If you’ve ever applied for a job you wanted, you know that sometimes you have to jump through hoops to land the position. The routine is a familiar one: You submit a résumé or post one online, fill out an application, and, if you’re lucky, perhaps bring in samples of your work or take a standardized test that measures various abilities, personality traits, or honesty. You may even be placed on the “hot seat” in a face-to-face interview. In a typical interview, an agent of the company and an applicant meet in person or online, providing a two-way opportunity for the applicant and employer to evaluate each other. What a social perception dilemma this opportunity presents! As an applicant, you have only half an hour or so to make a favorable impression. As an interviewer, you have the same brief period of time to penetrate the applicant’s self-presentation while presenting the company in a favorable light.
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Very few employers would consider hiring a complete stranger for a responsible position without an interview. Would you? Like most of us, you probably trust your ability to size people up. But should you? Do interviews promote sound hiring or decisions that are biased by job-irrelevant personal characteristics? Civil rights laws explicitly forbid employers to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, age, religion, national origin, or disability. Does the interview process itself intensify or diminish these sources of bias?