Can You Trust Your Gut When it Comes to Hiring?

Can You Trust Your Gut When Hiring?

Yes…but not categorically.

We go with our guts on many important decisions and there’s certainly a time and place for “gut” instincts.  After all, you (hopefully) didn’t have your spouse take an assessment before proposing, or qualify your friends by asking for their NPS before inviting them over for dinner…

So when does objectivity come into play for hiring?  And where’s the balance? Noone wants to be interviewed by a robot, and in general, cross industry, we buck the notion of AI dominating the recruitment & hiring process.  For the same reason we all frantically pound the “zero” key when we get a recorded greeting, we are all wired, deep down, for that human connection with a real life person.  HBR, Inc., Forbes & ERE have varying numbers for this, but all their data points to the idea that the majority (50-80%) of interviewers admit to “relying” on their gut for hiring decisions.  The problem with that, is that many of those interviewers (and you, possibly) end up hiring people based on likeability (which of course we all know doesn’t mean a whole lot after the honeymoon is over).

So how do we harness the good of gut without losing the critical benefits of objectivity?  

3 things:

  • First, we take a really effective probiotic (kidding!) discipline the mind to postpone jumping to a conclusion within the first 5 minutes of an interview.  SHRM, Lou Adler and countless other thought leaders in the recruitment industry have compiled data that should lead interviewers to a walk of shame.  This data suggests that interviewers seal the fates of their interviewees within the first 5 minutes- so the weak handshake, the tapping leg, the high talker, whatever it was that turned you off, you’ve made your decision.  But can I just say: you are good, but are you really that good? To fully vet someone & qualify them for the job within 5 minutes? Or did you get a “read” on them that was based on something purely subjective?
  • Second, use an evidence based approach to interviewing.  Here at Floodgate, we’ve developed a scorecard for our interviewers that keeps them in the lines, not too different than using the bumper lanes at the bowling alley.  Our managers must hunt for evidence as to why said candidate may excel in this or that particular role, instead of purely relying on gut.  
  • Thirdly, evaluate candidates based on 3 equal categories:  Hard, soft & fit factors. “Fit” is similar to “gut”, so you’re looking at, “will they fit in with the local team?  The corporate team? The customers?” That category is usually pretty easy to assess and the one you do most subconsciously.  But the other two (hard and soft) are equally as important. Someone with a really magnetic personality can easily distract you from covering the “hard” factors like “Has this person performed in a similar role, with a pattern of success?”  Or do they have the technical aptitude to do this job well?

Your homework:  Take a moment to honestly evaluate your past (miss)hires, and consider this:  where did you lean too hard and ultimately go wrong? Did you focus too much on hard skills and not enough on “fit”?  Or did you get caught up in likeability and fail to see that the person really lacked the pattern of performance you knew you needed?

Whatever the case, right the ship – your business is only as good as the people who lead it.