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Hiring: Trust the Process – and Your Gut

May 28, 2013


Over the past few weeks I have found myself in the uneasy place of a hiring manager. As a human resource consultant, I’m usually giving advice. In my job, I design and develop the assessment tools that help organizations make the best hiring decisions. I just am never the one having to make the actual hiring decision. You’d think I would be immune to the games that some candidates play. I should know what to look for and how to flesh out the truth – I am a psychologist, right?decision  152981702

I am looking for a full-time childcare provider for my two sons. I have been screening profiles on websites and doing phone interviews with many potential providers. I have had a parade of strange women coming to my home and meeting my boys. Opening up my home and allowing my children to play with a stranger has been a difficult step for me in this process. As I process the candidates and meet each one, I’m developing a pros and cons list and struggling as I don’t feel a connection to any of them. Then, in walks Renee (name changed to protect her identity). She is a bundle of energy and enthusiasm. The boys warm up to her right away and she sits on the floor and starts playing with them. I’m smitten. She hands me her resume and references. I’m looking through her work history and experience; it is exactly what we are looking for. She is friendly and warm and easy to get along with. Her interpersonal skills are fantastic. The next day I call her references and no one says anything truly negative about her, but I started to feel it in my gut – there is something not being said here. The first words out of their mouths were not – I absolutely highly recommend Renee. There was a pause before they said “she loves children and they love her.” I was left confused. We had her back to the house again so that my husband could meet her. He liked her. My gut couldn’t let go of the feeling that there was something about her that wasn’t quite right. I wasn’t 100% ready to hire her. But, would I feel that way about anybody?

I trusted the process. I knew what to do next – background checks, motor vehicle records, drug screen if I wanted to go that far. I sent a request to Renee to have her release the background check to me through the website. It wouldn’t go through. She said she was having problems with the site. My gut was really feeling it now. I found a different site and paid for a background check. I had her name and address and all of the information I needed to see the report. It was the best money I ever spent. Her background check showed a series of traffic violations and several arrests (some recent) for stalking and harassment. The report showed a consistent history of emotional instability and impulsivity – very high risk behaviors! Several times during the hiring process, I thought “just go ahead and offer her the job, why are you stalling?” Something inside of me wouldn’t let me do it.

So, what am I saying about gut instinct and process? I know assessments are the best tools available to all of us to find the best hires. I know having a standard process is important. I would rarely, if ever, advise someone to ignore poor assessment data in favor of their gut. However, I think there might be something to listening to your gut if the data is good and you’re still uneasy about it. If that is the case, make sure you dot every “i” and cross every “t.” Trust the process and it might flesh out the truth for you. Don’t skip steps or assume that everything will be fine. You might highly regret it if you do. I know I would have if I had put my children’s well-being in the hands of Renee.


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Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. is the Director of Global Innovation at PSI and an expert in the design, development, and validation of psychological assessment tools. She runs an innovation lab that is responsible for establishing PSI’s assessment technology roadmap and strategy. An integral member of PSI since 2000, Amie has led the development of numerous global assessments, including personality, situational judgment, cognitive, and interactive work simulations.