Look beyond gut feeling to cut recruitment risk

The tendency for many IT directors to rely on “gut feeling” to recruit the best IT staff should ring alarm bells for any serious employer.

The tendency for many IT directors to rely on “gut feeling” to recruit the best IT staff should ring alarm bells for any serious employer.

Recruitment specialists have argued in the pages of Computer Weekly that intuition is the best way to secure the right candidate for the job. But, at a time when online recruitment has vastly increased the pool of potential candidates, this unscientific approach is no longer tenable.

Every job candidate is on their best behaviour. They do everything they can to hide any shortcomings, perceived or real, from the person interviewing them.

A study by international HR consultancy Cubiks found that 86% of major European employers believed that CVs and application forms they received contained lies and exaggerations. In complex technical jobs, involving a mixture of technical and people skills, these shortcomings and falsehoods may not appear until after a candidate has been hired. By then the interviewer’s initial gut feeling may be an expensive mistake.

In the light of these statistics, it is prudent to ensure that all possible means have been exhausted to ensure that you have chosen the right person and to carefully define the exact behavioural requirements of a role – so called job analysis.

Does the role require management skills? Does the role require planning and decision making? Is there a suitable communication style, both in terms of the role and the corporate culture? Are administrative skills important and does the role involve mentoring others? Only when these requirements have been analysed and defined can the employer start searching for the candidate who best fits the role and the organisation.

Research shows that an unstructured interview alone will ensure that a suitable candidate is chosen in only 15% of cases. Compare that statistic with a figure of 63% when appropriate psychometric tests and structured competency-based interviews are used.

Rigorous screening of a candidate’s CV and qualifications will improve the chances of successful recruitment to 26%. A belt-and-braces approach combining testing, vetting and structured interview techniques will maximise the chance of successful selection.

This obviously introduces additional costs to the hiring process, but they are a small percentage of the amount employers pay recruitment agencies for candidate placement, and a tiny proportion of the cost incurred by selecting an unsuitable candidate.

Common sense should lead employers to constantly evaluate and improve their selection processes.

It is time for a more rigorous, objective and scientific approach. Academic qualifications and unstructured interviews are no longer good enough to cope with a modern labour market. In the age of online recruitment, it is crucial that the selection process is rigorous enough to ensure that only the best succeed.

Mark Cunningham is director at SelectAssure, which provides job analysis, psychometric testing and pre-employment screening services

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