Close

Sign up to get the latest news and stories on the future of work.

Subscribe Search

Search form

You may think you're bad at judging which candidates will become star employees and which will crash and burn. But it turns out almost everyone is.

According to a study out of the University of Toledo in 2000, interviewers tend to form an opinion about a candidate within ten seconds of the person walking in a room. The problem? These snap judgements are usually wrong.

"Based on the slightest interaction, we make a snap, unconscious judgment heavily influenced by our existing biases and beliefs. Without realizing it, we then shift from assessing a candidate to hunting for evidence that confirms our initial impression," explains Google's senior vice president of people and operations Laszlo Bock.

This foible of the human mind can be costly, as these bad hires turn into unhappy employees and turnover spikes. What's the solution? According to many companies, acknowledging the limits of gut instinct and supporting the critical judgement of hiring managers with objective personality tests—known as behavioral assessments—is the solution. Here are three companies' experiences with these tools and their learnings about how to best employ them.

TriStarr: There is No Perfect Candidate

Temp staff firm Tristarr has always prided itself on its objective approach to evaluating candidates' hard skills. So when VP Scott Fiore was introduced to behavioral assessments that promised to give a similar unbiased view of a person's level of extraversion or conscientiousness, he was instantly intrigued.

The tool has become a key way TriStarr distinguishes itself from competitors. Thanks to the use of these assessments, employees placed by the company stick around longer than those hired by other firms or the client directly. Why? According to Fiore, TriStarr is able to resist the temptation of filling a position with someone who has all the requisite skills for the job but is a poor cultural fit for the role or organization.

"The biggest change that we noticed is that we had a clearer picture of the candidates that we hired," he says of the tools. "We knew the parts of their profiles that matched the job—and those that didn't. We understood the adaptations that the new employee would need to make, and were able to manage [them] in those areas for better performance in the long term."

Finish Line Car Wash: Give it Time

At Finish Line Car Wash in Kentucky, behavioral assessments are given to all candidates before the interview process begins. Hiring managers use the results to both compare candidates and as a basis for follow-up interview questions.

The tools haven't just proved useful for digging into whether candidates have customer focus or integrity. The assessments have also improved the interviewing skills of Finish Line managers. They now have an objective measurement against which to gauge their gut instincts about candidates.

Co-owner Chris Presswood advises other companies implementing these new method to give it time. "I would recommend using a tool like this for a minimum of 12-24 months before coming to any real conclusions on whether it is having an organizational impact. Maybe longer," he advises.

Fleetwood Fixtures: The Biggest Pitfall is Over Reliance

Custom retail fixtures company Fleetwood uses assessments slightly differently. First, they narrow in on two or three candidates before using behavioral tools to assess the competencies and work style of these applicants before a final interview.

While the tests aren't foolproof, with experience, VP of Human Resources Scott Smith and his team have come to value the insight they provide. "I can recall times when we thought we knew better than the results and ignored them, and over time it proved that the results were accurate."

"Hiring blindly has been a roll of the dice at best," he says, echoing Bock. At the same time, Smith warns against leaning too heavily on behavioral assessments. The tools are still just one element of the hiring process and shouldn't determine every decision.

Photo: Twenty20