The Psychology Of Hiring: Why Gut Instinct Isn’t The Right Way To Choose Your Staff

Why Gut Instinct Isn’t The Right Way To Choose Your Staff

Choosing the best possible applicants for your business can’t be a game of picking who your interviewers “like” the most. The reality is, “gut feelings” simply aren’t reliable metrics for choosing your staff.

In order to get the best people for your staff, you need to understand your own psychology, and the psychology of the hiring process as a whole, and adapt wherever necessary.


The myth of the objective interview

Every person is affected by a huge number of subconscious biases that affects any personal judgement they make about people. Think about all the times you had a bad feeling about someone that you had no evidence for. Even if you were able to shake it off and acknowledge your biases, it’s almost impossible to correct your internal first impressions.

There are some big reasons for this.

Similar-to-me bias

The similar-to-me bias refers to how we tend towards positive impressions of people with whom we share certain similarities. That could be someone who’s the same race as you, went to a similar school or degree program, or even likes the same football team.

Whatever the case, the similar-to-me bias usually results in you gravitating to these similar people. This gravitation may result in affected hiring managers deciding to pick these positively-biased people, even if their qualifications don’t correspond to the preference.

Thin slices of impressions

In psychology, the phenomenon known as “Thin-slicing” refers to snap judgements that humans make on the basis of very shallow, quick pieces of information that they see immediately. These judgements are basically the first impressions that someone has on you, and they’re collected within a couple of seconds of you meeting someone.

By organizing a bunch of these thin slices of someone you just met, you’ll form a quick judgement on someone that’s based on relatively incomplete information. Yet because of the bias towards accepting thin slices, your opinion will already be colored by the image you have of the person. Even if your first impressions might be totally and utterly wrong, they could very well be the deciding factor for whether a candidate gets in or not.

Halo effect

We often make sweeping judgements on people on the basis of first impressions. In particular, the so-called halo effect can cause us to create a comprehensive judgement on just one piece of information.

This halo effect goes hand-in-hand with thin-slicing. If you fixate on a single attribute that you discover in your first impressions of a candidate, that fixation might lead to a generalization that will lead you to make a complete judgement on someone without having complete information.

These biases can have serious impacts on the way you perceive your candidates, and it’s important to recognize them and create a hiring process that avoids them if you want to get the best hires possible.


The objectives of hiring - what you’re REALLY looking for

The whole purpose of a hiring process is to get the best people for the job. But what exactly does that mean?

Knowing what you should be looking for in the first place is key to getting the best hiring process you can.


Elimination process

Lots of people are trying to make it into the position you’re hiring for. The goal of your hiring process should be twofold - to get the right people, but also to eliminate those who aren’t the right people. That means you should just as much be looking for those who explicitly won’t be a right fit in one way or another, so you can cut them out as soon as possible and save you a lot of time and effort.


Of course, you want to pick candidates with all the skills and traits that you need for the position to be carried out successfully. Your process should be focused on matching these skills and traits with the people who are applying.

Company culture

It’s not just about doing a good job, it’s also being a good fit. You need people whose values align with you and your company, and whose personalities jive well with that of your culture. That’s why it’s important for many interviews to be structured like a conversation between friends - with the metrics and tests measured after the fact.


And of course, you need to be assured that your candidates will actually enjoy the job they’re doing, and be invested in the company’s success. By ensuring you choose candidates who are highly engaged, you’ll secure future employees who will want to stay, and want to do better.

Building A Good Process

So how do you make a process that successfully isolates these objectives and uncovers them in your candidates?

Use psychometric testing

Those Facebook and BuzzFeed personality tests might get a bad wrap, but they’re literally nothing compared to legitimate, properly-administered psychometric testing. Well-chosen tests can save time while not skimping on the accuracy of assessment, and definitely avoid the internal bias.

Ask questions about personal responsibility

You need to be assured of competence and effectiveness, not only in skills but also in how each candidate will choose to dedicate themselves to the job, or own up to mistakes and failures. It’s not just about generic “What are your strengths and weaknesses” questions, but about specifically how they plan to handle these traits and adapt or harness them in the workplace.

Document and A/B-test your process

There’s no point in having a kickass hiring process if you don’t replicate it. Your maverick hiring manager who gets the best people is of no use once he leaves, and you’d do well to document your best practices and employ them consistently.

You should also check out what doesn’t seem to work or what wastes time, and occasionally A/B-test it in the field with candidates.

Have a conversation

A job interview that flows naturally, instead of ticking off checkboxes and question marks, is what will truly bring out the personality of your candidates. Interviews are inherently stressful events, and you want to see your candidates in as “realistic” an environment as possible so that you know what they’re really like. Don’t stare at the CV throughout the whole session, or keep asking rote questions if not absolutely necessary.


The Jobletics promise

At Jobletics, we use industry-standard psychometric processes in our interviews, and understand the value that they have in isolating the personal bias from creeping into our Jobletes’ selection. We also ask questions that aim to discover the work ethic underneath all of our staffers’ CVs.

These are things you don’t just get from any standard interview. We take the time to ensure that only the best candidates make it to become our staffers, and only the best staffers make it to your shifts.

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