We all know managers who have a ton of confidence in their ability to use gut instinct to assess talent and make great hiring decisions. You may be one of those managers. The confidence comes through in statements such as…
“I can tell in the first five minutes of an interview whether a candidate will be successful on the job.”
“I know a great candidate when I see one.”
Such managers gain their confidence from a long history of interviewing and hiring and the feeling of habit and routine that comes with having done so much of it. But, it’s that feeling of habit that creates a dangerously false sense of control. Allow me to explain.
Human brains are wired for habit. In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman describes how our subconscious (or “fast thinking”) brains evolved in the early days of our species to keep us out of danger. One run-in with a predator that leapt from the shadows, and our brains became programmed to send us running at every noise we heard in shadows. A very efficient machine for keeping primitive humans alive, for sure. But not every noise in the shadows meant danger. In fact, some shadowy noises would have been friends or other good things.
It’s thousands and thousands of years later, but the same biology exists in modern human brains. The fast-thinking brain helps us complete routine tasks with minimal need for conscious thought. Consider the minimal amount of thought it takes to brush your teeth. This is helpful because the process is exactly the same every time you do it (your teeth are in the same place every morning!), and your conscious thoughts can be dedicated to other purposes, such as preparing for the important presentation you must do later in the morning. The fast-thinking brain likes to provide short-cuts for other modern day tasks as well, such as interviewing and assessing candidates. And this is where the problems start. Because every candidate and every situation is different, the short-cut creates a habit for a task that really requires presence and active thought.
The errors caused by the fast-thinking brain are called cognitive biases. There are many different types of cognitive biases, and they all cause us to jump to conclusions which may or may not be accurate. For example, our minds trick us into assuming that the attractive, well-spoken candidate has all of the leadership skills we require, or the outgoing, confident candidate is the type of energetic leader we desire. Without a good check on cognitive biases, we are left to the mercy of our fast-thinking brains.
Structure is the antidote. Good structure can slow down the process and prevent us from becoming hijacked by cognitive bias. This doesn’t mean that all gut instinct in the hiring process is wrong. But structure does help us sort the helpful instincts from the harmful ones. Structure can be added in many ways, including in an ideal candidate profile, in the actual interviewing methodology, in the candidate assessment process, etc. For specific tools that will help you add structure to your hiring process, read The Retail Leadership Profile at the link below: