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June 1, 2020

3 ways to remove bias from your vetting process

Interested in improving your critical thinking skills when faced with emotional, bias, and prejudice-charged situations?

The most recent book from Malcolm Gladwell, Talking to Strangers, delivers some answers but, more importantly, drives us to start asking the right questions. The book weaves together stories about increasing our self-awareness and our tendencies evaluating people, strangers.

You will find examples showing even the best critical thinkers leaping to unfounded conclusions, persistently blind to the facts presented, crippling their ability to evaluate people. Further, once those findings are made public, the human ego sets them in stone, doubling down on what was an inadequate assessment from the beginning. The examples diminish respect for the superior intellect or expert skill of the liars, shining a light on how those deceived are unknowingly complicit, entrapped by their self-conceit. The willingness to be proven wrong publicly might be the most powerful trait of a great critical thinker.

Gladwell shares a compelling study pitting artificial intelligence against New York City judges on their effectiveness granting bail to 554,689 defendants from 2008- 2013.

When predicting, “who was most likely to commit crimes while out on bail and most likely to show up for their trial,” it was no contest; the computer was more effective forecasting by 25%.

What is more shocking – of the top 1% most likely to repeat crimes based on the historical facts, the Judges released 48.5%. Nearly 50% of the most apparent repeat offenders were miss ranked by professionals trained to detect liars.

Who had the most information on the defendants, the Judges or the computer?

Who had access to the most irrelevant information might be the better question. Judges had the defendant’s previous record, age, what happened the last time on bail, where they lived, and work. The judges also had the testimony of the prosecuting and defending attorneys, and the information shared in the courtroom. And they had the evidence of their own eyes. “What is my feeling about this man before me?”

The computer had only age and the rap sheet, a fraction of the information the judges had, yet the computer made better decisions.

It is clear meeting the person face-to-face, seeing their eyes and hearing their stories, was the debilitating factor.

Malcolm references another example of how orchestras made smarter hiring decisions when they started having auditions behind a screen. Taking the right information away from the committee allowed them to make better hiring decisions. The information gleaned from watching them play is irrelevant. How big, small, handsome, homely, or their ethnicity is unrelated to how well they perform.


How can you apply the lessons from these examples to improve your vetting process?

Internally, Misura Group’s double-vetting process has some hard-fast rules.

1) Use standardized questions: There is only one list of key performance outcomes and behavioral traits per position. As a group, make that decision before interviewing starts and rank them.

2) Protect objectivity: Do not share notes before interviewing. Force each interviewer to develop their individual assessment.

3) Phone/blind interviewing: Studies show face-to-face engagement encourages biases. Create a blind interviewing phase for your process. Video interviewing has its place around developing trust but know that it impedes critical assessment abilities.


What measures do you put into practice to maintain your humility, persistently collect new data, and give space to new conclusions? Contact the Misura Group team to learn more about how we implement these rules in our double-vetting process.

Hire Smarter – Tony

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