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How to Avoid Recency Bias in Interviews

  • By Manav Jain
  • January 20, 2023
  • 5 mins read
Build more diverse teams by removing bias in interviews and promote DEI
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    In any interview, it’s essential to make a fair assessment of a candidate’s qualifications and suitability for the position. Unfortunately, our brains are built with a variety of cognitive biases that might impede our ability to make objective decisions. One of these biases is recency bias, where we tend to focus excessively on a candidate’s most recent experiences or accomplishments. Leading to an incomplete and potentially biased assessment. There are, however, methods for overcoming recency bias and conducting unbiased interviews that successfully analyze candidate’s efficiency and experience. In this article, we’ll discuss how to avoid recency bias in interviews by using structured interviews, and evaluation criteria, and focusing on the candidate’s diversity and inclusion.

    What is recency bias and how it affects interviews?

    Picture this: You’re a hiring manager and you’ve been interviewing potential candidates all week and the most recent candidate is your #1 choice. Before you finalize your decision take a second to pause and ask yourself: “Is this due to recency bias?”

    It is most likely the answer. Your brain’s information from yesterday appears to be the better option since it is so much easier to recall.

    Recency bias refers to the tendency to give more importance to recent information or experiences when making judgments or decisions. In the context of interviews, this can manifest as giving more consideration to a candidate with the most recent job or experience, rather than taking a holistic view of their qualifications and experiences.

    Thus, the recency effect mainly reflects the way our brain is hardwired to remember information presented to us most recently. You may probably recall what you had for dinner today, but do you remember what you ate for dinner about a week ago? In the same manner, you may be able to remember the candidates you spoke to today, but most plausibly not the ones you spoke to last week and this can impact the earlier candidates while proving advantageous to the last-interviewed candidate. Read more about how to remove unconscious biases in interviews

    Strategies for Conducting Unbiased Interviews and Avoiding Recency Bias

    Here are some strategies for conducting unbiased interviews and avoiding recency bias in interviews are listed below:

    Have a System In Place

    Having a system that is clear-cut and well-implemented may help. Firstly, it is very important to have an established and clear set of interview questions to ensure that every candidate has the same interview experience by providing them with a level playing field. Generate a rating criteria from each response of the candidate so your notes will be an integral part of overcoming the recency bias. Read more on how to efficiently plan your interviews. Read more on how to structure your interviews.

    Record Interviews

    With the consent of the candidate in question, recording the interviews can be a good idea to refer to the clips when the pool of candidates has been narrowed down. This can be done by watching the first person you interviewed at the end to overcome the recency bias. Read more about how to record interviews.

    Avoid Making Decisions During Fatigue

    Mental fatigue further promotes the recency effect so try to avoid making any decisions during any state of fatigue or tiredness. Instead, try to select the candidates in the morning after you give yourself a chance to rest and have a fresh perspective and outlook on the issue. Mentally being fresh and alert prevents the harmful effects of recency bias and makes it easier to remember the events of the preceding day and the experiences with each candidate. Moreover, try to allow yourself to have enough breaks in the middle of interviewing to allow new associations and memories for each candidate.  Read more on how to conduct better interviews.

    Rigorous Note-taking during interviews

    Instead of exerting yourself by scheduling interviews consecutively with no space to breathe in between, make sure there is enough time between the interviews to take a breather and immediately record impressions. Moreover, do ensure that you take notes right away in the given moment during which the candidate’s experience s still extremely fresh in your mind as it will enhance your ability to reflect on your notes and remember the strengths/weaknesses of a candidate you interviewed even 5 days ago. Complete your scores and make meaningful notes to accurately assess the candidate’s responses. Interview recording and transcription is an effective ways to take rigorous notes and be involved in the interview. Read more on how to make efficient interview notes.

    Provide Interviewer Training

    For candidate interviews to be fair, interviewers must receive training to conduct them without any subconscious biases or prejudices. Training should focus on avoiding all types of bias, not just recency, by emphasizing how to keep an open mind while interviewing and choosing the candidate based on merit and qualifications, not anything else. Read more on how to train your interviewers.

    Randomize Candidate Reviews

    Review candidate responses question by question rather than candidate by candidate, rather than scoring all candidate responses at once. Distribute candidates randomly so that they are reviewed in a different order. Split the resume sections rather than going through everything at once. This way, no applicant benefits from the repetition because no specific order is followed. Also, arrange the interviews in a different order so that each candidate does not always meet with another interviewer last. In this way, you can also avoid groupthink in hiring.

    Primacy Bias vs. Recency Bias: Understanding the Impact on Decision-Making

    Primacy bias and recency bias significantly influence our decision-making. This bias occurs when initial information shapes our judgments more than later information. This bias is evident in interviews, where early impressions can overshadow later details about candidates. Recency bias, on the other hand, gives undue weight to recent information or impressions, potentially overlooking earlier experiences. Both biases can lead to incomplete assessments.

    To overcome these biases, decision-makers must be aware of their presence and actively consider all available information. By actively seeking and evaluating relevant information, decisions can be more accurate and fair. Identifying and reducing the effects of the tendency to rely on first and last impressions can help decision-makers be unbiased and knowledgeable. Evaluations are based on a thorough understanding of the situation or person being assessed.


    Thus, understanding how this bias works and implementing the correct ways and strategies to challenge the recency effect, can lead to an objectively better decision-making process holistically. 

    As a recruiter, we interview several people and it is extremely easy for these experiences to be forgotten or not remembered wholly. BarRaiser Interview Intelligence is committed to ensuring that every candidate receives a fair opportunity by taking steps to remove the recency bias. This will lead to better decisions-better process-better in recruitment in the end.

    People also asked

    How to reduce bias while interviewing?

    Interviewing bias is often unconscious and the interviewer training program must appreciate that the best way to mitigate this is through self-realization. BarRaiser Interview Intelligence identifies interviewer bias, makes it visible to them, and provides them with live nudges during the interview to do so. Read more on how to reduce bias in interviews.

    What causes the recency effect?

    The human mind tends the remember the most recent event most vividly. An example of this is during interviews: when comparable candidates come in for an interview, the probability of the last candidate receiving the offer is the highest. Interviewers need to be cognizant of their biases and address them accordingly.

    What is the recency effect in unbiased interviews?

    The recency effect is when an interviewer gives too much importance to a candidate’s recent experiences or information. It causes an unfair and incomplete evaluation. To conduct a fair interview, it is important to evaluate a candidate based on their entire history and skills, rather than just focusing on their latest achievements.

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