There are a handful of assumptions and beliefs within most professions that need to be examined from time to time for validity and accuracy. Assumptions can be very dangerous when they are swallowed without critical thought or current evidence. The medical profession assumed for years that ulcers were caused by stress and certain foods. It took a modestly qualified medical researcher in Australia to prove that they were caused by bacteria and could be cured with antibiotics. He spent fruitless years trying to persuade educated and experienced peers that they were wrong. No one listened because he was from an unknown hospital and a graduate of an unknown medical school which, in their minds, meant he was not qualified.
This is but one example of the many times our assumptions are based on tradition or pedigree rather than on data. We assume our beliefs are common sense and often do not even consciously recognize our assumptions. We need to recognize that they are deeply encoded patterns that allow us to be more efficient, which can be valuable when it saves us time and improves efficiency, but they can also hinder change or innovation.
From time to time it is important to surface beliefs and assumptions, examine them, and use data and facts to decide which ones are valid and which are not.
Two books that I have enjoyed underline the need for new ideas and for challenging widely held beliefs. They are Rebel Talent
by Francesca Gino and Loonshots
by Safi Bahcall. Both give numerous examples of the benefits that can be realized by doing things differently and by examining our own assumptions..
These led me to examine a few of the common beliefs and assumptions that most recruiters hold and that underlie many of our practices. .
Interviews are Critical to Make a Good Hire
One of the most widely held and cherished beliefs that recruiters have is that interviewing is essential to their success. They believe it is the best way to assess people’s personality, culture fit, experience and skills.
Numerous vendors provide interview training and promise that, if conducted properly, interviews will help you select people who will perform better and stay longer. Research has shown that highly structured, behaviorally-based interviews can help us choose candidates more likely to perform well. However, to work as taught, this process assumes we have data to tell us what skills, aptitudes, and experiences correlate with success.
But in my many years of experience, I find that recruiters have generally not carried out research to identify what the success criteria are for a given position or even what evidence would be a predictor. Hiring managers may be equally unaware and caught up in their assumptions. The questions asked end up being generic and unrelated to the actual work that candidate will be expected to do. In addition, I find that interviews are rarely designed well or conducted properly and consistently. Many interviews are conversations without assessment criteria.
The usual interview - one that consists of a handful of questions and a swapping of information in a very general way - is about as good a predictor of success as pure guessing.
Research has consistently shown that by combining a variety of tools such as skills and aptitude testing along with tests for decisions making or other behavioral traits can improve success in predicting good hires. Well designed tests have less adverse impact and are far more defensible than interviewing, which even when it is well done, is a highly subjective process.
Many organizations are now automating much of the assessment process by adopting games and video-based simulations for screening and assessing candidates. These are more engaging and better predictors of success than other tools.
If I were to skip anything in the hiring process, it would be interviewing. Online assessments, simulations, and games are far more accurate predictors of job success.
Finding People Who Fit our Culture Is Critical
Culture fit may not be necessary for every position, especially as we move to a virtual and remote workforce.
For some reason, it has become a mantra these days. Everyone is testing for and selecting for what they think is culture fit - an ill-defined and hard to nail down concept. Does it mean fitting in with the hiring manager and his or her team or does it mean fitting the general corporate culture, assuming that that has been adequately mapped and vetted?
Fit may be completely unimportant for transactional jobs or jobs that require little interaction with customers or clients. And as we move toward a more contingent workforce with people entering projects at all times and for set periods of time, culture fit becomes less and less important.
I would rather hire a highly competent and experienced engineer than one less accomplished but a better cultural fit. Sometimes it is more important to have skills, but sometimes fit is more important. We should only use cultural fit as a screening criteria when hard data has shown it is important for success.
It is also useful to keep in mind that hiring some people who are not considered good cultural fits is important, especially in organizations that want to be more innovative. Creativity and innovation often occur when people do not fit the mold as they see things differently. They become the ones who have the breakthrough ideas or who shake up the normal way of thinking to refocus a project or stimulate some new ideas.
The Candidate is Your Primary Customer
There is a strong belief that the candidate is your customer among recruiters today. While there is no doubt that it is very important to market and brand your organization and the job to the candidate and to maintain impeccable relations, candidates are not your only most important customer.
The hiring manager has always been and remains key to your success. Recruiters that are not aligned to their hiring manger’s needs are usually not successful for long. By aligning yourself with the hiring managers and making sure they get the types of candidates they are looking for in timeframes they accept, you will ensure your own ability to continue doing good recruiting.
When you are an ally and partner with a hiring manger, everything else seems to go smoothly. Your messages are clearer. Your assessment is more accurate. And your success is ensured.
Make sure your metrics, your sourcing strategies and your selection tools are all acceptable to your hiring managers. Involve them and keep them informed at every level and you will get the budget and staff to recruit the best people.
Technology is Essential to Success
I love technology and I firmly bellevue that 90% of what we do can be and will be automated to some degree. But we must always focus on building relationships with hiring managers and candidates. Your first goals should be building networks, getting to know lots of people, and engaging as many potential candidates in conversation as you can. Being able to tap into a vast group of contacts and connections is the ultimate key to success. . These networks can be created and maintained using A.I. augmented processes and social media and I encourage every recruiter to use these to their fullest. But be sure you personally are engaging with candidates, initiating conversations, and deepening the knowledge you have of each other.
Always be a skeptic. Always question the common wisdom. Use data not gut feel, tradition, or pedigree. Work out your own answers, march to your own drummer, and you will reap the benefits for a long time.