Picture this: Hiring managers complete an employment interview with a candidate. Immediately after the conclusion of the interview the managers are tested on the information they received during the encounter. Just to see how much they remember about the candidate. They are asked 20 questions. How much do they remember? How much would you remember? In a classical study 40 managers went through this experience precisely. On average, the managers responded incorrectly to 10 of the 20 questions they were asked. So, it appears that our ability to remember candidate information even immediately following an interview is poor. Very poor.
If managers do not remember the content of an interview, can they still make good hiring decisions? Studies consistently show that the predictive validity of the common job interview is very low. This comes as no surprise given the results of the managers’ study above. If you cannot remember what was said in the interview, how can you make good decisions? Remember, the quality of the decision can only be as good as the quality of the information that we have available.
In this article we will review some alternative methods to make hiring decisions. These methods and tools are designed to supplement the employment interview, and not to replace it. Objective assessments, situational judgment tests, personality inventories, and other more sophisticated tools are readily available. But should you really use them? For what jobs? At what cost? And do they really work?
Hubris: When I see a good person I know it.
I meet with a lot of managers. A lot. And one of the most common things I hear is “I am great at spotting good people. When I see talent, I know it”. Often, this is true. But often it is not. If you think of it statistically, when was the last time you heard a manager say: “I am really horrible at judging people”? Never, right? People just don’t think about themselves that way. Obviously, it is statistically improbable that every single manager you know is ACTUALLY great at evaluating the fit of a person for a particular job. What does this mean? It means that on average, managers have severe over-confidence about their ability to judge character. You can easily see this if you face the numbers. Rather than just remember how great of an interviewer a manager is, ask them the following questions (by the way, you should ask yourself the same questions…):
1. In my current team, how many are A players, B players, and C players?
2. How many people left my team in the past 12 months?
3. How many people on my team were terminated in the past 12 months?
4. Wow many people should have been terminated but were not, mostly because it is better having someone in the role than nobody…
These simple questions often serve as a good reality check for most managers. Suddenly, they see that even if they are the best in the world at judging character, sometimes things don’t work out. To reduce the frequency of these occurrences we must use all possible data sources to make a hiring decision.
One of the best things you can do to improve the quality of hiring decisions in your company is to use objective assessments, to supplement the subjective interview. Use knowledge tests, skills evaluations, personality assessments, and any other scientifically developed and tested tools that have been proven to predict job performance. There are a lot of tools on the market that are presented as hiring tools, where in reality they have never been developed and researched for this purpose. Therefore, you must complete your due diligence and ensure you are about to select good tools before you add them into your hiring process.
Three reasons to use objective assessments:
1. Utility and cost: Most objective assessments cost a fraction of what it would cost you to interview each applicant, and clearly would save you a lot of money by avoiding a poor hiring decision. Depending on the assessments you select, it can often be administered quickly and remotely. While you still pay for the assessment itself you save the cost of interview time, interview location, and travel cost when applicable. The cost of objective assessments keeps going down. Today, you can find good entry-level assessments available for $50 or less.
2. Incremental Validity: Validity is a tool’s ability to predict what it is designed to predict. In an employment situation, we are commonly trying to predict future job performance. Study after study we find that across jobs, cognitive ability is a very strong predictor of job performance, and it adds to a successful employment decision over and above an employment interview. Additionally, the personality dimension of conscientiousness keeps starring as the number one personality characteristic that predicts job success. Both these variables are measured through objective assessments.
3. Objectivity: We are all biased. Period. And while some objective assessments are biased too, all the ones that are professionally developed will be highly objective and will be relatively bias-free. This will increase the quality of our hiring decision. In fact, study after study we find that adding objective assessments to an interview process makes a significant contribution to our ability to predict future job performance. Of course, you must select tools that have been professionally created.
So, if you and your managers care about the quality of the team members that you bring on board you must add objective assessments to your process. Just so you can hear it from me: I am a trained Doctor of Organizational Psychology, I have personally screened tens of thousands of people, and interviewed more than 3,500. Still, I know that the use of objective assessments always helps me make a better decision. Every single time. This is precisely why I always use these assessments, and why you should too.