Why you shouldn’t be trusting your inner reptile to make recruiting decisions.

Why you shouldn’t be trusting your inner reptile to make recruiting decisions.

 23 Jul 2018

Call it our instinct, sixth sense, an inner voice or just plain intuition but it’s a powerful force and one that we regularly rely on when making recruiting decisions.

But how effective is it in terms of predicating future job performance?

And how much does our gut feel lead us to recruit an articulate poor performer with great interpersonal skills over a determined high performer who might be a little shy or initially socially awkward? 

Is championing our gut feel really just an excuse for allowing us to reinforce our unconscious bias and inadvertently prevent an increase in diversity?

Don’t get me wrong, our intuition is highly valuable and can help us make better decisions. It comes from our primitive brain, an artefact from the early days of man when the brain’s ability to detect hidden dangers ensured our survival.  Our intuition has developed over time, is honed by past experiences and shaped by our knowledge and time in the workplace.  It makes us ask follow up questions or dig deeper into areas of a CV or a story that doesn’t quite ring true. 

To be honest, we all think we have great intuition and don’t want to side-line it.  But research regularly reveals that it is rubbish at predicting future job performance and it drives recruitment decisions based on subjective, somewhat irrational factors. 

It’s like the story when a passenger gets on a plane and the cabin area is untidy, clearly not ready and doesn’t look well cared for.  Passengers might then make a judgement that the pilot is similarly ill-prepared and the plane does not undergo regular maintenance and is more likely to crash.  They may well be absolutely right to make that link or they may well be miles from the mark and the contracted cleaning company may simply have a staff shortage and the senior managers might be desperately trying to provide cover for the many members of staff they have released who want to attend the funeral of a much loved, long serving colleague and team member who passed away recently. 

What I’m advocating is balance – balance between our powerful inner voice and accurate, job related and objective evidence.

Plus a structured, tight recruitment process engineered to focus on assessing in depth the traits you believe are necessary to be a high performer in that job role.  A series of ‘interviews’ (really more like informal chats) with a number of stakeholders is a sure-fire way to make certain that gut feel, initial bias and superficial judgments are driving the recruitment decisions.   And definitely not increasing your diversity.

The best way to ensure this balance is to create a pre-defined profile of the person you are looking to recruit – including the essentials such as skill set, previous experience and professional background but also detailing the personality, style, aptitude and work ethic that would be ideal for the role and would complement and add to the team dynamic.  

Bolster that with an objective, job-related and meaningful game-based psychometric profiling alongside insightful previous job references and you should be starting to compile a fuller picture and a reference point to continue to refer back to which challenges your gut feel.  Prioritise the facts and data first to identify candidates who meet the profile and then from this shortlist use your intuition, if you like, to find the one who you think would perform best in your environment.  Don’t do it the other way round and use your intuition first to identify your final shortlist and then try and introduce some more objective logic later on to back up your decision.  You may well have allowed an ideal candidate to slip through the net based on initial and perhaps irrational bias early on.

The ultimate goal here is being able to develop your intuition, differentiate it from initial bias, identify what’s driving it, critically assess it and make sure it’s balanced appropriately with objective insight into future job performance. 

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