Hire the Right Candidates, Fairly, Using Interview Transcription

Interview bias has long been recognised as a driver of poor recruitment decisions. Savvy employers are attempting to stamp out the potential cost of mistakes. They are investing in a flurry of new technologies that promise to combat bias. Businesses are working hard to stem the flow of candidate complaints. Recruitment training has gone a long way towards ruling out general bias. But unconscious bias remains a significant problem. Interview transcription can safeguard your organisation’s hiring managers and make interviews fairer.

With more people applying for fewer jobs, HR departments are feeling the strain. Many have invested in high-tech solutions to screen dozens of candidates at a time. Video interviewing has taken off, replacing initial ‘meet and greet’ sessions. The screening process can involve hours of recorded answers to set questions. Have your hiring managers got the time to wade through videos? Many software providers claim this process eliminates unconscious bias. However, nothing beats good old fashioned written words and professional documentation, with interview transcription.

What is Unconscious Bias?

Whether we like it or not, we all form opinions about other people. Shortcuts in the brain automatically make assumptions. It starts with first impressions. Think ‘appearances’ and then consider mannerisms, speech and personality. The number of ways in which a candidate can be discriminated against is huge. HR professionals cannot afford to let bias influence hiring decisions. Especially when it comes to interviews.

So, what is unconscious bias? It is when a person makes assumptions that are not based on evidence. People who make decisions based on unconscious bias will not be aware of it. Therefore, they make decisions – often very quickly – that are not influenced by hard facts. One small mistake can cost a business tens of thousands of pounds.

If you hire a person based on perceptions and not the facts, you could be making a costly mistake. That is why it pays to look at the evidence in written format, rather than via video or by listening to a recording. The visual and verbal contexts provided by modern interview techniques can fuel unconscious bias. Think about it. A candidate could look like someone your hiring manager knows, for example. Or they could speak with the same dialect. These things can warm an interviewer to a candidate. On the other hand, unconscious bias can go against a perfectly good candidate.

Interview Transcription for Diversity

Diverse workplaces are recognised as being more productive and successful. However, unconscious bias is leaving many organisations without the diversity they need to grow. This is where interview transcription pays dividends. Without seeing a candidate, hiring managers can read responses to set questions and make decisions based on the facts. Forget fiddling about with computer screens to watch the next recorded interview. Have your interviews transcribed. It will help you review your candidates’ comments in a relaxed, more focused frame of mind.

It’s not only HR professionals who can fall prey to unconscious bias. Coffee shop chain Starbucks recently closed 8,000 stores across America to tackle bias and racism. The company implemented a huge staff training programme after two African Americans were reported for trespassing at a store in Philadelphia. The two men were waiting for a third person to arrive for a business meeting before ordering food. They were arrested as a result of the report. The arrests went on to result in undisclosed compensation payments to both men.

How Interview Transcription Improves the Candidate Experience

Knowing that statements made during an interview will be read and not just listened to gives candidates confidence in the hiring process. There are benefits to telling candidates that written transcripts will be used. It shows them that you are serious about hiring the right people. This improves the candidate’s experience. They will know they are not being judged on the colour of their skin, gender, age, their accent or nervous mannerisms. Instead, the answers they give will be what is taken into consideration when it comes to the crunch.

Interview transcriptions save time. It is easier to read transcripts than have to sit and watch video after video. Interview software comes in a multitude of different forms. New technology has ensured the latest software is available in mobile formats. However, nothing beats written documentation. It aids the hiring process. Interviews can be reviewed without a constant barrage of message and email notifications.

The Benefits of Structured Interviews

Most hiring managers still prefer the unstructured interview approach. That is according to the Harvard Business Review. However, study-after-study has found this interview method to be flawed. Research suggests that candidates hired in this way are likely to perform less well than those who have been appointed following a structured interview process. By asking each candidate the same questions, you can accurately gauge their suitability for a job. We know that interview transcription can boost a hiring manager’s chances of making the right decisions.

Standardising interviews stops unconscious bias from creeping into the equation. The best way to develop a structured approach to interviews is available below:

• Develop questions that are relevant to the job and the skills required.
• Ensure every candidate is posed the same questions.
• Score each answer as they are read.

When evaluating candidate responses, compare them on each question, one-against-one – not as individuals. When tallied up at the end of the scoring process, the results will better reflect the overall suitability of each candidate.

Mistakes Interview Transcription Could Have Stopped

Because unconscious bias poses a serious threat to the hiring process, it is a common problem. Here are some real-life examples of how unconscious bias can impact the outcome of a job application, career progress or retention:


Sarah White (not her real name) had an interview terminated. The unexpected setback happened after she disclosed something that the hiring manager made a snap judgement on. She was applying to work for a small restaurant chain. The interview took an unstructured approach and was in person. Immaculately turned out and keen to be successful, Sarah appeared to initially impress the interviewer. Everything changed, however, when the interviewer commented on her ‘pretty’ dress. She didn’t think before replying, “It’s not bad for maternity clothes.”

The interview was almost instantly stopped. Sarah was simply told, “Apply again – after you have had your baby.” Lawyers say this form of discrimination is commonplace, across all sectors. They point out it is illegal for a prospective employer to ask a candidate if they are planning to start a family. Common interview mistakes include enquiring about timings, such as ‘in the near future’. Terminating an interview because a person discloses they are pregnant is a clear case of discrimination.

This situation could have been avoided. Experts say a structured interview with set questions is better. Especially if it is then transcribed.

Gender Discrimination

Three women instigated a lawsuit against Microsoft Corp, accusing them of gender discrimination. The case became a class action. They claimed women had lost out on 500 promotions in technical and engineering roles, losing a total of more than £100 million in pay. They further claimed the tech giant maintained a boys’ club atmosphere.

In a case like this, it pays organisations to have a written transcript of interviews. Businesses should invest in transcripts of interviews for internal promotions. This demonstrates fairness. Many commentators expect this type of claim to become more prevalent.

Disability Discrimination

Structured interviews that are transcribed before being scored significantly reduce the risk of disability discrimination. Dr Michael Wardlow is Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission. He spoke to the BBC following a high-profile court case last year. He warned employers to be aware of their responsibilities. “The Disability Discrimination Act protects people against discrimination because of their disability,” he said.

Dr Wardlow added, “It is important also, to highlight that the purpose of the law is to assist disabled people and their primary carers to obtain work and to integrate them into the workplace. That is not a matter simply of money, but the dignity of, and the respect due to, the people concerned.”

Racial Discrimination

Employers and hiring managers must combat unconscious bias when it comes to ethnicity. The United Nations has warned that racism and religious intolerance has become more acceptable in Britain. It claims the toxic atmosphere has developed following the Brexit referendum.

The UN special rapporteur on racism detected a ‘notable shift’ in attitudes during a recent 11-day visit. E Tendayi Achiume said, “A Brexit-related trend that threatens racial equality in the UK has been the growth in the acceptability of explicit racial, ethnic and religious intolerance.”

Keep that out of your organisation! Pay strict attention to interview techniques, screening and scoring. Use interview transcription to support your decision-making.

Unconscious Bias Put into Focus

Bias is everywhere, if you look for it. So, it goes without saying, that it is as prevalent in the workplace as it is in the community. It can taint decisions made in the hiring process. It can also impact a decision made about career advancement and retention. Don’t overlook the importance of fairness in work assessments too. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission warns that unconscious bias can result in:

• Discriminatory treatment or practices.
• A negative business culture.
• Lack of workforce diversity.

All HR departments should look at bias from a legal perspective. This ensures that recruitment and promotion practices comply with guidelines around discrimination. Legislation stipulates that discrimination occurs when:

An employer takes adverse action against a person who is an employee or prospective employee based on unrelated characteristics, opening them up to litigation.

Is your employment law knowledge up-to-date? If not, arm yourself with the latest information. If you can’t find the information you require online, seek professional legal advice.

Experts point out that ‘all’ recruiters are biased. Some know they are and some don’t. In fact, it is perfectly normal to be biased in some way. It’s human nature, after all. The issue is ensuring one individual’s bias does not unfairly impact an outcome for another in the workplace. You may know a HR manager who swears he or she knows the right candidate ‘as soon as they walk through the door’. They are unlikely to be right every time.

Often bias will favour someone who displays the same characteristics as the person interviewing them. It could be that they attended the same university, have a friend in common or simply enjoy the same hobbies. Whatever it is, that similarity could end up harming your business. If you don’t want to face litigation over claims of bias, act now.

UK Interview Transcription

You can eliminate unconscious bias from your hiring process by investing in interview transcription. As well as ensuring fairness, it will offer you peace of mind – and keep your organisation out of court. Brands that are accused of bias can subsequently find it hard to attract the right candidates to grow their business. You can overcome the threat of accusations by investing in transparent interview techniques that demonstrate your commitment to fairness.

We are the UK’s leading professional transcription expert. We work across a broad range of sectors, delivering accurate documentation that can be accessed and used in a variety of ways. In the case of interviews, we recommend reading and scoring printed documentation – with digital files stored for reference in accordance with candidates’ privacy preferences. A leader in the field of transcription for more than a quarter of a century, we are trusted by household names and public bodies.

If you want to improve the way your organisation screens job candidates, start at the very beginning. Introduce a standardised approach to interviewing and ensure every interview is recorded and transcribed. Don’t be tempted to rely on new software, such as video interviewing, or applicant tracking tools. Written evidence of fairness goes a long way to offering you legal protection.

Alphabet Transcription Specialists’ services are completely confidential, cost-effective and hassle-free. We employ professional proof readers to ensure that every document supplied is perfectly presented and fit for purpose.

Contact us today by telephoning +44 (0) 1707 260026 to find out more about interview transcription? There’s lots of information about our transcription services on our website.

Choose the transcription partner you can trust. We are registered under the Data Protection Regulations, using military grade encryption to receive and send documentation. It is easy to sign up for an account and start benefiting from our interview transcription services. Ready to tackle unconscious bias in your business?