Why Your Gut Instinct is not a Hiring Tool

Gut Instinct is not a hiring tool

Written by Nicola Kleinmann

Nicola is an experienced HR and Talent professional, who ran a successful recruitment agency for 15 years and is now the co-founder of an HR Consultancy, Your People.Associates. She is able to advise businesses on their direct hiring and recruiting strategies and show them how to attract and retain the best talent.

When hiring new staff, it’s tempting to simply go on gut instinct and fall into the trap of believing that you know in the ‘first 30 seconds’ that you have the ideal candidate! 

Don’t believe the hype! Whilst gut instinct can certainly be helpful, it can also be to the detriment of your business if you rely solely on it. 

There’s no doubt that as an employer you may have certain biases, even if you’re not consciously aware of them. For example, if you interview a candidate who you feel has very similar traits to yourself, then you’re almost certainly going to view them favorably. Whilst there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it can become a problem when you’re ignoring qualified candidates merely because your gut instinct tells you they’re not right for the job.

Hiring on skills for the job, cultural match and role profile is of paramount importance even though it is often tempting to choose likeability over ability to perform well in the job.

Given the fact that going on gut instinct isn’t a preferred way of hiring, here are 4 methods that can help you steer clear of relying solely on your gut instinct and ensure you get the absolute best ‘person’ for the job. 

1. Referrals

Whether they’re from current employees, other business owners, people in your network they are definitely invaluable. 

Referred candidates are often already fans of your employer brand as they have been sold the story by advocates and they may also be familiar with the industry or systems used by your company if they have worked with your own people previously.

 2. Pre-screening Questions 

When you’re looking to hire for a particular position it’s always useful to have pre-screening questions to help rule out any unsuitable candidates. If you set this up in the ad or throughout the application process you should see that candidates will screen themselves out of the process if they don’t have the necessary skills and requirements.

This saves you time as well, as it prevents you from having to wade through countless CV’s of applications who aren’t suited to the job.

3. Benchmark all the candidates

Use your screening questions so that you give everyone a fair go. Ask other members of your team to attend interviews so you can create a panel or series of interviews  so you have a more rounded opinion. Someone else may spot something you have missed.

Again encourage all interviewers to use a benchmark style criteria so all the candidates get scored fairly and they don’t just pick the candidate they would like to work alongside.

4. Be picky 

It can be easy to settle for someone who’ll be able to do the job adequately, especially if you are left in a position where the job is vacant but why not strive to find the perfect candidate who’s going to excel.

If the role is leaving a gap and needs filling quickly, consider a temp/interim contractor until you find the right fit for the permanent role. It could also be an idea to consider the interim candidates in the process too as they may well consider a full-time option. Remember to put them through the same interview process to ensure you have benchmarked them against the wider talent pool.

In the long run it’s only going to benefit your business to have a team of talented employees who are highly skilled and the right skills to do the job first and foremost.

There are definitely certain qualities that are hard to measure with raw data. Like the level of enthusiasm a candidate has or how well you think they’ll fit into your team. This is where your gut instinct comes into play and can actually help you to avoid potentially disastrous appointments if the cultural fit is off.

So remember…

While gut instinct may have a key role to play when hiring it can become a problem if that is all you are relying on. Always consider other important factors such as experience and relevant skills as well as personality traits before you use gut instinct.


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