Uncovering Hiring Bias in Graduate Recruitment: What does the “Right” Candidate look like?

The struggle to find the candidate with the right “fit” to the job and organization is a constant battle. 45% of employers find it challenging to fill the talent demand within their organizations. As organizations move from a structure-driven culture to a people-driven culture, organizations are investing heavier into building a sound talent pipeline, with a bigger emphasis on hiring the “right” people to drive and steer the organization. This usually involves:

Quantity of Candidate Pool

  1. Putting Up the “Right” Performance: Employer invests in branding efforts to attract a wider pool of potential candidates to apply for a particular job role. For instance, management trainee program hiring includes revamp of the career application webpage and having campus road shows or career fairs where ex graduates turned employees lend support with their success stories. (Please refer to Blog Article #1)


Quality of Candidate Pool

  1. Finding the “Right” Candidate: With the net cast to a wider audience, how do you know the potential candidates are the ones you are looking for? Increasing the candidate pool may increase chances of finding suitable candidates, however it cannot be seen as a guaranteed cause-and-effect. For instance, in the recent survey we conducted, a lack of candidate fit, and quality is a significant cause of concern for HR professionals. (Please refer to Covid Talent Strategy Report)


This article will explore the points of contention behind finding the “Right” Candidate.

Let’s portray this through a scenario drawn up below.

Management Trainee Program of Organization X

Candidate A: “This organization and job seems to be the one I am gunning for…! I really hope to be given the chance to get through the selection rounds which includes a series of assessments and then impress the recruiter during the interview!”

Recruiter B: “There are just too many candidates to look through! Manpower seems to be lacking and I have to look through so many resumes and watch video interviews of the candidates. What should I do?

Recruiter C: I don’t think Candidate A is too suitable for the role…there is just something off which I cannot really pinpoint…

Management of Organization X: “We need to make sure our management trainees are the “right” fit so that they can enter the organization and deliver value!

Does the above ring a bell?

Could you pick out potential biases that might impede the search of the “right” candidate?


Biases in the Recruitment Process

From a Candidate’s Perspective

Social Desirability.

Based on the candidates’ understanding of the job role they are applying for; they would typically provide winning responses that they think attract the attention of recruiters. Putting up an act, also known as ‘impression management’, is useful in helping them get a better chance at moving on the recruitment process.

For instance, during the initial screening stage, a candidate might select answers on an online test that reflect an “ideal” version of themselves. Likewise, during interactions such as face-to-face interviews or even during an assessment center, candidates might try to portray a version of themselves that they think will make them a good fit to the job or organization. This pretense could mask poor underlying fit between the candidate and the organization.


From a Recruiter’s Perspective

Subjective Judgements

Have you heard of recruiters or hiring managers forming snap judgements about candidates moments after or even before the interview? Humans in general tend to formulate impressions and thoughts based on immediate cues like a smile, posture or eye contact.

For instance, research has found out that it takes less than 1 second for an individual to determine if someone is trustworthy or even competent.

Overwhelming Processes

In the event of high-volume graduate hiring, the sheer amount of candidate applications, during strategic hiring periods, can result in talent acquisition professionals feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with process inefficiencies, such as duplicate applications from the same candidate, or misalignment across different recruitment tools and systems.

Also, can you imagine a team of recruiters sieving and reviewing large numbers of video interviews and resumes (according to research, it takes 7.4 seconds to review a resume)? The fatigue, pressure, and time constraints can inadvertently lead to poor decisions and possible bias in selection.


From a Management Perspective

Is “Right” really “Right? – Dated Competency Frameworks

Going back to the title of this article: what does the “right” candidate entail? In the case of management trainee hiring, the ‘right’ candidate will probably mean that the candidate has passed multiple rounds of assessments (i.e. psychometric assessments, assessment centers, panel interview), all of which are derived from the organization’s competency framework.

This framework denotes certain behaviors a management trainee should possess to be successful, designed by subject matter experts (SMEs) and at times, with external consultants.

However, are these frameworks validated and proven to be effective, or have they been reviewed consistently to ensure that they are reflective of successful behaviors of today?



Minimize Social Desirability Tendencies. Any offline or online communications to candidates should be clear and direct to prevent them from misunderstanding any part of the selection process or guessing what the organization expects of candidates. During the interview or any face-to-face interactions, when asking questions, focus on the process rather than the outcome. Focus on clarifying the “why’s” and asking probing questions – these will aid in understanding the candidate better. Lastly, it is always good to build rapport with candidates to ensure that they are comfortable, which would lead to a more truthful discussion. Using frameworks and rubrics can help guide the hiring manager to give more objective ratings of the candidate.

Leverage Assessment Tools and Reports. Psychometric assessments help you understand each candidate much better, beyond the resume. If you are using psychometric assessments as part of your selection process, do remember to check with your vendor on the type of output reports available. While most psychometric assessments require a trained consultant to interpret the output, you should look for a vendor that provides reports that are easy to interpret and aid you in the next stage of selection, such as during an interview. The output reports should be easy to understand and apply, including strengths, developmental areas, and recommendations. User friendly reports are much more useful because they can be quickly referred to before and during each interview, to achieve effective interviews.

Leveraging Technology. Using AI to help alleviate issues faced when managing high volume recruitment might help. For example, tools that leverage AI to provide resume parsing, job matching, and video interview analysis could reduce man hours and potential biases during screening and selection. However, it is crucial as HR professionals to thoroughly understand how these AI enabled tools work. Some technologies are able to significantly improve the quality of selection, while improving efficiency.

Refresh and Ground Your Competency Framework. When designing or refreshing a competency framework, it might be a good idea to adopt a top down and bottoms up approach. The inputs from SMEs and management within the organization coupled with input from existing graduate hires across different intakes might result in a competency framework that reflects key success behaviors that are aspirational and yet grounded in real life daily work. This initiative should be done at least on a yearly or bi-yearly basis to reflect the changing competencies and industry trends.



To meet business demands and build a sound talent pipeline, it is imperative to have a good process to hire the right people. We must consider increasing the size of the candidate pool (quantity) and selecting the most suitable candidates (quality) concurrently. To do so, you do not need a drastic transformation effort. You can start by reviewing your current selection processes and tools part by part, to help you be more objective in the hiring process. By doing this, it will help your organization better understand people and make better people decisions every day.

Eddie Chua
Eddie Chua
Eddie Chua is an Organizational Psychologist who helps organizations achieve their true talent strategy and potential, the Pulsifi way.

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