In any hiring process I have been involved in, if I had a Euro (or any other currency) for the number of times I have heard these phrases I could probably retire:
- It didn’t feel right
- He/she wouldn’t fit
- There was something about…
Do you trust your gut in the hiring process?
Trusting our instincts can help us in many ways. But in some cases trusting our guts can mislead us into safe, tried and tested decisions, which are not always the best. They certainly don’t lead to building diverse teams. Most of the hiring process is ineffective either profoundly or marginally. But despite the publicity around the inefficiencies and the cost of making the wrong hiring decisions, companies rarely change their approach to filling open vacancies. They rely on submitted applications and key worded ATS searches, network referrals, telephone or video screening, maybe some psychometric testing or a behavioural interview task and finally an unstructured interview(s). Sometimes there could be series of 5 or more interviews with different members of an organisation at different times, but frequently covering the same ground. Some candidates report up to 9 interviews requiring multiple vacation days on top of hours of preparation. If they are rejected some never even find out why.
There are multiple reasons for adhering to these outdated and flawed systems
- No one has any experience of doing anything differently. Interviewers complain about being cramped by more structured and standardized approaches which they feel are more formal and potentially intimidating to top candidates. They want candidates to like them.
- Most managers rely on their instincts and think they can trust their guts when it comes to making the right hire, especially when it comes to building a team. Their team. They can resent the interference of outside influences – such as HR or even an external specialist.
- Many organisations want shared responsibility for hiring. It deflects accountability if something goes wrong.
Yet there is overwhelming data to suggest that more consistent and formal approaches work better than casual and laissez- faire set-ups. Structured interviews are the best way to assess potential talent in a hiring process. The challenge is getting hiring managers to accept and then adopt the methodology. One of the main challenges is diary commitments and getting all players on site at the same time. But if people are the most important part of any business then they have to be given priority and time must be made to accommodate interviews.
Here are 6 ways to avoid having to rely on your gut in the hiring process
#1 Manage expectations
One of the most off-putting situations for any candidate is not having clarity around the process and what exactly is going to happen. If possible this should be explained upfront before the interview with details on the hiring process. If candidates understand that the interview is set up to make sure that all candidates will be be treated fairly and equally and asked the same questions. If there is any pre-interview chat as part of the warming up process, keep it to neutral generalities. The weather and, journey to the venue are both banal and uncontentious and should be non-bias orientating discussions.
#2 Select a diverse panel
if possible interviewers should be as diverse as possible in terms of background, age, seniority and personality types. There clearly has to be a subject expert in the group. This is a good opportunity to give junior employees exposure to the hiring process to prepare them for the future. VP roles don’t have to be interviewed exclusively by peers or more senior employees.
#3 Bench mark competences
The role should have a properly prepared job description with a clear definition of the main competences against which each candidate will be assessed on a matrix with scaled results for hard and soft skills. Questions around which skills or personality traits are missing from the team should be asked rather than looking for people who will fit in and others will “like.”
Hard skills are easy to evaluate: For example fluency in a second language might be a necessary qualification. In which case it will be benchmarked at 9 or 10. An engineering degree likewise. Soft skills are harder to assess and questions need to be structured so that a candidate can describe situations where they have exhibited those particular skills as part of their career stories.
#4 Structure questioning
Panel members or interviewers should have a pre-determined schedule for asking questions, with a series of prepared questions. Then it should be decided:
- Who will be covering which topics
- The order of questioning
Behavioural questions are always helpful
“Tell us about a time you had to deal with a situation when your opinion was the minority view. How did you deal with that?” You can deep-dive with more penetrating questions: “What sort of opposition did you encounter?“, “How did you follow-up?“, “What was the outcome,”
#5 Be accountable
Interviewers should evaluate candidates against the benchmark matrix consistently for all candidates. This can be scaled 1-5, or 1-10 based on the profile. If a person speaks French fluently they will be allocated a 10 against the benchmark. Conversational French might be a 5.
It’s important to be able to discuss any divergence in evaluations between the hiring team. This is the moment to raise concerns about potential unconscious bias. Why did one interviewer give a candidate a low rating on a particular skill when others rated him or her more highly? This will be invaluable to identifying the barriers to effective decision-making.
Any discrepancies in scoring should be highlighted in relation to potential bias in the most constructive way possible.
This allows prompt decision-making and the opportunity to give measured feedback if candidates ask for it.
#6 Make an immediate decision
The mind can play some strange tricks, so any discussion should be held at the end and also if necessary mid-way through the process depending on how many candidates are being interviewed. It might be important to check that everyone is on the same page. It is very common for hiring decisions to go through multiple layers of approval only to have the original decision overturned.
Senior leaders have to trust their teams to hire the right people. Micro-managing the process can be very frustrating for all involved. One of the most important revelations in any hiring process is for those involved to understand that their instincts may not always lead them down the right path. This is why unconscious bias awareness training for everyone involved in the recruitment process is so important.
Organisations have to make systemic changes to their recruitment processes to produce better results both for the business and candidates. And no one likes change. That’s the problem.