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Subjective Judgment in Hiring Decisions

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Professionals are required to make objective decisions when hiring people. However, the hiring process is influenced by bias. Peoples’ judgment and impressions are at times based on subjective judgment. Proponents of subjective hiring decisions argue that it makes sense to make assumptions when large amount of information is involved. Subjective judgment arises due to over reliance of subjective factors like soft skills such as cooperation and being a team player.

There are various reasons why the process of hiring is vulnerable to subjective judgment. Hiring decisions are made based on inadequate information (Riggio, 2013). Application letters, work samples and resumes do not provide enough information on one’s skills and personality. Furthermore, managers make the mistake of believing that they are not vulnerable to subjective judgment like other people (Dunkelberg & Scott, 2010). They tend to think that they can hire best candidates without the use of decisions aids. They believe that they can use their intuition and experience to hire a competent candidate.

Subjective judgment in hiring process make managers commit very costly mistakes including legal actions, low productivity and wasted investment in training (Gullickson, 2011). Research has shown that most biases that affect hiring process include prejudice, in group bias, confirming bias, halo effect and biased recall (Gordon, 2008). Prejudice is an emotional reaction that makes one to have a negative representation of categories of people. People have a very strong prejudice on people who come from different groups from their own.

In-group bias occurs when one prefers people from their own groups. Confirming bias is said to take place when people make initial judgment then proceed to gather evidence to back it up (Hacker, 2009). Another factor that influences hiring process is halo effect, where people judge others based on a person’s character that is generalized from a negative or positive impression (Huguenard, Sager & Ferguson, 2010). A good example of halo effect is beauty. Bias recall is tendency of mangers to make memory errors that are consistent with prejudices and stereotypes even when objective facts suggest otherwise.

A structure approach to the hiring process helps overcome the influence of bias. It helps Human Resource professionals explain and document his or her choice clearly. Structured hiring process includes job analysis (Matt & Abdul, 2008). It enables Human resource professionals have clear expectations of what to consider and looks for in a candidate. This analysis enables one to identify key competencies and performance criteria for success in a job (Muchinsky, 2010). It spells out human attributes in measuring what they want inn application letter, resume and interviews (Noe, 2007). Managers get objective criteria of measuring suitability of candidates. All this is done before actual recruitment begins and the selection criteria are strictly adhere to.

Structured interviews also help in overcoming the problem of subjective judgment. A well structured interviewing process improves the reliability and predictive power of interviewing (Riggio, 2013). Standardized and objective interview are more relevant to job analysis and criteria that is critical to the job. Research indicates that structure interviews reduce bias. Strict guidelines should be used for content based on the job analysis and in reducing influence of the intuitive evaluation through the use of scoring system that are consistent (Schindler, 2012). Interviewer ought to concentrate on the quality on the content instead of misleading and irrelevant cues that cause bias.

Whenever an employer decides to used employment agencies, they should make sure that those agencies realize that they are an equal opportunity employer. They should also make sure those agencies know that they want wide range of candidates. During actual interview, managers should ask relevant questions that are prepare well in advance. The interview panel should reflect diversity. Before interview starts, there should be answers that will be used as a marking scheme. Each interview panel member should award scores to candidate answers and keep a record. This helps reduce subjective decision making.

Decision aids and psychometrics should also be used in hiring process. Personality assessment could also be used to empirically and objectively measure human traits and attributes (Walter, 2011). They accurately predict applicants’ behavior. Psychometrics helps in reducing impact of any misleading psychological bias.

Training is a good way of challenging deeply held issues. There are various types of training which includes self awareness training and diversity training. Diversity training help managers understand value of diversity and appreciate why people hold bias (Walter, 2011). Self awareness training uses instruments like questionnaires to help people realize the value of others and understand assumptions they have about desirability of their own type.

Hiring managers are influenced by bias just like any other person. For this reason companies must put in place a structure in the hiring process in order to be able to hire competent candidates (Riggio, 2013). Structured interviewing, objective decision aids and job analysis help define human traits they want to measure in the hiring process. Structured hiring process encourages hiring managers to focus on underlying traits and competencies. In as much as it is hard to eliminate bias completely, structuring the hiring process greatly help hiring managers make objective judgment.


Dunkelberg, W. C., & Scott, J. A. (2010). The effect of changes in monetary policy on the expectations, spending, and hiring decisions of small business owners. Washington, D.C.: SBA Office of Advocacy. (Original work published 2005)

Gordon, R. (2008). Employer hiring decisions. Columbus, Ohio: National Center for Research in Vocational Education, Ohio State University. (Original work published 1985)

Gullickson, T. (2011). Psychology Applied to Work: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology.. psycCRITIQUES, 40(2), 73-89.

Hacker, C. A. (2009). The costs of bad hiring decisions & how to avoid them (10th ed.). Delray Beach, Fla.: St. Lucie Press.

Huguenard, T., Sager, E. B., & Ferguson, L. W. (2010). Interview Time, Interview Set, And Interview Outcome. Perceptual And Motor Skills, 31(3), 831-836.

Matt, G., & Abdul, L. (2008). Interviews (English ed.). Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König ;.

Muchinsky, P. M. (2010). Psychology applied to work: an introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (8th ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Pub..

Noe, R. A. (2007). Fundamentals of human resource management (2nd ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Riggio, R. E. (2013). Introduction to industrial/organizational psychology (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson.

Schindler, F. (2012). On Hiring People [MicroBusiness]. IEEE Microwave Magazine, 13(1), 22-180.

The hiring process. (2013). Halifax, N.S.: Dept. of Human Resources. (Original work published 1994)

Walter, R. J. (2011). Employer Liability for Negligence In Post-Hiring Employment Decisions. american journal of business, 6(2), 51-54.

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