Instincts versus Brain Hiring Practices

Whether you’re the CEO of a multinational firm or a middle manager on the rise, part of what has made you successful is your knack for making key business decisions despite having incomplete information. The reality for most professionals is that their jobs depend on their ability to thrive in an environment of vague data and gut calls.

So it makes perfect sense that when it comes to hiring new employees, most managers believe they can apply those same instincts that have served them well in other aspects of their business to the hiring process. Unfortunately, the data tells a different story: Studies show that half of all hourly workers leave their jobs in the first four months and half of senior outside hires fail within 18 months. Apparently our gut instincts are letting us down.

So why are our typically reliable instincts failing us in the hiring process?

One, we’re emotional. How many times have you hired someone you really liked, in spite of an inkling that they may not be the best fit for the job?

Two, we don’t know exactly what we’re looking for. How many times have you started the hiring process for a new role without having a well-thought-out and clearly written job description?

Recognizing that emotion can cloud your judgment and identifying the importance of a clear job description are the key first steps in the hiring process.

The next, and most important, piece is to establish a clear and thorough hiring process.

A study from Michigan State University reports that if your company’s new hire evaluation process consists solely of an interview, you can expect a 14 percent chance of a successful hire. Adding a background check increases the percentage to 26 percent, and a personality test bumps it to 38 percent. That’s where most companies stop.

If your company is not already conducting three other steps in the hiring process, you’re missing an ideal opportunity to maximize your prospects for a successful hire.

• Ability testing. Whether you’re hiring a new payroll manager, finance manager or graphic designer, there are numerous companies that offer skills testing for prospective new hires. Taking this additional step increases the chances of a successful hire to 54 percent.

• Interest testing. What motivates your new hire? Is it a sense of control over their job, making money or being part of a team? Knowing what makes them tick not only helps identify whether there’s a match for the job, but it also gives you insight into how to best motivate them once they’re hired. This step brings the new hire success rate up to 66 percent.

• Job matching. Probably the most overlooked step in the hiring process, assessing the job is as important as assessing the candidate. You can think of job matching as assessing the job as if it were a person. What would their strengths be, what would motivate them, what would their work style be like? Once you know how the job assesses, you can then match your candidates to the job profile. If there’s a match, you’ve increased your chances for a successful hire to 75 percent.

There are too many variables — within and out of our control — to ever have a perfect hiring process that guarantees a 100 percent new hire success rate. But by putting a thorough evaluation process in place and giving our instincts their necessary checks and balances, we can significantly increase the chances that our next new hire will be a valuable member of the team for years to come.

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“When Hiring, Don’t Trust Your Gut, Listen to Your Brain.” – Houston Business Journal. Web. 17 May 2012. <>.