4 evidence-based tools to improve your hiring performance

There is Grand Canyon kind of gap between the science of management and the practice of it. And, having been on both sides regularly, I get that. Most of the scientific papers are very difficult to read and understand for the practitioner (so much terminology). Furthermore, if that were not a problem quite often what is being researched seems out-of-touch with the day-to-day business reality as well


However, what I don’t get is that still so many companies when hiring new employees continue to rely on an unstructured interview (a conversation).  The typical questions you will get in this type of interview are:

  • Tell us about yourself? (and then you continue to ask-your-way-through their CV);
  • What is your strengths and weaknesses (I am persistent, but stubborn…);
  • Why did you apply for this job?
  • etc.

The reason why you are interviewing candidates is increased the odds of good future job performance.

If you would measure a candidate’s cognitive ability and their conscientiousness adding an unstructured interview increases these odds with just 1.5% (Erez & Grant, 2014).  Right, you might was well use your time for other matters.

Now, using standardised testing (BIG 5, etc.) requires a qualified psychologist, but there are 4 other evidence-based tools available to us all (Gary Latham, 2009) :

  • Situational interviews – What would you do in this situation?
  • Patterned behavioural description interviews – What did you do in that situation?
  • Job simulations – Show me how you handle this situation.
  • Realistic job previews – Here’s what is great about the job and what is not so great…

In the past I have been responsible for a team recruiting and hiring specifically to form self-starting teams, which would be send abroad to big cities to start new innovative charity projects.

In this team there was an HR specialist, a psychologist and myself. The HR specialist and the psychologist would engage in structured interviewing (both situational and patterned behavioural description) and they would run several robust assessments,  and perform reference and background checks (and asked references if they knew other references). Parallel to this, the candidates would go through an engagement process where they would face job simulations with other candidates and would get a better idea about what the job would actually entail (good, bad and ugly). I would participate in the simulations and interactions, but not in the interviewing and assessments. In the end the team would sit down together and I would give my ‘thin slice’ idea about the candidates followed by the professionals presenting their evidence plus “verdict”.

We hired many people through this process and the number of ‘miss-hires’ was extremely low. Moreover, for each of the miss-hires we reconstructed the hiring process and found that in each we did not stick to the process (most common cause: a not-to-be-missed candidate was presented at the last minute).

Hiring new employees is both an art and a science, but omitting the science is bad for your business.


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