Updated: Jun 24
Written by Sangbreeta Moitra & Jyoti Sohal-David
In the last few years, Norway has become one of the fastest-growing professional hubs of Europe. Sangbreeta has had the privilege of visiting this beautiful country and meeting its lovely people multiple times during her speaking travels.
Host to some of the top European and global industry conferences such as the Nordic Business Forum, Oslo Business Forum, SHE Conference, Startup Extreme, Evolve Arena and more, combined with a work culture that focuses on digital transformation, adaptability and willingness to learn, Norway today attracts some of the top diverse talents from across the world.
However, getting diverse talents accepted and embraced in the industry, is still a challenge, according to Skillhus, an emerging recruitment platform for talented qualified employees of diverse backgrounds.
Sangbreeta had met the CEO of Skillhus, Jyoti Sohal David, back in 2019 in Voss, Norway, when speaking for Startup Extreme. An astute young lady passionate about building an inclusive environment in the Norwegian work landscape, Jyoti shared that job interviews are extremely challenging for immigrant or refugee talents.
According to Skillhus, these are three of the most common challenges and biases that occur in interviews with non-native candidates in Norway.
Stereotyping Bias – This occurs when the interviewer assumes a candidate has certain traits because they are a member of a certain group. For instance, there are several stereotypes against different cultures. Indians are considered to ‘yes people’ meaning they agree or go along with all decisions made providing no input of their own. The interviewer might assume Indians are difficult to work with because of their bias.
Generalization Bias – Generalization bias occurs when interviewers assume candidates’ mannerisms in the interview are part of their everyday behavior. The interviewer might assume what the candidate did once is what s/he would always do. This bias plays on the phrase - the first impression is the last impression. For example, candidates who speak too fast or interrupt could be seen as doing this on a regular basis.
Halo/Horn Bias – This is the most common cognitive interview bias in which an interviewer allows one strong point about the candidate to have an effect on everything else s/he says. It could be something that pleased them (halo) or something that they didn’t like (horn) that clouds their judgment of the candidate’s skills or expertise.
Horn Bias: The perfect example of this would be when the candidate being interviewed cannot converse well in Norwegian, even if their job does not require them to have a strong command over Norwegian. If the interviewer bases their judgment on their accent or grammar, they would let it affect the whole interview, in which the interviewee, while excellent in their field, could still be rejected or accepted purely on the basis of a Horn bias.
Halo Bias: This is the instance when, for example, a well-spoken and well-dressed, the applicant is considered a likable applicant. And if the interviewer likes the individual as a person, they end up preferring that candidate over others, just because they are more polite than the rest.
So, how do we tackle these bias challenges above? Sangbreeta shares 3 suggestions below.
A diverse employee base equals improved customer and client relationships. Giulia De Mauro, Founder of The IBD Company based in Amsterdam, mentioned being a ‘third culture kid’ and how candidates with diverse cultural backgrounds actually make better professionals. Having experienced different cultures in life and work, candidates of diversity are better able to understand and empathise with the problems people face. They’re able to communicate more impactfully and adapt to change more effectively. They build a strong organisation from within and meaningful relationships with customers or clients.
Hire people who improve your company culture, than people who simply fit your existing culture. In every discussion on culture and impactful leadership communication, this is what we should push for. Many organisations unknowingly create a colony of clones, who think, act, and behave so similarly that they’re unable to check their collective biases and blind-spots. It is easy to pick someone who ‘fits in’. However, when you build a team focused on meaningful growth, who identify and speak up to correct hidden biases and blindspots; your culture, employee satisfaction, customer happiness, and reputation will improve exponentially.
Yearly bias training for the entire organisation. This might be news to most of us, but we have 188 cognitive biases. Meaning 188 hidden subconscious factors that rule our choices, beliefs, and behaviours. Ensuring that all employees, including leaders and recruiters, get trained on how to identify and tackle biases, will ensure improved performance and an accepting workplace culture that appreciates diversity than blocks it.
Finally, if there’s anything that 2020 taught us, it’s that you can either proactively work towards meaningful change, or it will confront you brutally amidst crisis and chaos. Be it a diseased mammal that forced every business and organisation to adapt to digital transformation amidst a global pandemic. Or an anti-racism movement so powerful that it forced governments and organisations to re-evaluate history, change traditions and put the spotlight on their age-old biases and discriminations.
When it comes to hiring candidates, what choices will you make? Will you choose those who think, act and behave just like you? Or those who bring diversity of mindset, culture, and ideas into your organisation?
About the authors:
Sangbreeta Moitra is a TEDx award-winning international keynote speaker, strategist, and advisor based in Amsterdam. Her expertise is on transforming human behaviour and culture, building a standout leadership presence,, and mastering powerful communication amid crisis in the digital era. A champion public speaker and storyteller from her early days, Sangbreeta's clients include Nike, Booking, Shell, Tommy Hilfiger, ING Bank and NN Group among others. She has been featured in The Huffington Post and The Financial Express. To know more, connect with Sangbreeta on Linkedin and visit www.sangbreetamoitra.com.
With a passion for people and an extrovert at heart, Jyoti Sohal-David is the CEO & Founder of Skillhus. With a background in teaching and career-counseling. Building on 4 years' experience in the Australian education industry and 3 years in the Norwegian startup ecosystem, Jyoti is now following her passion as with Skillhus - exclusive full-service recruitment program for skilled refugees and migrants in Norway. Acting as a bridge between job seekers and Norwegian companies. Connect with Jyoti on Linkedin.