Should You Rely on Instinct or Data when You Hire?

Let’s assume that you’ve interviewed 20 applicants for a job you are trying to fill. You’ve narrowed your selections down to four candidates. Three have all the qualifications and skills you need, but they aren’t too exciting. Then there is candidate number four, who lacks experience but who interests you so much that you’d like to give him a shot at the job. Your gut is sending you a message. You just have a strong feeling that he will step up and do a great job.

Who Should You Hire?

It might be surprising to learn that you will probably hire the best candidate if you set your intuition aside completely and hire a candidate who meets the specific requirements of the job you are trying to fill. At least that is the opinion of Nathan R. Kuncel, Deniz S. Ones and David M. Klieger, psychologists and researchers who wrote the article “In Hiring, Algorithms Beat Instinct” for the May, 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review. Instead of going with feelings, they have concluded that “If you simply crunch the applicants’ data and apply the resulting analysis to the job criteria, you’ll probably end up with a better hire.”

That could mean listing all the skills that your job requires, the rating each of your applicants on all of them. And to reach an even better hiring decision, the authors recommend asking several of your company’s managers analyze and rate applicants’ strengths according to a scored set of criteria. You can then average their scores and offer your job to the candidate who achieved the highest ratings.

Why Not Go with Your Gut?

According to the authors of the Harvard Business Review article, emotions can lead to less-than-ideal hiring decisions. Even though you know the job requirements and have an impression of what the applicants are like, instinct can cause you to fail to make the strongest match. Better hires result, they say, when you identify job skills and hire people who meet them.

That’s a little disappointing, right? After all, most of us would prefer to offer jobs to people we like and who engage our emotions. But because our job is to hire the best candidates, not the ones who “speak” to our emotions, the wisest course could well be an analytical one.

Related posts on interviewing and the recruiting process:
How Hiring Managers Can Stop Reading Resumes Today
Four Strategies to Fill Entry-Level Jobs Faster
Time Saving Strategies for Hiring Managers

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