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