Examining how cognitive psychological bias be identified and mitigated in processes of human resources department

The goal is to examining how cognitive psychological bias be identified and mitigated in processes of human resources department. The goal of this study is to evaluate the cognitive biases in HR managers that are in charge of the recruitment and interview process. The study explores the hiring and interview bias to offer methods to mitigate cognitive bias in HR managers during the hiring process.

The research question is “how can cognitive psychological bias be identified and mitigated in processes of human resources department in large or medium organisations”.

Introduction

Research background

According to Roulin, Bangerter and Levashina (2014), in today world, despite the aid of technology to access personality and analytical skills, interviews are primary instruments of hiring. The information and perception developed during the interviews directly affect the decision making for employment selection. In reality, the bias during the interview process is evident. The characteristic of applicants influence the organisational protocols and interviews and thus, demographic effects, stereotypes bias remained questionable. This study is based on three important cognitive biases.

Firstly, reciprocation bias (Bolton et Al, 2013) in which judgement against an individual is developed. For interviewers, this leads to stereotyping create a system in an organisation where individuals that are owed the most favours rise or judged with predefined criteria (Carlin and Love, 2013). Secondly, social-proof biases (Tyler, 2014) which involve humans tend to perceive as favourable those that are already popular. For instance, the interviewer is holding opinions and perceptions about certain group/demographic. Thirdly, disliking a person owning one of their characteristics (e.g. political beliefs) can lead to the lack of favourability in assessment (Hendricks and Rendsvig, 2016).

Cognitive Biases framework

Figure 1: Cognitive Biases framework for this study

Research Context

Bias during hiring process

Koch, D’Mello and Sackett (2015) analysed that hiring decisions are made information which is limited by analysing the stranger work sample, CV and application letters. This gives a sketch of applicant skills and personality and information influence the perception of decision-maker. However, the decisions are made under fast paced environment and impression and perception of recruiter influence decision making.

Therefore, the bias is unavoidable in today workplace and cause social and organisational problems. For example, some of the common misconceptions such as women are caring, Asian people good are math and colour people are lazy guide perception of HR managers. The table summarise common types of bias during hiring process

Bias during hiring process

Table 1: Bias during hiring process

Source: (Bond and Haynes, 2014; Koch, D’Mello and Sackett, 2015)

Gaertner and Dovidio (2014) added that bias result in failure to capture information on person’s abilities and personality on part of interviewer. During the course of the hiring process, decision-makers are bound with an incomplete set of data and to fill the gap with additional characteristics from prominent information. The bias results in costly hiring mistakes, low productivity and poor hiring decisions.

Interview, Biases and decision making

Interviews are a most traditional component of human resource management to gather information on the employee and using collected information for decision-making. The literature on interview shows that over the years, studies have analyses interview types and format, psychometric properties and person description (fit for the job). However, there are fewer studies examines cognitive bias (Fiske and Taylor, 2013; Hendricks and Rendsvig, 2016)) in HR managers that are in charge of the interview process. The reciprocation bias, social proof bias and stereotyping require further research to understand the effect on judgement and decision of interviewer (Roulin, Bangerter and Levashina, 2014).

Interview, Biases and decision making

Figure 2: Interview, Biases and decision making

The interview process is particular subject to bias and despite most frequently used instrument, interviews are a poor predictor of a characteristic of applicant abilities. The intuition-based interviewing are inconsistent and enclosed subjectivity, inconsistency and personal preferences.

For instance, the range of bias situation such as halo effect (charismatic people) and prejudice (characteristics) have a negative effect on important hiring decisions. Bias can lead to poor hiring decisions which could have illegal and costly consequences for business. The incomplete information for the interviewer’s result in gut-feeling and HR managers are no exceptions to it (Carson and Cable, 2014).

Proposed research construct

Figure 3: Proposed Research Construct 

Literature Review

Taxonomy of literature

Examining how cognitive psychological bias be identified and mitigated in processes of human resources department

Table 2: Taxonomy of literature

Theoretical Framework

Cognitive style

According to Ausburn & Ausburn (1978), cognitive style encloses the psychological dimension which highlights consistencies in cognitive functioning of the individual. In the context of cognitive psychology, it describes the way in which individual perceive, think and remember information. Cognitive style embraces individual difference in preferred way for processing, analysing and gathering information and experiences.

Kitayama et al (2015) added that cognitive style encloses systematic way to remember, processing and organising of information. Cognitive style varies with personality and ranges from intuitive to analytic. The individual processing and evaluating information holistically to reach a conclusion based on gut feeling or intuitions are known as “intuitive” (Sternberg and Zhang, 2014) and individual processing information in a sequential manner as well as on details and results to reach the conclusion are known as “analytical”.

The number of assumption related to cognitive style is following. First, the focus is on the content of information rather forming of information. Second, it encloses dimension which can be psychometric techniques. Third, it is bipolar and fourth it is steady over time. Finally, it is value differentiated (Pennycook, Fugelsang and Koehler, 2015).

Cognitive biases and Errors in decision-making

Blumenthal-Barby and Krieger (2015) stated that a cognitive bias involves actions or decisions made resulting in weak or flaw processing of information. Hess et al (2013) stated that biases evident in the decision when individual feel under pressure or threaten. The term bias in malfunction context highlights the mechanism involved in cognitive processing applied during the wrong situation. As, people in cognitive biases believe that event will occur and thus, biases are inherent outcomes of the situation of intense stress. A recall on mind makes things difficult and makes decisions based on information available and thus imposes bias in judgement (Sinayev and Peters, 2015).

Therefore, cognitive bias leads to decisions made on the basis of heuristics. In context Heuristics, a non-rational decision making takes place and i.e. rule of thumb to process the information. Under heuristics, decision maker takes informal strategy as well as taking educated guessing prone to inaccurate, distortions and omissions. The three types of biases used by human to make decision under uncertainty are availability, representativeness and anchoring (Jain, Jain and Jain, 2015).

Table 3: Cognitive biases and Errors in decision-making

Anchoring bias

Representative biases

Availability biases

Inclination to make decision based on initial informationInvolve processing information with assumptions of probability of occurring an event

Embraces making decisions based on information readily available on hand

 

Figure 4: Heuristics and decision-making

Heuristics and decision-making

Theories of human behaviour and cognition

Behaviour decision theory

Sniehotta, Presseau and Araujo-Soares (2014) evaluated that the theory of behaviour decision making integrates both rational as well as irrational processes for decision making. Theory recognises that subjective gains and biases lead to wrong decisions and bias from the past successes are taken as a predictor of future. Therefore, this elaborates the irrational commitment to the individual wrong decisions irrespective of cost (Evans and Stanovich, 2013).

To support decisions, probabilities are calculated using the computational decision-making model but people do not trust analytical results particular under the situation where there is psychological and emotional pressure. Consequently, under such environment, people prefer the heuristic decision making which leads to drawing wrong conclusion despite the presence of disconfirming evidence (Estes, 2014).

Process Theory of Human Cognition

Kruglanski (2013) elaborated that the process theory of human cognition highlights the distinction how individual process information in both conscious and unconscious situation through recognising patterns and features. People classified the information as relevant for decision making (mental operations) and transfer memory information for further analysis. During this phase, cognitive is experienced consciously and available information is combined with long-term memory data.

The analysis of stimulus information for decision-making trigger pre-defined response and information is encoded in memory for long term reference use. In the context of unconscious decision-making, the perpetual processes are not attended and displace working memory before embedded into long-term memory (Sternberg and Sternberg, 2016).

Cognitive Biases in hiring decisions and interviews

Gender and social status

Fiske and Taylor (2013) elaborated that in Europe, discrimination based on age and marital status is evident. Researchers have shown that women are treated negatively during the hiring because of pregnancy issues and social role. Especially, women are less considered for the leadership role during the hiring. The distinction between gender and social factors results in discrimination when selecting the candidate. The stereotype attaches to gender is that men are responsible for family support whereas women leave a career for family (Kang and Bodenhausen, 2015).

Marital status is asked either directly or indirectly such as personal titles which help to identify the person. The literature on decision making highlight that interviewer makes quasi-rational decisions and thus, bias influence the hiring decision. The initiative bias in such context involves stereotypes and thus influence the manager whether to hire the individual or not (Ridgeway and Kricheli-Katz, 2014).

The gender and marital status of applicant allow developing discrimination in such context that whether employee willing to travel and staying in the same role, fit with the organisation as well as the level of skills and commitment to the job in future. In the context of social role theory, both gender and marital status receive discrimination during the hiring process (Ridgeway, 2014).

Language and Ethnicity

Morgan and Farkas (2016) evaluated that the name and speech of applicant may trigger implicit response and interviewer might develop a certain perception about the applicant. The communication and ethnicity of applicants recognised by the HR manager develop the perception for organisational research and individual characteristic. This initiates the perception for kindness, intelligence, national originality, status and ethnicity. For example, Asian linked to educational attainment; French associated with sophistication and in the UK Liverpool is taken as less culture compares to Cambridge and oxford (Melitz and Toubal, 2014).

Beckhusen et al (2013) added that the verbal nature of interviews provides the basis to develop biased judgments and influence interview decision. People with basic linguist ability can differentiate among groups of people. However, in contrast, Spanish is spoken in four regions which include Europe and South America and thus, it relatively difficult to distinguish from the people. The interviewer is likely to evaluate applicants in the positive way when communication ability is matched with perceptions of managers.

Esses, Bennett-AbuAyyash and Lapshina (2014) assessed that there is another problem of limited ability to distinguish between ethnicity and race of people. In European Asian and Africans are minorities but there is a need of clear distinction between ethnicity and race for elicit confusion. Ethnicity is defined as a group of people in which social culture heritage has developed over the time from generation to generation but the race is social grouping based on physical characteristics such as colour and skin rather ancestral original (Gaertner and Dovidio, 2014).

For example, a research between European and African candidate was conducted in EU by changing the biographic sections of counter parts. The findings of the study revealed that changing names has allowed receiving an interview invitation. The biases during the selection process present based on ethnicity and language matters as interviewers rank employee during selection. The ethnicity triggers negative stenotypes and influences the process of evaluation (Chiswick and Miller, 2015).

Stereotyping and prejudice

Koch, D’Mello and Sackett (2015) explained that psychologists believe that beliefs and assumptions of individual from another evident impact the response and perception of person in another event. The determinants of person personality and appearance are likely to influence the perception of decision maker. The characteristics of applicants including name, personality and attitude influence the perception of the interviewer. Stereotyping and prejudice are closely related to each other and researches have concluded that stereo-tying as cognitive component of prejudice.

Stereotyping is based on cognitive knowledge which links the traits and characteristic of certain groups and thus, influences the behaviour of interpretation (Lassonde and O’Brien, 2013). Stereotype prompts negative behaviour and attitude and in the context of cultural stereotype, there is the high level of negative prejudice. The active judgement about the specific group of people creates perception and raise racism about certain groups. The prejudice about ethnicity generates multiple cues linking to demographics of applicant during hiring process (Koch, D’Mello and Sackett, 2015).

People ranked and categorised people on the basis of delineated characteristics such as ethnicity and gender. During the first encounter, it is natural to make prompt reaction from a recall from memory. The person is categorised as an individual based on similar characteristics of another person. These associations are the result of recall attributes or behaviours based on stereotype based distortions (Abrams, Swift and Drury, 2016). Despite the fact that cues do not differentiate people from majority within the similar context and i.e. a control cognitive scenario occurs in the mind through arranging a number of elements.

The grouping and sorting of information categorise person based on differences such as age, psychical appearance, socioeconomic status and gender. In automated cognitive process, the memory recall minimizes the energy and time to make decision and consequently, it leads to wrong decisions (Blanton et al., 2015; Dasgupta, 2013).

Sexual Orientation

Drydakis (2015) stated that despite the law in the UK to protect the interest of gay and lesbian people, a number of surveys highlight employees experiencing discrimination during the hiring process. The discrimination in favour of for hetero-sexism results additional discrimination for lesbians, gays and transsexuals. The gender roles are influenced by sexuality stereotypes (Neuberg and Sng, 2013) and certain jobs are linked to men or women only.

The prejudice against sexuality affects the applicant during hiring process and women with same sexual orientation experience discriminatory to a greater extent when compared with homosexual males (Pedulla, 2014).

The policies and law for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) are evident during the hiring process. A number of researches concluded that discrimination against LGBT is evident in the modern workplace and thus, still a problem. The sexual orientation of applicant influences the perception of the interviewer. The disclosure of sexuality results in hostility and loss opportunity for applicants (Niedlich et al., 2015).

Halo effect

Rosenzweig (2014) discussed that the logic behind halo effect is that person uses immediate association based on memory recall and develop an instantaneous perception for the person. Do different ethnic groups and demographics, the association results in making the assumptions that person from particular group process certain abilities, qualities and qualifications (Forgas and Laham, 2016).

The two primary notions involve are a cultural message and personal observation in relation to the person. The bias and stereotype in such context strength the observations and interactions based on experiences and message build and communicated by society. The association and attributes (Furley, 2016) are developed based on information from society and an experience which communicates positive attributes associated with people as well as communicates negative attributes which come to mind of HR manager during the process of hiring and interviews.

Halo effect are based on cognitive bias and when information processing is not effective, the perception of hiring manager influence through premise and position of ideal candidate and consequently, race, age, gender and ethnicity of candidate effect the decision of HR manager (Schmidt, 2016).

Research Question and research objectives

The goal of this study is to evaluate the cognitive biases in HR managers that are in charge of the recruitment and interview process. The study explores the hiring and interview bias to offer methods to mitigate cognitive bias in HR managers during the hiring process. The research question is

How can cognitive psychological bias be identified and mitigated in processes of human resources department in large or medium organisations

The specific research objectives of study are

  • To develop an understanding of process of cognitive bias during hiring process
  • To analyse reasons of cognitive biases during interviews
  • To evaluate the influence of cognitive biases during the recruitment process
  • To make recommendations mitigate cognitive bias in HR managers during hiring process

Research Methodology

According to Creswell (2013), research embraces a systematic investigation of an issue in order to identify and evaluate the facts to draw valid conclusions and present new findings. The success of research is based on selection research methodology fits with objectives of the research. Research onion is useful to set the approach and strategy of research (Saunders and Lewis, 2012) and for this study, research onion is used as a framework for planning and setting strategy to achieve objectives of this study. The diagram below encloses the research onion (as shown in diagram below)

Research onion
Research onion

Figure 5: Research Onion

Source: Saunders and Lewis (2012)

Research philosophies

According to Weinberg (2013), research philosophies enclosed the acceptance method to guide and validate how data will be collected, processed and analysed. The three types of research philosophies are interpretivism, positivism and realism (Grix, 2010). Interpretivism research involves objective reality and experience of people through examining the real world scenario. In interpretivism, data collection is based on naturalist approach and research instruments used are observations and interviews.

Therefore, it seeks to understand the real world phenomena from the perspective of people who actually experienced the phenomena. On the other hand, realism allows evaluating the scenario in which researcher cannot separate itself from the situation and it is useful to study the social realities. In the context of positivism, reality can be studied directly and researcher separates itself from the situation. Positivism is useful to study the social problem through applying high structured approach (Given, 2008).

research philosophies

For this study, both interpretivism and positivism will be used. Interpretivism approach will allow to conducted interviews of people who experienced the bias during hiring and interviews and understand their option. On the other hand, positivism would allow to deployed structured and rigid approach through a survey to explore the problem of bias in HR managers without inferring with the phenomenon.

Research approach

Glaser (2014) stated that Inductive research is defined as a process to work bottom up and build the theory. Researcher studies the problem in wider context and then draws conclusions to present a new theory. In the context of inductive, it involves moving from general context towards the specific context.

On the other hand, the deductive approach offers top-down approach and researcher develop the hypothesis for testing the theory and consequently contradicts the theory. The rationale for inductive research is that it is useful to study problem based on experiences and observation whereas deductive approach is more suitable to evaluate the argument based on law and principles (Babbie, Wagner and Zaino, 2015).

Inductive vs. Deductive reasoning

Figure 7: Inductive vs. Deductive reasoning

For this study, both inductive and deductive approaches are used. The study involves qualitative approach based on interpretivism and i.e. inductive approach would to evaluate the interviews of people who experienced bias during interviews and develop a theory. On the other hand, a quantitative approach associated with study for a survey of HR managers to understand their opinion on the bias is better studied through deductive approach.  A structured approach to exploring the managers’ opinions and perception would allow validating the empirical findings and comparing against the result from interviews.

Research strategies

Badke (2014) analysed that research strategy encloses the plan and strategy for the researcher to answer the research question in a systematic way. The three common types of research strategies are experiments and case studies (Saunders and Lewis, 2012). Experiment strategy involves designing for the true or quasi-experiment. The useful of the experiment is that it allows examining the causes and validating generalisation but the weakness of experiment is that it is conducted in control environment which influences the behaviour of people.

Case studies involve focusing on a specific population (small groups) and then evaluate the case in a comprehensive manner. The benefit of case studies is flexibility it offers to generalise the situation from multiple variables. On the other hand, the problems associated with case studies are a lack of breath and time-consuming (Yin, 2013).

For this study, case method is suitable as it provides analysis and description of groups. The flexibility offered by case would allow exploring the cognitive bias from both manager and people who experience bias during hiring. In the context of cognitive bias, multiple case studies are useful to produce detail description on the cognitive bias during the hiring and interviews. The multiple case studies would allow construct data order and explore empirical literature. Case studies are useful in mixed methods research and provide systematic procedure to analyse both quantitative and qualitative data (Mills and Durepos, 2010; Stake, 2013).

Research choice – Mixed methods

Qualitative and quantitative research

Mixed method research involves collection and analysis of data through integrating both qualitative (interviews) and quantitative research (surveys). This approach allows integrating the strength of both approaches to increase the reliability of findings through breadth and depth of collaboration and offsetting the weakness (Creswell, 2014).

The quantitative approach involves quantification of data and deploys analytical techniques to examine the problem using rigid structure.  It is useful to collect information on opinion and behaviours from a large sample of the population. In the context of quantitative research, usually closed end questions are involved in measuring behaviours and results are analysed statically (Mertens, 2014).

On the other hand, Qualitative research is associated with interpretivism and involves developing insight on reason, opinions and motivations. It is useful to understand the social problem by developing deeper perspective. Qualitative research encloses open-ended information gather through interviews and analysis of such information using inductive approach allows to categories and present information. The weakness of qualitative data is unstructured data collection which is difficult to analyse (Smith, 2015).

Data collection and Analysis

Qualitative research instruments — Interview

Seidman (2015) stated that interview is a systematic way of listening and talking to people is known as interview and it is useful to collect data from an individual. The interview is an interchange of views between people or groups, discussing mutual interests and focus on knowledge production.

The three types of interviews are an unstructured, semi-structured and structured interview. In an unstructured interview, there are no pre-defined contexts and interviewer and interview discussion are open-end. In semi-structure interviews, interviewer set the boundary of discussion through setting pre-defined question open-end questions. Finally, structured interviews involve close-end questions and interviewee answer limited to a specific context. For this study, semi-structure interview technique will be used to evaluate the cognitive bias problem and challenges in HR context (Leavy, 2014). The interview questions are attached in appendix 1

Table 4: Qualitative research population

Convenience sampling

Figure 8: Qualitative Research — Sampling Technique

Quantitative research instruments – questionnaire

Woodrow (2014) elaborated that to collect the primary data, the survey will be conducted by the interviewees how experienced the bias during job application and interviewing. The questionnaire is a popular method of conducting a survey and it will allow collecting data from the larger population in cost effective and timely manner.

The three important elements of the questionnaire are a minimisation of error, the motivation of reader and achieving effective response rate. For the effective questionnaire, a pilot study will be conducted to minimise the errors and questionnaire size would be kept to minimum level to motivate reader and achieve higher response rate. Moreover, the data collection from the survey will be inserted into SPSS to analyse the data (Muijs, 2010). The questionnaire is attached in appendix 2

Table 5: Quantitative research population

 quota sampling

Figure 9: Quantitative research — Sampling Technique

Draft of data collection questioning route

For this study, the questionnaire is adopted from two important studies Nadler and Kufahl (2014) and Purkiss et al (2016) exploring the cognitive implication and application during the hiring process and interviews. The two studies are

  • Nadler, J.T. and Kufahl, K.M. (2014) ‘Marital Status, Gender, and Sexual Orientation: Implications for Employment Hiring Decisions’, Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 270-278.
  • Purkiss, S.L.S., Perrewe, P.L., Gillespie, T.L., Mayes, B.T. and Ferris, G.R. (2016) Implicit Sources of Bias in Employment Interview Judgments and Decisions, Florida State University.

In the first study, researcher explores the effect of gender, sexual orientation and marital status effect on the hiring decisions of HR manager. The study confirms the hypothesis to explore the cognitive biases Implications for Employment Hiring Decisions and concluded a positive relationship between gender, marital status and sexual orientation and cognitive bias impact during hiring.

In the second study, Purkiss et al (2016) evaluated the how cognitive biases are developed and malfunction in the hiring decisions during employment interviews. The author examines range of factors such as demographic, ethnicity and language.

Figure 10: Data collection questioning route

 

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6.0 Timetable of the dissertation’s completion route

Gantt Chart for dissertation’s completion

Figure 11: Gantt Chart for dissertation’s completion route

Appendix 1: Questionnaire

questionnaire HRM

Appendix 2: Interviews questions

Interview questions — experience cognitive bias during interview

interview questions HRM

 


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