Why a “good feeling” lowers equality of opportunity

18.10.2018
Video

To improve equality of opportunity, utilize structured job interviews, says behavioural economist Christina Gravert. Experienced HR professionals in particular often overestimate their knowledge of human nature, and prejudices affect the recruitment process.

“We are very overconfident often,” says Christina Gravert, assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen. She refers to behaviour in job interviews. But not that of the applicant: it is HR specialists who often base their hiring decisions on subjective “good feeling” about a candidate.

A study published in 2000 by two professors of economics, Cecilia Rouse and Claudia Goldin, shows the consequences. The scientists studied the process of recruiting musicians to the five best orchestras in the USA since World War II. Prior to the 1970s, 10% of musicians in orchestras were women. In the 1970s, the recruitment process changed: "blind" auditions became standard. Gender balance changed drastically – the average proportion of female musicians leapt from 10 to 35%.

For Christina Gravert, this study confirms the bias of decision-makers; in this case, juries of world-famous conductors. In an entrepreneurial context, Gravert advocates for standardised job interviews involving a task all applicants are required to solve. This method increases equality of opportunity and reduces bias, she says in a video interview:

Christina Gravert is an assistant professor at University of Copenhagen and speaker at the Academy of Behavioral Economics, which will take place at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute on 30 January 2019.