The Conversation Paradox: Why 100% of Interviews Are Biased

The Conversation Paradox: Why 100% of Interviews Are Biased

In a recent New York Times article, The Utter Uselessness of Job Interviews, Jason Dana, Assistant Professor of Management and Marketing at the Yale School of Management, explores the biases surrounding the unstructured interview process. He observes that:

“…interviewers typically form strong but unwarranted impressions about interviewees, often revealing more about themselves than the candidates.”

Throughout the article, Dana cites, Belief in the Unstructured Interview: The Persistence of an Illusion, a study he conducted in 2013 with 140 student subjects. To test the effectiveness of interviews in predicting a student’s GPA, Dana broke students into two groups. While both sets of students used past GPA and course schedule to make predictions, only one group was interviewed. The results of the study showed that GPA predictions were more accurate for the students not interviewed. In other words, the interviews muddled the data and negatively impacted the decision-making process. 

Regression analyses of the accuracy GPA predictions

Conversations Are Biased

Something occurred during the interviewing process that led the interviewer to misidentify which interviewees were best qualified and thus most likely to succeed. This ‘something’ is the collection of biases that often come up through the course of conversation or what we, at Wade & Wendy, refer to as conversational bias.

Conversational bias is the set of biases that influence the quality and quantity of data extrapolated during the course of a conversation. At a high level, it includes two key components:

  • Set of biases refers to external factors, including everything from confirmation biases and preconceived notions to physical environment and mood, that influence how a person engages in a conversation.
  • The quality and quantity of data refers to the information learned during the course of a conversation and how helpful it is in facilitating good decision-making.

The data learned through conversation is inherently incomplete and/or misleading due to the external factors and biases that influence engagement and perception. This is clearly demonstrated in the study above, where subjects were better able to identify future success for students whom they had never met over students that they had met. While not explicitly referred to as ‘conversational bias,’ the issues it perpetuates have been studied time and time again.

Interviews Are Biased

There is information asymmetry between the data learned in a job description and the data learned from a resume. Former SVP of People Operations at Google, Laszlo Bock, says about this paradigm:

“[having] a taxonomy of skills and abilities that are hard to articulate, and resumes don’t do a good job of capturing them. Employers have a set of jobs, but are terrible at both articulating what they need, and actually filtering candidates.”

Essentially, the two forms (resume and job description) used to determine a job seeker’s ability to fulfill the requirements of a job both contain incomplete data. It is for this reason that a conversation — often in the form of an initial phone screen or a first-round interview — is necessary to resolve this asymmetry. This initial conversation allows candidates to better understand the requirements of the job and allows hiring managers to gather information not found in the resume.

It is at this point in the hiring process that conversational bias comes into play.

For example, imagine a hiring manager has a full day of interviews lined up. Throughout the day, he/she becomes increasingly fatigued and, as a result, asks poorer questions and takes fewer notes as the day goes on. Because the conversation and the subsequent data gathered about each candidate is different, it becomes impossible to compare candidate to candidate accurately.

The Problem

In Dana’s Belief in the Unstructured Interview study, GPA, course schedule and an interview were used to predict future success. Results showed that the assessments were less accurate when interviews were included in the decision-making process. In effect, the interviewers were counterproductive.

The Other Problem

To fill the information gap that exists between resume and job description, a conversation must take place. Applicants need clarification on the requirements of the role, just as hiring managers need to gather information not found within the resume.

The Paradox

These problems present two interesting concepts: 1) Conversations are biased and 2) Conversations are necessary. This is what we, at Wade & Wendy, call “The Conversation Paradox.”

Looking Ahead

While the very act of conversation has been proven to introduce numerous biases, it remains a critical part of the hiring process. To date, many solutions have been proposed, such as Dana’s suggestion to use structured interviews, but these solutions do not go far enough. Rather,

  • What if there were an artificially intelligent tool smart enough to have a conversation without bias?
  • What if there were an artificially intelligent tool agile enough to converse with 100% of candidates 100% of the time?

At Wade & Wendy, we are eagerly working on this solution. To join the conversation, chat with us on Twitter… We’re passionate about conversation, after all: @wadeandwendy.

About the Author:

Bailey Newlan is the Content & Growth Marketer at Wade & Wendy, a New York City-based startup on a mission to make hiring more human. Wade & Wendy’s artificially intelligent chatbot personalities bring clarity and simplicity to the hiring process. Wade is an always-on career guide for job seekers, while Wendy assists hiring managers throughout the recruitment process. To connect, reach out to Bailey via LinkedIn, Twitter or Medium and don’t forget to join the beta list.✌️


If you want to share this article the reference to Bailey NewlanWade & Wendy and The HR Tech Weekly® is obligatory.

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Solving the Job Application Black Hole with Chatbots

Written by Bailey Newlan, Content & Growth Marketer at Wade & Wendy.

ATS Black Hole

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are not inherently bad — for the hiring manager. They are critical to managing massive amounts of resumes and establishing an efficient workflow. However, the candidate experience suffers. A survey conducted by CareerBuilder found that 52% of employers responded to less than 50% of candidate applications. With such little communication, candidates are left frustrated and unsure of where they stand. This is referred to as the “ATS Black Hole.”

By incorporating Conversational Intelligence into the existing process, better engagement, better communication and transparency can be realized.

Conversation with Wendy in Facebook Messenger screenshot
This is how a conversation with Wendy, our conversationally intelligent chatbot, begins in Facebook Messenger.

Here’s How the ATS Fails Candidates

When an individual applies for a job, his or her resume is sent into a company’s ATS. Through matching algorithms and keyword extraction, a shortlist of candidates is generated for the hiring manager to review. These algorithms fail to take into account spelling errors and deviances in word choice (explained in more depth here). Because matches are generated exclusively through one-dimensional data, hiring managers’ understanding of candidates is distorted.

The result: Very few qualified candidates make it past the ATS and to the interview stage.

This problem is further compounded by the ease of the application process. In response to mounting candidate frustrations with lengthy applications, many employers now offer “Quick Apply” or “1-Click Apply” options. While this significantly lowers friction for applicants on the front-end, they are actually worse off in the long run. Employers are receiving more and more resumes, but, due to the simplicity of new application processes, they now have less data from which to draw conclusions.

In a world where candidates expect engagement and transparency, they are getting less and less.

On average, a single corporate job opening receives 250 applications. With an influx of resumes to review and no uptick in resources with which to process them, hiring managers cannot possibly respond to each individual applicant. In fact, of those 250 applications, only four to six will be called in to interview. As a result, most candidates receive zero communication, experiencing what has ubiquitously been labeled the “ATS Black Hole.”

Here’s Where Conversational Intelligence Comes In

Conversational Intelligence transforms the application process from something static to dynamic. At Wade & Wendy, we believe artificial intelligence is at its best when used conversationally. Our two chatbot personalities are built with this in mind. By creating a space in which conversations can occur, chatbots have the power to drastically improve the application experience.

Chatbots can engage every single applicant at any point in time.

Immediately following submission of their resume, candidates are directed to have a conversation with a chatbot through either text or Facebook Messenger. This introduction allows for a much friendlier first point of contact. Rather than receiving a “Thank You for Your Application” message from a “do not reply” email address, you meet Wendy. Here, candidates can inquire further about the company and the job itself.

At Wade & Wendy, we have designed each of our chatbot personalities to be conversational and inviting. Conversational Intelligence has the power to make a notoriously stressful and automated process fun and distinctly personable, especially when emojis are involved 🙌.

Chatbots give every candidate an equal chance at landing an interview.

Chatbots provide context and depth around the static data gleaned from the ATS. Because every candidate can be engaged via chatbot, algorithm mismatches, various misspellings and differences in keywords no longer hinder a strong candidate from getting in front of the hiring manager. Chatbots, like Wendy, allow candidates to provide context to their resume; they have an opportunity to explain properly a successful project that would otherwise be summed up in a mere bullet point.

Candidate Chats with Wendy
Here, the candidate is able to give Wendy more details about her experience with open source projects.

A candidate’s experiences and skills cannot always be properly communicated in a resume. On top of that, the ATS responsible for gauging a candidate’s ability to do a job utilizes flawed algorithms and thus provides flawed recommendations. Conversational Intelligence allows candidates to best communicate who they are and what they can do, while also overcoming algorithm flaws within the ATS.

About the Author:

Bailey Newlan, Content & Growth Marketer at Wade & Wendy

Bailey Newlan is the Content & Growth Marketer at Wade & Wendy, a New York City-based startup on a mission to make hiring more human. Wade & Wendy’s artificially intelligent chatbot personalities bring clarity and simplicity to the hiring process. Wade is an always-on career guide for job seekers, while Wendy assists hiring managers throughout the recruitment process. To connect, reach out to Bailey via LinkedIn, Twitter or Medium and don’t forget to join the beta list.✌️


If you want to share this article the reference to Bailey NewlanWade & Wendy and The HR Tech Weekly® is obligatory.

How Conversation Bridges the Gap Between Job Description and Job Seeker

How Conversation Bridges the Gap Between Job Description and Job Seeker

Written by Bailey Newlan, Content & Growth Marketer at Wade & Wendy.

From Ambiguity to Clarity, Through Conversation

Resumes, social profiles and job boards are two-dimensional tools used to present four-dimensional individuals. Each is incapable of communicating your whole story. You are more than a string of keywords and you are more than the templated “Experience” section on LinkedIn.

When people are boxed into these two-dimensional frames, valuable context is lost, leading to a series of frustrating interactions between job seeker and hiring manager. On average, it takes 52 days to fill an open position — a drawn out process wrought with miscommunication and missed opportunities.

How do you communicate the abstract in one bullet or less?

For any given bullet point on a resume, there are a hundred ways to say it. For example:

  • Used Java to build features for a platform
  • Supported a platform with Java
  • Chose Java to build a platform on

Each effectively showcases experience with Java. But, what is a job seeker’s relationship to Java and how does that exhibit what they can really do? Yes, the Java requirement is met, but what kind of person is best-suited for the role? The keyword “Java” falls short of showing how a job applicant and the job itself fit together. This form of static representation is fundamentally limited due to the job seeker’s inability to provide context around their skills, passions, motivations and career goals.

How can you land your dream job when using vague language to apply to an equally vague job description?

Job descriptions are two-dimensional and fall short of providing job seekers clarity around a position. To cast a wide net, job descriptions are often written with vague requirements — carefully crafted with generic keywords, so as not to discourage anyone from applying. Naturally, this results in unclear expectations. Another issue arises when goals and needs shift, yet the job description remains the same. Unfortunately, this kind of moving target is all too common.

This widening chasm between what a job description says and what hiring managers are really looking for in an applicant causes job seekers to create vague resumes and profiles to ensure they will not be overlooked.

By summing oneself up in a string of bullet points, laden with just the right keywords, context is lost and true understanding is clouded. Having to position yourself to meet a set of vague requirements, neutralizes the magic of you.

What can we do about this?

On both sides of the hiring process, there are fundamental flaws. Only by bridging the information gap that presently exists between hiring managers and job seekers, can we:

  1. Facilitate better understanding of a job outside of its description
  2. Better understand a job seeker outside of his or her resume

This is best achieved through conversation. Flowing dialogue and follow-up questions are effective mechanisms for drilling down and extracting the “Why” and the “Who are you really?” Going past the resume and job description allows both job seekers and hiring managers to make better decisions. We must go beyond the two-dimensional modes of expression. We must find clarity. We need better conversations.

About the Author:

Bailey Newlan, Content & Growth Marketer at Wade & Wendy

Bailey Newlan is the Content & Growth Marketer at Wade & Wendy, a New York City-based startup on a mission to make hiring more human. Wade & Wendy’s artificially intelligent chatbot personalities bring clarity and simplicity to the hiring process. Wade is an always-on career guide for job seekers, while Wendy assists hiring managers throughout the recruitment process. To connect, reach out to Bailey via LinkedIn, Twitter or Medium.


If you want to share this article the reference to Bailey NewlanWade & Wendy and The HR Tech Weekly® is obligatory.