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4 Common Pieces of Hiring Advice That Are Actually Wrong

June 4, 2015

ThinkstockPhotos-476982813Ok, I admit it…I’m completely guilty of being swayed by online advice in an area that I have little to no familiarity with. At the sign of a symptom, I’m scouring medical websites to see what ailment I’ve come down with. While some of these sources are legitimate, others are not. But even so, I’m probably not the best person to assess my symptoms and determine the gravity of them.

You can find online advice for anything these days. This is a blessing and a curse—you have lots of information at the tips of your fingers, but you also are presented with information that may not be accurate. The information conveyed may be opinions or based on anecdotal evidence. Additionally, it’s sometimes difficult to judge the legitimacy of the information. The author may have some “extra letters” following their name, but this specialized degree may have little to do with what they are commenting on. It’s important to be overly critical of advice provided online. Who is providing the information? Do they have expertise in the area? What are they basing the information off of?

I have seen quite a lot of advice related to best practices in hiring. Some of which is based on evidence and research…and some of which is not at all. Below, I have highlighted some of the pieces of online advice related to hiring that you should be skeptical of.

1. “Our assessment is 80% accurate, which is why you should use it for your hiring needs.”

This type of information sounds very convincing. I would love to be able to say with confidence that assessments are 80% accurate, but this is not an appropriate way to convey validation evidence. When we examine the validity of assessments, we look at the relationship between how job candidates scored on the assessment and, if hired, how they perform on the job. The value derived from these analyses provides us a validity coefficient. The validity coefficient ranges from 0 to 1 and is not transformed into a percentage of accuracy. I have yet to come across a published journal article which refers a percentage of how accurate an assessment is. This would be a red flag to me.

2. “If you want to reduce adverse impact, you should break your candidates into different groups based on race. Then, select from each list in proportion to their application rate.”

In theory, this is a good method for reducing the amount of adverse impact seen in a selection step. However, this method, which is a form of “race norming,” is illegal based on the 1991 Civil Rights Act. Race norming is when test scores are adjusted based on race or ethnicity. By adjusting the scores of candidates, you are not being consistent in how you treat candidates. The more ideal/legal way of reducing adverse impact is to use an assessment or method that has been shown to have small subgroup differences/adverse impact. For example, use an assessment that supplements cognitive ability with biodata and personality, so larger subgroup differences that are often apparent in cognitive ability are lessened.

3. “Do a hard sell of the job and organization.”

Recruitment plays a big role in the hiring process. It goes without stating that you want to hire job candidates who have the highest potential for success. However, when it is a competitive market, these are the candidates that will have a lot of job options. You will have to do your best to recruit them into your organization. Meaning, tell them the benefits of working in this role and at this company. However, contrary to what some people may think, it’s also important for your sake to share with candidates potential downsides of the job. Give candidates a realistic job preview. Preferences of candidates differ and it’s important for them to be aware of the satisfying and potentially dissatisfying features of the job and company. This allows them to make a more informed decision about accepting the position. If they self-select out of the process, you will ultimately save yourself lots of time and money that would have gone towards onboarding the employee, only to leave within the first few months.

4. “Go with your gut instinct.”

Oftentimes, we get feelings about whether the candidate would be successful or unsuccessful in the role. It seems like a natural way to make a decision. However, this opinion is only that—an opinion. It’s not objective nor is it based on a candidate’s skills and abilities. One of the most common interviewing errors is first impression bias. First impression bias occurs when we make a judgment on a candidate—either positive or negative—based on initially meeting them. It often occurs within the first two minutes of meeting or interviewing a candidate and, from that, a decision is made. Would you feel comfortable hiring someone based on a feeling that was formed within two minutes? I wouldn’t. It’s the difference between making your decision based on the truth or “truthiness” (my tribute to Stephen Colbert). Instead, use assessments and objective criteria to make a decision on a candidate.

As we are flooded with online advice, remember to be overly cautious of what you read. Be a skeptic and, when it doubt, ask an expert in the field.

Interviewer Tips

Alissa Parr, Ph.D. Alissa Parr, Ph.D. is a Senior Consultant at PSI. Her areas of expertise include the development, implementation, and evaluation of assessment processes. Alissa has experience managing entry-level through executive level assessment and selection efforts across a number of different industries including government, financial, military, education, healthcare, and manufacturing.