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By Kate Collardson and Ira-Sofia Giovanetti

In our previous DEI Diaries entry, we mentioned conducting a hiring bias training for BayWa r.e. Solar Systems employees that participate in the peer interview stage for prospective hires. The goal of this training is to reduce the effect of common biases that people encounter in the hiring process — by making interviewers aware that these biases exist. Today, we’ll explain what this training entails, and why you as a solar leader should be aware of bias in your candidate selection process.

Prior to beginning peer interviews, our interviewing team is given a 30-minute training about common hiring biases. This helps the team learn how to spot them in each other during the interviews. The training also helps our employees determine if candidates display a growth mindset or a fixed mindset, as we unconsciously tend to value talent over effort (more on mindsets later in this article).

Our hope is that by making our employees conscious of their own hidden biases, they will be less influenced by them as they vet prospective hires, and be receptive to feedback when teammates notice and point out potential instances of bias.

The types of bias that we cover in our in-house HR training are:

Confirmation Bias: Confirmation bias is one that we have been hearing about a lot in the media lately. Quite simply, when one wants a certain idea or concept to be true, confirmation bias leads them to believe that it is true. This common bias causes people to ignore information that conflicts with their beliefs. A study published in the Journal of Occupation and Organizational Psychology showed that 60% of interviewers will make a decision about a candidate’s suitability within 15 minutes of meeting them. Some will have done it before the interview even happens.

Halo Effect: The halo effect shows up when there is an instant connection between an interviewer and the candidate. An interviewer can easily be swayed by this connection and assume that the person will therefore be a good employee. The halo effect can lead interviewers to ignore red flags that might pop up during the interview.

Horn Effect: The horn effect is the opposite of the halo effect. When one negative thing about a candidate grabs the interviewer’s attention, and they cannot move past it, this is the horn effect in action. These negative traits can be unimportant details, such as the candidate’s name (that may make an interviewer think of an ex) or hair style. These traits would in no way impact the person’s on-the-job performance, but the interviewer may take that one negative thing, however irrelevant, as an indicator that the candidate will not be a good fit for the position.

Affinity Bias: Affinity bias occurs when we favor a person who is like us. Interviewers tend to like candidates who share similar traits or characteristics. When we have something in common with another person, we tend to have a natural affinity toward them. If this happens during an interview, it can lead the interviewer to overlook any negative information about the candidate or to ask easy questions that do not challenge the candidate.

Conformity Bias: Conformity bias is proven by the classic Asch Experiment from 1951. In that experiment, Solomon Asch proved that people are likely to say something that they know to be false in order to go along with a group. In hiring, this can happen during a post-interview meeting with the interviewing team. The first person to state their opinion about a candidate will influence the rest of the group. As more people agree, it becomes more difficult for people to voice any dissenting opinions. To combat this, we have interviewers fill out a survey during the interview, which allows people to log their impressions without influence from others. Then we have a huddle with everyone who was involved in the process to provide feedback to the hiring manager. During the huddle, PX plays the “devil’s advocate” role to challenge the team’s biases.

Once we check ourselves for unconscious bias, we then have a better chance of selecting candidates for the traits that really do matter. For us at BayWa r.e. Solar Systems, we focus on the notion of fixed mindsets versus growth mindsets.

Hiring people with a growth mindset means that, instead of hiring static, inflexible talent, you are hiring people who will become more and more talented over time. At BayWa r.e. Solar Systems, our culture aims for continuous improvement. As we mentioned in our last article, we are not looking for candidates who already have done everything — we are looking for learners who are motivated to take on challenges and improve their abilities with effort and the right strategy.

Let us summarize:

Fixed mindset describes people who see their qualities as fixed traits that cannot change. Those who hold a fixed mindset believe that they are either good or bad at something based on their inherent nature.

For instance, someone with a fixed mindset might say “I’m a natural-born math teacher” or “I’m just not good with numbers” believing that their math skills can’t be developed. Those with fixed mindsets may avoid challenges, give up easily and ignore useful constructive feedback. The opposite of this fixed mindset is the growth mindset.

Additional Reading

If this caught your interest and you would like to learn more, you can check out the book “Mindset” by Stanford professor Carol Dweck.

Growth mindset describes people who believe that their success depends on time and effort. Those who hold a growth mindset believe that they can get better at something by dedication of time, effort and energy. Working on one’s flaws and the process — not the outcome — are the most important components. With time and practice, people with a growth mindset believe they can achieve what they want. The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset.

In our hiring bias training, we help our employees to learn about how to assess a growth mindset and what to look out for.

There are different ways to assess the growth mindset:

  1. Interview Preparation: Check if the candidate researched your company.
  2. Demonstrate Problem Solving Skills: Ask for examples and find out if the candidate sees the process of solving problems as an opportunity to learn, develop and get better.
  3. Commitment to Continuous Upskilling and Lifelong Learning: Check if the candidate works on self-improvement, is interested in learning, reads, listens to podcasts or takes classes.
  4. Failures and Learning Experiences: The question “Tell me about a time when you failed at something” is not a question to shy away from. A failure is a key aspect of learning and growth.
  5. Goals and Motivation to Reach Goals: Check if the candidate gives examples that show proactive approaches
  6. Comfortable Outside of Comfort Zone: The world continues to change, and it is a plus if the candidates mention examples of when they had to step outside of their comfort zone.
  7. Does Interviewee Ask Well-Prepared Questions? That shows curiosity and interest.

This should give you a good overview of our hiring bias training. We recently implemented this training at BayWa r.e. Solar Systems, and we have mainly received positive feedback thus far. We’ve also received feedback on how we could improve this training by implementing role plays to display the different biases in action – something we are working on in our own continuous improvement!

We hope that the hiring bias training will lead to a fairer hiring process going forward, and we hope that we sparked your own interest in improving your company’s own recruitment and selection practices, and the positive value of bias training. If you have any questions or feedback, please reach out to us — we would love to chat!

Kate Collardson has worked in the solar industry since 2006 as an installer, designer, project manager, trainer, and program manager. She is currently a Product Manager for BayWa r.e. Solar Systems.
Ira-Sofia Giovanetti is the People Experience Program Manager for BayWa r.e. Solar Systems (USA). She is responsible for BayWa’s PX related Programs and Initiatives and a protector of the corporate culture.
BayWa r.e. Solar Systems LLC supplies solar installers in the United States with best-in-class components, business planning advice, and a community of experts. Learn more at www.solar-distribution.com, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter, subscribe to our podcasts and YouTube, and bookmark our COVID-19 resource page. Part of the BayWa r.e. global family of renewable energy companies.