Just Like Me

A new installment of our series on (unintentional) bias in hiring and the related risks to an organization: reminders and recommendations…

Similarity / Affinity Bias occurs when an interviewer is inclined to rate candidates who they view as being like them more favorably, even if those qualities aren’t correlated with on-the-job performance.

For example, let’s say you’re a baseball fan. At your company, you have a few colleagues who are also into baseball (like Mike) and some that are not (like Anthony, who can’t stand to watch any sport, let alone baseball). You are naturally much closer to Mike than Anthony, even though you and Anthony actually have more in common.

Social identity theory suggests that people’s sense of self is strongly formed by their group memberships. In doing this, we naturally feel closer towards similar people because those people help us construct our own individual sense of self. Those role models become the “in” crowd and we continuously want to surround ourselves with these people. While these types of interactions may be generally harmless, in an interview they can lead to discrimination. When this happens, it is called Similar-to-me bias or Affinity bias.

This silent problem causes unfair hiring practices by causing interviewers to look past qualified candidates in favor of those that remind them of themselves. The affinity can stem from almost anything – gender, ethnicity, educational background and yes, even a favorite sports team. This results in a biased interview process that will not produce the best hires for the organization.

An Indeed article mentions other examples of Affinity Bias in the hiring process:

  • Similar education background
  • Matching professional qualifications
  • Comparable work backgrounds
  • Relatable age and socioeconomic backgrounds

Okay, so Affinity Bias is bad; how do we mitigate it?

Several parts to an answer:

  • Comparable/unbiased evaluation processes
  • Structured Interview Guides
  • Proper training of interviewers
  • Rotating interviewers


One good way to minimize Affinity Bias is by rotating interviewers to reduce natural affinity and to standardize the interview process by utilizing structured interviews. This way candidates are evaluated on objective measures rather than the interviewers’ perceptions.

In an article from the Academy to Innovate HR titled 11 Ways to Avoid Interviewer Bias in Your Selection Process, the author writes:

“For each job, have a set of questions that you ask every candidate. This way, you don’t veer into similar-to-me bias as well as inconsistency in questioning. You won’t accidentally forget to ask one candidate about X, and then reject that candidate because X is an important skill.”

Best Practice Interview Training Option

With structured interviews, you’re more likely to create effective, diverse teams, and help to prevent interviewers from solely hiring people who think, act, and look like them. With the right standardized questions, their focus will be on hiring the best person for the job — a decision they can arrive at only from a candidate’s responses to the objective, skill-based questions — which naturally expands your pool of qualified candidates.

To achieve this, an engaging and effective structured interview process is required and interviewers need to embrace it. APTMetrics has taken a unique approach to structured interview training called the Interviewer Experience. This simulation-based training environment is designed to help enterprises to effectively teach hiring managers the unbiased interviewing skills that lead to better hiring and increased inclusivity. Complimentary evaluation licenses are available.