The importance of disciplined, efficient and talented employees in the success of a business is widely acknowledged as irrefutable. Technology is increasingly becoming a success factor as well, but at the end of the day people deal with people, and so the human factor remains a key differentiator of success.
‘Going with your gut’ and ‘gut feel’ have elevated hiring to an art form, but research suggests that what we see as trustworthy intuition is often nothing more than overconfidence based on lucky past guesses that happened to have paid off – with no proof that they will again.
“The war of talent is on, and talent is winning,” says Kay Vittee, CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions and Kelly Recruitment. But what does this actually mean? According to Vittee, it means that while job candidates far outweigh the number of positions available, truly skilled and talented individuals are in short supply.
The problem is that throughout the interview process you have only a small glimpse into an individual’s character and aptitude, and yet you need to infer a huge amount of information about them:
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- Do their values align with those of the company?
- Do they possess all the necessary skills for the job?
- Are they efficient, driven and self-disciplined?
- Do they frame things in a negative or positive way?
- Do they work best in teams or alone?
Here are five ways that you can improve your hiring process today.
1. Be aware of biases at play throughout the hiring process
There are three ‘effects’ that are almost always at play throughout the hiring process. They are known as the Contrasting Effect, the Halo Effect and the Endowment Effect, and they can lead you to making poor hiring decisions.
The Contrasting Effecttakes place when one candidate looks good because another candidate was so poor. For example, candidate one arrives late, looks dishevelled and knows nothing about the organisation. Candidate two on the other hand is engaged, well prepared, asks insightful questions and takes notes.
The contrast between the two is striking, making candidate two appear great. Unfortunately, because you are now only focused on these good qualities, highlighted by how poor the previous candidate was, you aren’t paying attention to whether candidate two is qualified for the role or suits the organisation as a whole.
The Halo Effectis when we draw general conclusions about an individual based on one attribute. For example, if a candidate is friendly and warm, we assume they are honest, trust-worthy and likeable, despite having no corroborating evidence of these facts.
The Endowment Effect is when we see a similarity between the candidate and an existing member of the team and assume that they operate in the same way, and that this is the best person for the role. This is problematic because two assumptions are taking place.
First, we are imbuing an individual with an entire personality and work ethic based on one or two similarities. Second, we are discounting other skills and attributes that might also suit the role, based on one good employee – who may actually fulfil an entirely different function in your company.
2. Avoid confirmation bias
Social media and the online world has become a valuable hiring tool. It’s also a great way to check up on prospective employees. But when you’re doing that online check, be aware of confirmation bias, which leads you to simply look for any information that confirms your initial impression of the candidate. It could lead you to focus on information that is irrelevant to job performance, or make you ignore pertinent information that would change your initial impression.
The Halo Effectandthe Endowment Effectalso come into play with confirmation bias, as you could place too much emphasis on a single piece of information or characteristic.
TOP TIP: Within the interview, be careful to avoid asking questions that unconsciously seek to re-affirm your own initial impressions. These would tend to be leading questions that allow the candidate to clearly see what’s expected of them (remember, people lie).
Related: 4 Hiring techniques needed to build a stellar team
3. Design a scoring system that is objective and do not deviate from it
If you recognise these biases at play in previous hires, create a scoring system that is objective and designed around the job spec. Do not deviate from it, and resolve to hire the candidate who scores the highest, even if they are not the candidate who you liked the most on a personal level.
4. Put a hiring committee together
This should include the candidate’s direct manager, a different line manager, and someone who is solely there to evaluate whether values are aligned.
The direct manager will understand the job role, the second manager will be looking at the candidate objectively because they do not have to work together, and the third person is looking at an overall company fit from a pure value alignment. Give all members of the committee an equal voice in the overall hiring decision.
Related: 6 Tips to keep in mind when hiring your first employees
5. Make use of assessments
Assessments move the interview and hiring process firmly away from ‘art’ and ‘gut’ and towards ‘science’. Evidence suggests that standardised tests are the most promising in predicting job performance, and of course they are objective and not subjective.
Put a clearly defined hiring system in place that is based on science and not gut. Hiring and keeping the right employees could significantly improve your growth potential.