. For instance, if there’s a group with 9 white racists and 1 black person, then even if that black person has stellar ideas and assertively puts her/himself forwards for leadership, the rest of that group mightn’t want to be led by a black person solely because she/he is black, and so they don’t pay attention to her/him or give her/him enough respect and a fair chance of leading the group. Those 9 racists don’t want to be led by someone who isn’t ‘one of them’, and they’ll get their way because they’re in the majority here.


Similarly, there was an experiment conducted by Women in Games Argentina in 2022 that showed that when male videogamers disguised their voices as female, they suddenly got treated worse in multiplayer games just because of the assumption by fellow gamers that they were female. They were cooperated with less and thus lost more games. They also experienced sexist slurs. So it’s not the person matched with the task itself that’s the problem but the way prejudice from others can mean the person receives less support thus cannot do the task as well as they otherwise could. This is the hidden cost of discrimination of all kinds.


It could leave the affected individuals feeling demotivated, like ‘what’s the point?’ Why put in the effort if one knows it won’t be appreciated? It may then appear like a minority member is lazy or lacking drive, but it’s only because of what they’ve learnt from their historical experiences of treatment.


Culture may also play a role in the chances of an applicant securing a job after an interview – applicants who express calmness are generally favoured in ‘the Far East’, whilst applicants who express excitement are generally favoured in ‘the West’. And this is regardless of how we truly feel underneath because we can put on a temporary persona when we believe that’s how we want others to perceive us (our ‘ideal affect’ e.g. appearing composed outside) when we actually feel something else inside (our ‘actual affect’ e.g. feeling nervous inside). And that reiterates one of the main reasons why traditional job interviews are unreliable – candidates can treat them as opportunities to show off how well they can act the part, but only for when they’re being assessed.


So during the interview, are we seeing an applicant’s ‘best self’ instead of their ‘typical/relevant self when under the stress of the job they’re actually going to do’? They’re different contexts. And some applicants can interview poorly then do the job they’re applying for perfectly, not just well then badly. Business owners might also believe ‘I’m successful so I’m automatically a good judge of character for success’. They’re again not the same things.


Like how some applicants who interview well aren’t the best people for the actual job – we also frequently get politicians who campaign well but are utterly clueless once in office!


So the typical job interview process is flawed (see Post No.: 0725 for more about this) – yet from a job applicant’s perspective, you must nonetheless sadly play the game and concentrate on your superficial appearances and script if you want to improve your chances of getting a well-paid job.


Job interviewers, and voters, are often looking for confident candidates. Confidence comes from the feeling of having stability and security, like supportive parents, a stable home and furry financial security. It comes from knowing that tomorrow will be fine and there are people who have your back and are able to support you if you need them. These things are also linked with one’s mental health risk in general.


And the well-connected-from-birth have this stability and security, and they also have more access to rich sponsors and mentors whom they can depend on. Meanwhile, children from poor backgrounds lack that stability or security in their lives, as well as often face a lack of respect for their views and even existence. This all then impacts upon their confidence, and in turn first-impression charisma, and in turn their interview performances when applying for jobs.


Extroverts, who are more socially confident than introverts, therefore tend to fare better in job interviews, and in their careers, as a result. Even when put on the spot in job interviews, applicants who are confident and motivated to get what they want (including through charm and manipulation) find it easier to come up with fabricated responses to clichéd job interview questions, that help them secure the jobs they seek i.e. an extroverted person is more likely to be a smooth-talking blusterer than an introverted person.


So this is one – or really yet another – way how people born into the wrong socio-economic class carry disadvantages that, although not impossible, are difficult to break free from during their lives. The odds are unfairly stacked against them in so many ways. Meow.


We may erroneously assume that everybody gets the same opportunities and faces the same circumstances as everybody else, thus everybody’s performances and lives are directly comparable with each other’s for us to make direct judgements about everybody’s core dispositions and abilities – even though research reveals stuff like exam results are poorer during extremely hot exam days, never mind things like some people went to private school and others didn’t.


We do have to be mindful of something though – we may complain that hardly any businesses reply back to our speculative cover letters, but in fur-ness we need to understand it from the perspective of especially small businesses that receive tons of generic spec letters every month.


Also, even if they are looked at – because CVs/résumés and cover letters are frequently merely scanned rather than fully read, at least during the first stage(s) of rejection – the presentations of such letters tend to be overly weighted. The style is judged more than the substance. Written applications and interviews are often about who can give the most convincing spin and exaggeration anyway! And again like with politicians on a campaign trail, they will convince some people.


Who can assimilate as a cog in the corporate system and parrot corporate clichés like ‘power words/phrases’ the best? You’ve got to play the game to get past the automated ‘applicant tracking systems’ or ‘résumé robots’. Then again, as this technology advances, it might be better than humans skimming content? But really, humans should fully read rather than lazily skim content. (Perhaps lazy human resources staff shouldn’t really have gotten the jobs they’ve gotten?(!))


If employers do an online search for your name and rough location, they might mistake someone else as you. Some interviewers really love to take things posted on social media out of context too – not talking about things like bigoted comments or criminal activities but things like images of applicants getting merry on holiday. It’s a holiday! And do such interviewers assume that if they can’t find such images of applicants online then that’d mean these people have never gotten drunk before?! Social media is typically a game of ‘show my most desirable (be it fun, family or professional) side’ rather than ‘show the complete truth about me’. Lies are frequently rewarded on social media. Yet too many people assume it does showcase the complete truth about others and their lifestyles. And many interviewers, as people, are suckered by this assumption too.


Should we judge someone who isn’t on social media at all (or has only private accounts) as suspicious or sage? We cannot say based on this information alone, yet interviewers will more likely jump to the first conclusion. Basically, interviewers, as people, rely on many cognitive shortcuts, and these can produce many errors. Such cognitive shortcuts and assumptions can be deliberately exploited too.


The onus might be on the applicants to play the game, but it must also be in the interests of interviewers to uncover the best candidates based on what they can actually do rather than how well they self-promote what they claim they can do. Traditional interviews are biased against autistic people or those with social anxieties for example. We want the best, not those who sell themselves as the best, often via bull**** or smooth talking.


So job interviewers need to step up to the plate, think outside of the box, push the envelope, raise the bar and take it to the next level(!) (And what I mean by that is your lunch is ready, do your homework in the garden because it’s a beautiful day, then post that letter, rip some reps, then go upstairs to bed(!))


Meow! You can tell us what you think about the need to ‘play the game’ in job interviews, by responding to the tweet linked to the Twitter comment button below.


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