Interviewing based on 'gut feeling': the four most dangerous pitfalls

In a world where assessments offer powerful objectivity for recruiters and HR executives, many employment decisions are still made using subjective methods. CVs, application forms and interviews are important parts of the recruitment process but they offer a potential for bias, due to their lack of impartiality. Below are four pitfalls we all would want to avoid when interviewing but can occur all too often when we rely on gut feeling or intuition and choose not to consult the evidence that assessments bring.

• Candidates are largely assessed based on a first impression. Within a few seconds of meeting, the interviewer has already formed a picture of the candidate. It is very difficult to alter this initial visual perception if you don’t possess reliable and impartial information about their ability and potential performance. Having assessment data helps interviewers to build an unbiased and fair picture of all candidates.

• Self-fulfilling prophecy. Because of gut feeling or first impression, an interviewer may be inclined to steer the conversation into a certain direction in a sub-conscious desire to confirm their own ideas. This can result in the halo (an affirmative positive bias) or the horn (an affirmative negative bias) effect.

• You are unconsciously looking for a resemblance of yourself. In job interviews people are often inclined to judge someone more positively when the candidate looks and behaves like him or her. This creates teams or departments that consist of similar types of people, whereas a diverse team can ensure that colleagues complement and learn from each other, thus driving better performance.

• Insufficient insight into ‘cultural fit’. Often interviewers see if someone fits the organisation by observing their displayed behavior during the recruitment process. However, they rarely investigate whether the organisation and role fit with the candidate’s values and expectations. Even top candidates eventually become de motivated and will underperform if they are working in an environment / team that is not a good match for their personality.

With the aid of various tools (such as questionnaires, ability tests, practical cases and / or role plays), you can obtain a lot of insight in a relatively short time about the capability, personality, motives, ambition and development potential of a candidate. This makes it much easier to make an informed decision between two or more equal people.

It is also a question of fairness – applicants are also given the impression that from the start, their potential is being looked at objectively and is not accepted or rejected using subjectivity. And do not forget: by making an informed choice, you reduce the risk of a making a bad hire – saving the company from the loss of output, disruption and cost implications that this brings.