How communication styles trigger interview bias

“Facts tell stories sell” is a piece of marketing and personal branding advice I see almost daily on social media, especially targeting job seekers. Like a lot of bumper sticker homilies, it can work some of the time, but it doesn’t work all of the time.

Why? Because it lacks nuance, a topic which is pre-occupying me currently. And we also know that nuance is unpopular. 

There are 4 communication styles noted by Leadership IQ:

  • Intuitive communicators are unemotional and freeform. They want bottom-line communications that are short and to the point and that don’t waste their time.
  • Analytical communicators are unemotional but linear. They want confident communications that convey expertise including hard facts and numbers.
  • Functional communicators are emotional and linear. They like to have control of the process, so give them process-oriented and linear communications that start at A, and then flow from B to C and all the way to Z.
  • Personal communicators are emotional and freeform. They want to establish an interpersonal relationship. Use emotional language in an informal, friendly, and warm way that gets them involved in talking about factors including who else will be involved and how what you’re asking them to do will impact their feelings.

50% chance of mis-alignment

Research from Mark Murphy, Founder of leadership IQ, and best-selling author, reports that respondents who took his quiz “ What’s your communication style” adds a layer of complexity.

He found 50% of respondents are either analytical or intuitive communicators. So, the chances of not communicating in the right way to someone are pretty high. Half of them will not be persuaded by stories. The other half will not be persuaded by data.

The reason we go down this path is because of the false consensus effect, also known as consensus bias, is a “pervasive cognitive bias that causes people to “see their own behavioural choices and judgments as relatively common and appropriate to existing circumstances”. In other words, they assume that their personal qualities, characteristics, beliefs, and actions are relatively widespread through the general population.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” said Anaïs Nin.

This also means that we tend to overestimate how like ourselves other people really are. We also judge people more harshly if their style is not like our own.  We see them through a negative lens as impatient, verbose, detail obsessed, unfocused etc. This is a bias.

Male-coded communication

It seems that even in interviews male interactions with female candidates differ with women to men which can lead to interview bias.  Men describe women as less assertive and forthcoming yet perhaps they just don’t get the chance to speak.

Amy Diehl PhD shared research from Bright Hire on Twitter.  The reports indicates that “manologues” “manterrupting” and “mansplaining “  commonly found in meetings, also feature in interviews in the communication style of male interviewers.

Isolating how men interview women they observed that they:

  • Own 13% more of the total talk time in these interviews.
  • Speak 30% more words overall
  • Have conversations that are 9% less interactive
  • Run on with 6% longer monologues

Interrupting interview bias

From an organisational point of view managing this male coded behaviour is just one way to make recruitment processes more inclusive. This should be done by using structured interviewers to keep the motor mouths in check. For those that are not convinced that will work, there is the Gender Timer app.

The same techniques can also be used to manage reactions to any other type of communication style.  if you are an interviewer check-in with yourself first.  Ask yourself  “why might I be reacting like this?”  It could well be consensus bias.

What you can do as a candidate is to try to identify the communication style of the people who are interviewing you if you can. It’s definitely a question to ask your future boss. “How would you describe you communication / leadership style?” 

Firstly, you will find out if they have that level of self-awareness, always a good indicator.  Secondly, you will be able to see if your styles are aligned, which will give you insight on how you may need to adapt or even if you should move on.

If you want to manage your interview process for bias get in touch NOW

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