What is meant by conservatism bias?
Conservatism bias is the tendency to prefer existing evidence over new evidence that might change your view on something, which is caused by resistance to change your opinion about something. On a psychological level this happens because you might be trying to protect yourself from thinking less of yourself.
To learn more about conservatism bias, we spoke with Equalutre’s Head of Science, Leonie Grandpierre.
In this podcast episode, Leonie explains conservatism bias in recruitment, where conservatism bias originates, which biases are related and why it often hinders strategic change and hiring decisions even in the face of sound evidence.
What is the difference between conservatism and confirmation bias?
While conservatism bias and confirmation bias are similar in that they both involve a preference for existing beliefs and information, there are some important differences between the two
Conservatism bias specifically refers to the tendency to stick with established beliefs and information, and resist change or new information that challenges those beliefs. Confirmation bias, on the other hand, refers to the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs, and discount or ignore information that contradicts them.
In other words, conservatism bias is about being resistant to change, while confirmation bias is about selectively seeking out and interpreting information to support our existing beliefs.
Conservatism bias examples
Conservatism bias can affect the hiring process in a number of ways.
For example, a hiring manager may rely too heavily on a candidate’s past experience and credentials, and be reluctant to consider candidates with different backgrounds or who lack traditional qualifications. This can result in a homogenous workforce that lacks a diversity of thought and perspective.
Moreover, it is widely recognized among hiring managers and recruiters that using CVs and unstructured interviews as a means of evaluating candidates has limited predictive value and can result in biased decision-making. Despite this knowledge, many are reluctant to abandon these methods as they have been used for a long time and changing them would require a significant shift in approach.
How to minimise the effects of conservatism bias in the hiring process
Awareness and training: Educate yourself and your team about different types of biases, including conservatism bias. Awareness is the first step towards minimizing its impact. One way to do this is by conducting training sessions to help team members recognize their biases and understand their potential influence on the hiring process.
Put in place diverse interview panels: Ensure that your interview panels are diverse and include individuals from different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. This can help counteract conservatism bias by bringing in a range of viewpoints and reducing the likelihood of biased decision-making.
Create a structured interview process: Use structured interviews that consist of a predetermined set of questions for all candidates applying for the same role. This approach will ensure consistency and minimizes the influence of subjective judgments. Make sure to also develop objective hiring criteria and scorecards to evaluate candidates equally.
Use objective assessment methods: Such as skills tests, cognitive ability tests, or simulations, to evaluate candidates’ abilities and performance. These assessments focus on outcomes rather than relying solely on subjective evaluations.
Align on evaluation criteria: Clearly define the evaluation criteria for each role and communicate them to all interviewers. This ensures that assessments are based on job-related factors rather than influenced by personal biases. Encourage interviewers to evaluate candidates based on other aspects rather than solely on familiarity or similarity.
Data-driven insights: Collect and analyse data on the hiring process, including applicant demographics, interview performance, and final decisions. Regularly review this data to identify any potential patterns of bias and take corrective actions as necessary.
Continuously measure progress: Continuously assess and refine your hiring processes to minimise biases. Solicit feedback from both candidates and interviewers to gain insights into potential bias and areas for improvement. Regularly revisit and update your practices to align with best practices and evolving understanding of bias mitigation.
Remember, eliminating bias entirely is challenging, we know that, but these steps can help reduce the impact of conservatism bias and create a more inclusive and equitable hiring process.