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Evidence-Based Hiring: 5 Basic Principles to Improve Your Hiring Process

May 3, 2018

Simple isn’t necessarily easy. In fact, simple can be hard. I like this recent article from Inc. about the design secrets of Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs. From the article:

“When we don't do the necessary work up front to create a design that is simple and elegant, we end up building products and services that are complex and cluttered. Put another way: Simple is hard.”

This principle applies to building an effecting hiring system. Everyone is looking for the magic platform, program, or app that will solve their problem – or ALL of their problems. The reality is that the solution is a combination of tools put together in a thoughtful manner.

When it comes to pre-employment tests, the same theory applies. Building a hiring system that works, and seems easy takes a little thought, planning, and work. Fortunately, for our clients, we’ve often done much of the work for them. I always brag that our team of psychologists, analysts, and developers can build tools that will predict on the job performance. They do it every day. That’s relatively easy if you have the talent, experience, and the data - that we do.

Getting to a hiring system that is efficient, predictive, candidate-friendly, reduces turnover, and is valuable to hiring managers takes more than a well-designed test. It has more to do with the willingness to do that “necessary work up front to create a design that is simple and elegant” as it says, above.

The great thing is it’s not a heavy lift and our clients benefit from the fact that our team has built entire hiring systems for large manufacturing plants, distribution plants, retail stores, call centers, and hospitals. But – and it’s an important but – even the greatest, most sophisticated, technologically advanced hiring tools fail if you don’t put thought into “how” they are going to be used. It’s also important to track key metrics and adjust the process to maximize your return.

Related: Does Your Hiring System Work? 7 Important Performance Metrics

So, you need a good ATS configured to meet your needs. You need a pre-employment assessment designed for your needs. You need an effective interviewing program – and so on. No single component solves your problem, and each of the components must work together.

We call this evidence-based hiring. Medicine figured out (somewhat recently) that inconsistent treatment approaches based on instinct and anecdotal evidence are a disservice to patients. Similarly, an inconsistent, ineffective hiring process that isn't based on the right data, science, and technology is a disservice to your candidates, your hiring managers, and the organization relying on talent to help achieve its goals!

The basic principles of evidence-based hiring are, indeed, simple:

  1. Use current best evidence, data, and practices in every hiring decision.
    Wherever possible, use the science, processes, and tools used by the most innovative and successful companies.

  2. Identify the personal attributes that predict success on the job.
    This seems obvious but many companies ASSUME they know what predicts success. Similarly, some focus on what’s predicted success in the past without considering the future and what they aspire to. There are many ways to go about this. Choosing a generic personality test that seems to measure somewhat relevant attributes – is NOT one of them.

  3. Create an objective hiring system targeting these attributes.
    Wherever possible, eliminate the corrosive impact of instinct and bias. The research is stunning. People, even in the face of overwhelming data and evidence, tend to believe in their own instincts to predict performance.

  4. Configure the tools and process to the job family.
    Your application, assessments, and interview should be configured for your specific need. Specific to the industry and to the attributes important to your organization. No – a hiring system and tools for a retail sales associate are NOT right for hiring the best nurse – (surprise!)

  5. Measure the metrics, monitor and adjust to maximize results.
    Like any other process you put in place, define how you will evaluate its effectiveness. Identify and measure the metrics. Report on them, analyze them. Modify the hiring process accordingly. Where to begin? Measure: time to fill, the candidate experience, hiring manager satisfaction, turnover, and whether the system and tools predict on the job performance.

Simple isn’t always easy. However, these five principles are not complicated. Putting them to work, though, requires a little thought and planning. That work – and it’s not THAT much work, makes all the difference. It’s a beautiful thing when the talent acquisition team presents one of our project “Impact Reports” to their senior leaders and can say:

  1. The flow of candidates is sufficient and time to fill has gone down.

  2. The candidate reaction data is positive – they like the process and it’s a good reflection of the organization.

  3. Hiring managers like the new process – it’s more efficient for them and gets them the best candidates to interview.

  4. The interview is efficient and useful.

  5. Turnover is going down.

  6. And the data indicates that we are, indeed, hiring the best candidates – based on on-the-job performance.

  7. The hiring process is adding efficiencies, reducing turnover, and contributing to organizational success!

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.