Many bosses and human resources managers will claim to be pretty good at hiring. If asked why, they probably will mention “gut instinct” or provide examples of great employees they added to the organization. However, there is increasing evidence that a scientific and systematic approach is far more fair and effective.
According to Peter Cappelli, Director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources, “This is a topic that’s been researched to death by the field of industrial and organizational psychology. The amazing thing is how few companies take this seriously.” (Inc. Magazine, 2006)
Problems with Traditional Interviews
A typical unstructured interview tells an employer very little about potential candidates. And in fact, despite the best intentions for non-discriminatory hiring, the first few minutes of an interview are a minefield for forming unconscious biases including….
The Horns and Halo Effect
This cognitive bias allows a single characteristic, either good (halo) or bad (horn), to overshadow other traits or behaviors. This can include anything from physical appearance to outfit choice to a handshake.
Confirmation bias is the tendency for people to believe (or confirm) what they already believe and ignore contrary evidence. What does this mean in interview? If the first impression is positive, the hiring manager will look for reasons to like the candidate more. If the initial meeting is awkward, the hiring manager will shift the focus to reasons to reject.
How to Hire Better
So, how can a company move past conventional hiring and improve their results?
1. Interview by Committee
Having more than one person in a room minimizes individual biases. Committees of three to ten work well. Each member should take notes and discuss their thoughts and observations after the candidate leaves.
2. Use a Structured Interview Format
Improvised, unfocused and rambling interviews are virtually useless. Each candidate should be asked exactly the same questions. Also, employers should ask behavioral or situational questions which require interviewees to give examples of past or future performance. For example, “How did you handle working with a difficult co-worker in the past?” instead of “How do you get along with others?”
3. Consider Other Forms of Assessment
The best predictor of future job performance is the work sample test in which a candidate is asked to complete a task like what they would do on the job. Cognitive tests and personality tests can be valuable also, while combining techniques creates even better results. (Wired Magazine, 2015)
4. Track Success Rates
Companies should compare records of hiring methods and results to employee contributions over time. Measurable contributions may include dollar values in sales, relative share in output, performance reviews, promotions and raises. Once correlations are identified, the processes can be re-evaluated and re-vamped as necessary.
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