Samuel A. Swift, Ph.D.

Employers often use correspondence bias when hiring, with potentially negative results, a study has found.

In “Inflated Applications: Attribution Errors in Performance Evaluation by Professionals,” author Samuel A. Swift, Ph.D., found this bias leads even experienced professionals to make mistakes in selection decisions. Correspondence bias, says Swift, involves giving too much credit to the individual, rather than the situation. For example, one could want to hire a nurse because her current unit has a low rate of falls, but fail to take into consideration how at-risk those residents were for falling.

“Like all biases, correspondence bias is an attempt to simplify a decision,” said Swift, a University of California Berkeley-Haas School of Business post-doctoral fellow. “It’s a decision that should work most of the time. But in a more complicated world, a simple score can break down.”

Hiring managers might rely on indicators such as a high GPA being reflective of success. Human resource directors can push universities, including nursing schools, to release the ranks of their graduates, not just grades, in order to make better decisions, Swift said. Those who are hiring might want look at the broader picture.

“We need to look beyond the first number we see,” he explained. 

Study results appeared in PLOS One.