When recruiting staff should you base your decision on your gut instinct (your “hunch”) or should you look at the numbers and make a data-based decision?
This important question was recently discussed in a podcast by Matthew Sweet, Ian Leslie and Kenneth Cukier, following an article, The Data or The Hunch, in Intelligent Life magazine. These three experts looked at the hunch-based approach that has been used to great effect, for example, in the music industry, and compared it with the data-driven approach that is now becoming more common not just in music, but in business generally.
In business, a recruiter’s hunch is often based on an interview with the candidates. It is a speedy approach, and one that doesn’t therefore require too much work. Yet decades of social science research show that an interview alone, followed by a hunch decision, is simply an unreliable predictor of how well someone will perform in a job. This is because our hunches are often informed by cognitive biases (you might call them prejudices), which prevent us from making well-informed, objective decisions.
So should recruiters rely on data alone? Well, there are dangers there too. In fact a data-only approach can result in an organisation always hiring people like those it already has, missing out on those who are rather different but who might give it an edge.
The best solution, the three podcast experts agreed, is a combination of both approaches, with the data used to validate or challenge the hunch.
This makes perfect sense to me too. Yet while just about every recruiter knows how to use their hunch, too few marry it with a genuine data-driven approach.
So what is a genuine data-driven approach? Well, first of all, you haven’t adopted one if you have merely determined whether a candidate has the necessary experience to do the job, and spent time getting to know their customer, understanding the culture of their business and assessing how the ideal candidate will fit into it. Important though these things are, they do not constitute a genuine data approach. The resulting process is still unbalanced and prone to bias, and the final recruitment decision still has to be based, pretty much, on a hunch.
In contrast, a genuine data-driven approach uses appropriate, reliable and valid selection tools, such as psychometric assessment and ability testing tools. It involves assessing a candidate’s personality traits, understanding their typical ways of behaving at work, and then matching these against job requirements. Only this approach maximises the probability of the recruited candidate achieving optimal performance, leading to better outcomes for all customers.
So why aren’t these tools part of every recruiter’s process? Almost certainly it’s because it means more work for the recruiter. And recruiters and hiring managers still persist in believing they can make the best decisions from the hunch alone.
They are wrong. And organisations suffer as a result. It’s time for a genuine data-driven approach, supported by the hunch, to be the minimum standard.
Freshwater Group is a renewable energy recruitment business that focuses on all renewable and low carbon emission, energy efficiency and disruptive clean technology businesses as well as energy infrastructure, storage and management.
- Posted by Freshwater Group
- On August 12, 2015
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