Are Instincts Reliable When Hiring?

Waiting to adopt a more evidence-based hiring process could be stunting your organization.

Through our conversations with HR professionals working in multiple industries about the troubles and triumphs they face each day, we’ve noticed a recurring issue that consistently threatens effective hiring. Quality of work and level of experience isn’t always the clinching factor for a candidate’s selection. Instead, hiring decisions are sometimes grounded in something much more surface-level: the first impression a candidate gives. A recent article by Arlene S. Hirsch, MA, LCPC, whose work focuses on career and psychological counseling, dives into whether or not trusting that gut feeling is an effective method of selecting future employees.

The Power of Five Minutes

In five minutes, you can gather basic information about the stylistic and surface-level qualities of the candidate, but little about who the candidate is as a person.

Hirsch states that in her experience, it takes as few as five minutes for a hiring professional to decide if the candidate is going to be hired. While this shows the power of first impressions, it also shows how quickly an interviewer’s objectivity can be nullified.

Employers making instinctual decisions are simply at a disadvantage. Consciously or not, their initial impressions can become incredibly difficult to overcome. While no employer will ever have every piece of information before pulling the trigger, an evidence-based method brings employers far closer to making grounded, informed hiring decisions instead of relying on confirmation biases from the first five minutes.

Character Counts, but Competency Counts Most

Although the way a candidate presents themselves to their interviewee may be only a mere fraction of the equation, for some employers it exceeds even experience in importance. While “gut feelings” about a candidate’s character can help in tie-breaking situations, they shouldn’t take precedence over evidence-based indicators such as assessments or even interview rubrics.

Establishing a model for multi-stakeholder, multi-step hiring decision-making doesn’t take a tenured HR director. It just takes a willingness to check biases at the door, create a process simple enough for all to understand and follow, and iterate from hire to hire.

Hirsch suggests these considerations to building your own evidence-based process:

  • Document the concrete skills that matter most for your hire
  • Clearly set expectations for interviewers of how they should ask questions (and listen to answers) to best evaluate candidates
  • Find and/or create complementary assessments that objectively stratify candidates against those skills
  • Continue to make updates as you learn what works about your process – and what doesn’t

Not only do these changes build confidence in hiring decisions internally, they also can improve the candidate experience because of the increased accountability among interviewers and HR personnel.

Looking for Help Getting Started?

At HSD Metrics, we specialize in helping our clients make strategic and educated decisions based on data collection we handle – from expert survey design qualitative feedback and data visualization. Our assessments can help fill in gaps in your talent acquisition and retention insights immediately. Get in touch with our consultants today for more information and a free demo of our software!