What is affinity/similarity bias?
Similarity bias refers to the tendency to favour people who have similar characteristics or attributes to ourselves, such as gender, race, or ethnicity.
Affinity bias is often referred to as similarity bias when discussing types of unconscious bias in recruitment. Even though seemingly similar, they do involve very slight differences.
Affinity bias refers to the tendency to favour people with more likeable traits, not people that are necessarily similar to us. Whereas, similarity bias is about preferring someone because we share similar characteristics with. This does not necessarily imply that this person is generally more likeable, it just makes them more likeable in your eyes.
Similarity bias in the workplace
Similarity bias in the workplace refers to the tendency of people to favour or feel more comfortable with individuals who are similar to them in some way.
Here are two examples of similarity bias in the workplace:
- Recruitment: An employer may unconsciously prefer candidates who share similar traits with them or their existing team members.
- Promotion: Managers may promote individuals who are similar to them or who share similar backgrounds, even if there are other employees who are more qualified for the position.
What is similarity bias in recruitment?
In recruitment, similarity bias is the tendency to favour one candidate over another candidate because you share a characteristic trait or past experience with this candidate. The more similarities you share, the more you will gravitate toward this candidate. This could be the same cultural background, interests, or even the same high school.
Similarity bias examples
- For example, an interviewer may be more likely to hire a job candidate who attended the same university or grew up in the same neighbourhood as them, even if that candidate is not the most qualified.
- When screening or interviewing a candidate, you may unconsciously focus on assessing the similarities you share with the candidate. This can lead to a positive bias toward the candidate, even if they are not the most qualified for the role.
How to avoid similarity bias in the hiring process?
There are a few steps you can take to avoid similarity bias in the hiring process:
- Use assessments at the start of the hiring process to determine the skills and competencies of candidates before any interference of biases.
- Use structured interviews. A structured interview process leads to consistency between interviews, allowing you to better compare candidates.
- Avoid small talk. While small talk can help to put a candidate at ease it’s also a breeding ground for similarity bias.