Busting Three Recruiting Myths

Busting Three Recruiting Myths

There are a handful of beliefs & assumptions within most professions that need to be examined from time to time for validity and accuracy. Beliefs can be very dangerous when they are swallowed without critical thought or current evidence. The medical profession believed 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 more supposedly qualified, educated, and experienced peers that they were wrong. No major university or hospital would hire him.

This is but one example of the many times we accept traditional beliefs without question. Assumptions and beliefs are encoded actions or patterns that allow us to act quickly but without much thought. Most of the time, this is to our benefit, but we have to examine anything we do regularly without thought and see if it stands up to current evidence and close scrutiny.

We need to surface our assumptions and based on evidence and experience decide whether to keep them or discard them for new ideas. It is always better to be a bit of a skeptic and question everything that seems to be common sense or that everyone else believes.

Two books I recommend also underline the need for new ideas and for challenging widely held beliefs. 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.

Here I examine a few of the common beliefs that many recruiters hold.

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. The research has shown that highly structured, behaviorally-based interviews, can help choose candidates more likely to perform well than chance alone would dictate.

But in my many years of experience, I find that interviews are rarely designed well or conducted properly and consistently, even by trained recruiters. 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 shows that by combining a variety of tools such as skills and aptitude testing , with tests for decisions making or other behavioral traits, you can improve success in predicting good hires. By necessity these tools are based on evidence and are reliable predictors of success. They are also faster and frequently cheaper than the normal interview process. 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.

The recent pandemic has stimulated the need for and the adoption of online tools including 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. I would use validated online assessments based on the requirements of each job.

Finding People Who Fit our Culture Is Critical

For some reason, culture fit 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?

In the remote-working Coronavirus era, 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 global, remote, contingent workforce with people entering projects at all times and for different periods of time, culture fit becomes less and less important.

We should only use cultural fit as a selection criteria where hard data has shown it is important for success.

And, as the books mentioned above state, it is also important to have some people who are not good cultural fits, especially in organizations that want to be innovative. Creativity and innovation often arise from those who do not fit the mold.

The Candidate is Your Primary Customer

There is a strong belief that the candidate is your customer. While there is no doubt that it is important to market and brand your organization and the job to the candidate and to maintain impeccable relations, candidates are not your most important customer.

The hiring manager has always been and remains the 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.

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. Branding and candidate relationships come second to this. If you do not agree with a hiring manager, use your influencing skills to challenge him and provide data-based reasons for thinking differently.

Always be a skeptic. Always question the common wisdom. Work out your own answers, march to your own drummer, and you will reap the benefits for a long time.


A history of Interviews — do Job interviews work? - tom.austin.film - Medium

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Value Diversity? Stop Hiring for Culture Fit - Astrid Andrea Martinez - Medium

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