Viewing posts from: January 2016

Intuition vs. Data-driven Hiring Decisions

by Rodney in Talent Acquisition


I’ve always found it interesting that I’ve met far more people who rely on their gut instinct or intuition to make hiring decisions rather than hard data (or seeking hard data). It came to a head for me years ago while I was managing a talent acquisition team in the corporate environment. One of the recruiters found an excellent candidate for an engineering position. During the interview process the candidate revealed a hand injury that was inconsequential to the job, but impacted movement and strength. After the interview the hiring manager called and said they really liked him and thought he was a strong technical fit, but would have to pass on extending an offer. A few probing questions revealed that the team got a bad feeling about the candidate because he had a terrible hand shake. Despite being a fit for the position and an obvious ability to perform, they didn’t think he would fit in based on his hand shake. It was a cringe-worthy, teachable moment. In the end he received an offer and became a great contributor to the team.

The intent of this story was not to discourage all use of intuition; but I wanted to point out that it has limits. Over reliance on intuition in hiring decisions can lead to poor decision making and overlooking otherwise very good candidates. If your intuition tells you a bad handshake can be interpreted as a personality flaw, I might be talking to you. Yet, the blame in these situations must fall directly on HR and talent acquisition professionals. We are the experts and should own the selection process. This includes ensuring anyone conducting an interview is properly trained and understands how to use probing behavior based questions to collect data. For example, when an interviewer is concerned about how a candidate will fit within a team, they should have a repertoire of questions to ask and answer data:

  • Can you tell me about a time you wished you had acted differently with a coworker? What happened?
  • What has been your approach to integrating with a new team in the past? Were there any lessons learned you would incorporate in the future?

The list of questions could be endless. The primary point is that intuition is better utilized when you have actual information to start drawing conclusions. Whether that data is through interview questions or formal assessments, it is critical that interview teams be trained on how to gather and interpret the information.

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