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Should You Be Going Off Your Gut When Hiring?

When hiring new talent, it’s only natural to gravitate toward candidates that make you feel comfortable. After all, you’re human, and humans are social creatures. You probably have a gut instinct about whether a particular candidate is right for the job. But should you trust it?

Surprisingly, the answer is no. Gut instinct can tell us a lot, but it rarely tells us who is actually best for a job. Hiring from your gut is actually fraught with problems, including:

  • Unintentional bias: We’re typically most comfortable with people who are most like us, even though that has nothing to do with job skills.
  • Being swept off your feet: A job interview is like a first date. Some people are naturally talented at telling you exactly what you want to hear and pushing the “feel good” buttons. That doesn’t mean they’re actually right for the role.
  • Hiring for likeability: In some jobs, such as sales, likeability can be an asset. But it’s never the primary attribute that spells success. Someone could be the nicest person on the planet, but that doesn’t mean they have the technical skills your team needs. Unfortunately, if you follow your gut instinct, you may end up hiring the most likable candidate instead of the most qualified.

If you can’t trust your gut, then what criteria should you use to make hiring decisions? Provable facts. Here are a few methods you can use to keep hiring decisions fact-based.

  • Hard skills: Keep a list of the hard skills needed to succeed in the position. Depending on the position, these could include anything from mechanical aptitude to data entry to physical stamina. Match each candidate’s skills with your list.
  • Soft skills: These include things like communication, leadership, and teamwork. Look for past examples of candidates successfully using these skills.
  • Behavior-based interview questions: Ask candidates to describe their past or predicted future behavior in situations that often arise on the job. For example, “Tell me about a time when you had to turn down a customer request,” or “What would you do if you saw a coworker playing around on the forklift?”
  • Sample tasks: Ask candidates to show their skills by performing a sample task or two, such as sorting a database or finding errors in something you put together in advance. This could also be a thought experiment, such as asking the candidate to talk you through a morning equipment check.

If your gut instinct makes you feel genuinely concerned about a specific candidate, it’s worth exploring that feeling. But otherwise, don’t depend on your gut for hiring. Use objective, fact-based methods to choose candidates, and your odds of making the right decisions will skyrocket.

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