You might not think bias, habit, or obscure metrics are damaging your hiring process, but when you peel back the layers you’ll probably find a system that was unfair from the start.
Job interviews are mostly an overrated hassle. Don’t believe me? I’m willing to bet this similar scenario has happened at least once in your company:
Interviewer: Tell me about your experience doing XYZ.
Candidate: Well, I’ve had experience at X and also at Y, and I’ve found learning about Z to be really fascinating in my current job…
Interviewer: Yeah, I also find Z interesting. In fact when I was working at Company X, I found… *cue tirade on why he is so brilliant at Z and why Company X was lucky to have him, and his thoughts on XYZ…*
Candidate: *Laughs nervously, nods, and gestures enthusiastically at all appropriate moments*
Interviewer: Well, that’s probably all we need to know. You’re perfect for this role!
It’s a trap too many interviewers fall into – they make decisions based on bias and judgements they’re not even aware of.
Instead of measuring abilities, interviewers get job seekers to talk about them; instead of using the interview as a filter, too many bad eggs get through (or false positives happen – i.e. people who were turned down, but would have actually been great candidates), and instead of using a systematic approach to distinguish actual talent for the role and culture, the interview becomes a place that allows personal preference to fester and thrive.
It doesn’t stop there. Because many hiring processes are still not collaborative, the responsibility of assessing a candidate usually falls squarely on one person’s shoulder. That person tells others what happened in the interview, sharing handpicked details and feedback that fills an unconscious bias they don’t realise they have. Other team members trust their judgement (after all, they’re experienced recruiters) and everyone is happy with the decision that’s been made.
It’s a lack of self-awareness, and it’s widespread. Far too often, job interviews are simply an unfair experience.
As your company’s founder or a leader in a business, you probably believe you are “a good judge of character”. Perhaps you are, but perhaps you’re not. Maybe you’ve been sucked into a professional vortex that allows you to rely on instinct, using ill-fitting metrics to pigeonhole candidates. Your “good judge of character” is actually slightly exaggerated.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but listen – it’s not (necessarily) your fault. We are all guilty.
To reassess and rebuild the way you measure a ‘good’ candidate, there are a few things you can consider.
Beware the bias
It’s human nature to be drawn to people who are like you, meaning recruiters have a propensity to hire people like them. It’s incredibly easy to make too many dangerous assumptions when you discover a common thread or shared interest with a candidate.
If you want to test someone’s ability for something – then you need to measure that exact ability. Don’t fall back on previous success stories and bias beliefs when making a hire.
Say goodbye to gamification and gimmicks
Pointless puzzles, games, gimmicks, personality and IQ tests, and straight up bizarre riddles have got to go. Unless you are able to justify the metrics and accurately measure and predict skill and job fit from these obscure hiring methods, it’s time for game over. They rarely serve a real purpose and instead just introduce more room for error, bias and assumptions. And you don’t need that.
You can introduce them later on, but only one at a time, and only once you’ve got your hiring process down pat.
Don’t get blinded by cultural fit
Startups are notoriously guilty of hiring talent because they talk the talk and look the part. An obscure gaming or movie reference on a CV might endear the interviewer to a candidate, much like the presence of a foosball table in the office draws in Millennials like a moth to a flame – but it’s all fluff. At the end of the day, this stuff isn’t measurable and cultural fit is hard to define (and hard to gauge accurately in one interview.)
Try to align a set of questions to your corporate values or overall mission, and keep tabs on whether candidates show these matching core ideals.
Think beyond the interview
“Recruiting is hard. It’s just finding the needles in the haystack. You can’t know enough in a one-hour interview. So, in the end, it’s ultimately based on your gut. How do I feel about this person? What are they like when they’re challenged? I ask everybody that: “Why are you here?” The answers themselves are not what you’re looking for. It’s the meta-data.”
Yes, and no, Steve Jobs. It’s true that it’s impossible to know how a candidate is going to perform in the role based on an interview that is 1–3 hours long. And yet, this is the basis of recruitment! However, I don’t believe that it’s ultimately based on your gut. Gut plays a part – and it always will, and should – but relying too much on your first instincts brings us back to bias. It’ll creep it any chance it gets.
The best way to align your gut feeling to probable actual results is to check a candidate’s motivation. Steve Jobs’ questions are good – finding out why someone wants the job, the company, or the career path is key. An intelligent recruiter will be able to spot the genuine enthusiasm amidst any bulls***.
Kick off your hiring process right. Chat to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how talent mapping can scoop up the best candidates.