Can You Rely on Your Intuition?

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IntuitionWhat role should intuition play in the hiring process?

Not all decisions have a right or wrong answer.  You can’t possibly put a formula into place that assesses every factor of a persona and then comes out with a decision to hire  or not hire.  If that method ever comes into existence then we all need to be very scared for our jobs.  There is merit to intuition.  Intuition isn’t necessarily just a gut feeling either.

The definition of intuition per Webster: “ the power or faculty of attaining direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference”

The key to the definition in my opinion is the word “evident.”  With experience comes the ability to quickly make a decision and assess a candidate.  Subconsciously, a recruiter is reaching into their years of experience with candidates and applying their knowledge to come to a decision.  The recruiter may not know they are even doing this, and a new recruiter who doesn’t have years of experience will have a much harder time articulating why they feel a certain way about a candidate. Experience hones and sharpens intuition, until it’s razor sharp and 99% accurate.

It’s also important to be cognizant of bias.  Using past experiences can introduce biases which may not be fair.  To be fair, using guidelines or asking recruiters to better articulate their impression of a candidate will help eliminate bias, but also help to quickly identify the soft skills candidates possess.

Below are 4 candidate assessment buckets that might explain one’s intuition about a candidate.  What are some factors that may impact intuition?  And more importantly, how can you get new recruiters to gauge and verbalize their feelings about a candidate in a way that is more than just a gut reaction?

  1. Body Language- Note the candidate’s eye contact, posture, smile, handshake, and general openness.   Depending on the position having poor body language can be harmful.  However, some positions may not require someone to be overly assertive and friendly.  There may be cultural reasons why a candidate doesn’t necessarily make the best eye contact.  Ensure that there are no cultural biases coming into play if you give a candidate poor marks for body language.
  2. Speech Patterns- Does the candidate talk really fast and sound or appear nervous in how they speak?  It’s one thing to be nervous on an interview but if the candidate can’t speak clearly this may be a sign of lying or exaggerating the truth.  Do they use too many general statements or euphemisms?   This could be a signal that they are lacking in experience and the skills necessary to do the job.  If red flags appear, test for more thorough knowledge about the job requirements.
  3. Timeliness- Do they arrive with a little time to spare?  Do they appear to be organized and together or did they barely make it in on time for the interview and all their papers are disheveled and their tie is crooked?  If that’s the case, this is a sign they are unorganized, don’t pay attention to details, and likely to be tardy or absent a lot.
  4. Attitude-  Having an opinion that is backed up with well thought out arguments is a great trait.  Being arrogant and unwilling to consider others opinions is problematic.  Assess a candidate’s attitude by seeing how they respond when their opinions are challenged.  Ask them to back up their opinion on a fairly neutral subject (related to the job or industry).  If they back down too easily that is an indication they may be passive, if they refuse to listen or ask you any questions, they may be too arrogant or domineering for the job.

Seasoned recruiters won’t necessarily need an assessment tool to articulate their intuition, but it can be helpful.  Be careful about judging a candidate on personality, appearance, health, culture, or other biases that can be discriminatory, and quite frankly limiting to your organization. We all need to know not only when to trust our instinct, but also how to develop our intuition into an accurate tool. It can be, after all, a recruiter’s or hiring manager’s most important skill.

By Marie Larsen