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Should We Hire Candidates More On Instinct?

By Simon on

A person is so much more interesting if we look beyond what is visible to the naked eye – there is so much more to see. So why are we still placing so much emphasis on what is in black and white – the CV – when there is such a chronic skills shortage? I genuinely believe that our natural instinct is to assume there must be something wrong if a CV does not tick all the boxes. But the trick is to challenge this feeling. It’s very easy to filter and judge, but I believe every one has a story to tell. A lot of people, particularly at a junior level, are rejected out of hand for the wrong reasons.

What We See When We See A CV

The brain gets so much of its input from our eyes, and that information is very rarely in the form of a fully informed opinion when it comes to a CV. So it faithfully construes a picture of what it’s supposed to see and feel. If we could suddenly see more than meets the eye, we may be able to see a person who has the potential to grow and develop, and add value to your business. We tend to see the CV as the ‘first’ central part of the hiring process. But, let’s face it, there are so many more important parts. And so many are discounted at that very first hurdle.

Ask yourself one question – do you really hire someone based on their CV? I haven’t. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I said ‘I’m hiring you because I love the layout of your CV’ or ‘the typeface blew me away so I just couldn’t say no’! Don’t get me wrong, people who spend time to produce an innovative CV or well crafted covering letter will always get my attention. But hiring decisions are – more often than not – emotional, and based more on a gut instinct. So why do we underestimate it so much? It would be fair to say that we drastically underestimate that first gut instinct. Or, to put it bluntly, we just don’t underestimate it. We’re afraid to follow it.

Brain vs. Gut

The brain is admired for its ability to create a plethora of concepts, images and words, every second. But the gut, in most peoples’ eyes, is only good for little more than going the loo. Take into account those instantaneous impressions and conclusions that spontaneously arise when we first meet someone, and how quick we are to fight them. What if we stopped digging so deep and started to take our instincts seriously. It may change how we approach and conduct interviews as well as that initial approach to a CV.

The part of the brain that leads to these rapid conclusions, such as deciding on a candidate’s fate at an interview, is called the adaptive unconscious. The study of this type of thinking is one of the most important new fields of research in psychology. Take for example, the first time we meet someone for an interview. We toggle back and forth between our conscious and unconscious mind, thinking all sorts of things about their suitability. The candidate is most likely doing exactly the same thing so don’t think you are alone!

The Mind Works Fast

The harsh reality is that we’ve already made up our mind very quickly. So quickly that it makes us very suspicious of this kind of rapid recognition. There is a danger these initial thoughts can be confused by previous experiences. For example, there are facts about people’s appearances, such as height, size, shape, or gender can trigger wrongful thoughts. A past relationship can have no bearing on a future one because no two people are the same. On a similar note, you cannot compare two candidates just because they work the same company. There may be times when we search for an explanation, when an explanation is not really possible. So we may just have to accept our ignorance of how instinct works, and just say ‘I don’t know why but I felt they’d be great fit’.

Better Hiring Processes

Learning to understand our decisions and appreciating how effective our instinct truly is may lead to better hiring processes. In essence, instinct is a royal gift; we use it because we have to. There are lots of situations where careful attention to the details of a very quick decision, even for no more than a second or two, can tell us awful lot. I’m not saying that reviewing a candidate’s ability to do the job should be done very quickly. Or that a candidate’s impression of an employer should be made in a split second. Rapid cognition is something that takes place behind a locked door which is your unconscious mind. The main problem is that we are not used to placing trust in something that cannot be easily defined.

Vic Braden was one of the world’s most revered tennis coaches, and could successfully predict a double fault no matter who was playing. The ability to do this kept him awake because he was unable to unravel the science behind his thoughts. We aren’t all made like Vic. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions that are made after lots of deliberation.