Recruitment is a science. Only most people don’t realise it.
It’s not luck that matches the right candidate with the right role.
But nor is it effort, instinct, judgment, even HR expertise or years of experience.
But, I hear you cry, I’m involved in recruiting staff and I’m no scientist!
Well, never fear – because a) I am a scientist and I’m here to help, and b) much of the science bit has been done for you already.
All you need to do is make sure your recruitment and selection process utilises that science. That way you can be confident that:
- you’re measuring what you think you’re measuring (and not something else entirely)
- the results will be consistent and reliable between candidates and over time
- the influence of bias and human error is minimised
- the results can be relied upon to predict future behaviour and performance
- each candidate is being assessed equally and fairly.
Why is a scientific approach to recruitment important?
You want to be confident you’re making the right hire. Because to not do so is expensive, disruptive and difficult to fix.
To do that, you need to be making as accurate an assessment of a candidate’s abilities, competencies and behaviours as possible. One that enables you to compare one candidate effectively against another and against the requirements of the job. One that enables you to confidently predict how a candidate will perform in the role.
But some selection criteria are more accurate a measure of job performance than others
As you might imagine, the candidate’s age and interests do not score well when it comes to predicting job performance. You might be surprised to learn that the number of years experience is not much more effective a guide.
The selection methods you use to evaluate candidates also vary in terms of accuracy.
An unstructured interview for instance is much less accurate a measure of competence than a psychometric test.
The reason? The amount of scientific rigour that goes into its development and the amount of testing it undergoes to ensure its validity as a measure.
A psychometric test, unlike an unstructured interview, will have been through hundreds of hours of research, analysis, design, development, trialling, testing and statistical validation.
So you know that it’s literally been tried and tested hundreds of times before you come to use it, and the accuracy of its results have been proven time and time again.
Psychometric tests are also more accurate than interviews because subjectivity has been removed. The results are defined by a computer working within fixed rules and algorithms, with no opportunity for human error, unconscious bias or different interpretations of scoring criteria to impact on the decision. Can you say the same about your interview process?
How do you utilise science in your selection process?
1. Make use of the best scientifically-developed tools available to you. Complement your selection methods with good quality psychometric tests, for instance, to give you reliable and predictive measures of candidates’ skills and behaviours.
2. Look critically at your current selection methodology. Could you take a more scientific approach to your interviews or assessment centres?
Interviews can be made more rigorous through a deeper analysis of what you’re looking for. A client of mine was using generic competencies and therefore generic interview questions to assess team-working skills. I reviewed those competencies in the context of the specific role they were recruiting to, exploring what good and poor performance looked like with people in that role. Then we conducted interviews with people in similar roles to test the interview questions we’d developed. All of which meant we created a much more predictive interview script.
To minimise the impact of human error and subjectivity, make sure your assessors are well-trained in the specific methodology you’re using. While you’ll never eliminate bias entirely, the better trained your assessors, the better quality the assessment.
3. Quiz suppliers on the robustness of their tools – and beware false promises.
Unfortunately not all selection tools are created to the same scientific standards.
If a customer asks me about using a psychometric test I’m not familiar with, the first thing I do is check whether it’s registered with the British Psychological Society’s Psychological Testing Centre. But I don’t stop there. Just because it’s registered doesn’t mean the BPS has approved it. I’ll also study the review of the test and its technical manual to see how scientific its development was and how stable the results are.
Making the right hiring decision is too important to do in an unscientific way. Fortunately you don’t need to be a scientist to utilise all the recruitment science that’s out there. A huge amount of hard scientific graft has already been done to create reliable accurate tools that are easy for you to use.