Intuition is often characterised by that “little voice in our head” or that “gut feeling”, either good or bad. It is innately human and affects everyone. However, it is important to avoid being blinded by these inexplicable feelings when recruiting, even if sometimes their suspicions appear to be confirmed! In this article, we are going to decipher why it is important to remain factual during a job interview: compartmentalising your intuition into background subjective feelings.

What does science say about using intuition in recruitment

Science defines intuition as a physiological, automatic and unconscious mechanism. In reality, it is the brain’s ability to recognise similar experiences that we have had in the past, or have been conditioned to recognise through society. In recruitment, intuition tends to take over during unstructured interviews. Unstructured interviews are still used frequently, due to convenience and tradition, and intuition arises most commonly in this environment based on what is called “unstructured professional judgment”. However, this judgment is based solely on non-factual data, drawn from the experience(s) of the recruiter, and involves many cognitive biases. Here’s how intuition in recruitment can be misleading.

Cognitive biases influence objectivity

In his work, “The Formation of the Scientific Mind: A Contribution to a Psychoanalysis of Objective Knowledge”, the psychoanalyst Gaston Bachelard defines objectivity as being “the quality of what conforms to reality, of a judgment that describes facts with accuracy”. However, according to cognitive psychology expert Daniel Kahneman, cognitive biases prevent a person from ever achieving neutral reasoning since they distort reality. Biases work like a mental short-circuits that will immediately process internal (memory-based) or external (environment-based) information.

Should we completely get rid of intuition in recruitment?

Even if intuition as a concept still appeals to a good number of hiring decision-makers, hiring based on feeling offers no guarantee or reliability. Even the most experienced recruiters often believe they can use their intuition, with their years of experience. The truth remains that everyone is affected by cognitive biases, and all the more so when you accumulate years of work “honing” your intuition. Intuition in recruitment does not offer good reliability when evaluating candidates. The only way to ensure that our judgment is completely free of cognitive bias is to bring together two essential criteria… which can be easier said than done.

Intuition can’t predict the future

It is possible to develop reliable intuition provided that a recruiter operates in a completely unchanging environment for an extended period of time. No one, though, not even an experienced recruiter can predict the future and the factors that could impact the company’s performance or impact the employee’s private life. Not to mention the number of recruitments under these conditions and over the significant timespan that it would require to build that intuition is entirely unrealistic. Additionally, it can’t be guaranteed that the candidate’s living circumstances, the work environment and the details of the mission presented during the interview will remain unchanged.

Intuition requires immediate feedback

When a recruitment is completed, it takes several weeks and months to determine if the new recruit is performing well and thriving. But to build recruitment intuition and adjust it accordingly for mistakes, it would be necessary to receive near immediate feedback on the new recruit’s performance following the decision. If the time varies between hiring and integrating the new candidate, the recruiter can’t predict what changes will have occurred in between. Rapid as the feedback may be, it would not be objective or unequivocal. And of course, the recruiter may not necessarily have access to candidate feedback – at any stage post hire. In some cases, it could be a huge recruitment error that the employer will only realise much later.

Using intuition to maintain a human relationship

As mentioned above, our cognitive biases and beliefs are too entrenched in our subconscious for us to have completely neutral judgement. While selecting candidates based on feeling is not recommended, we can’t forget that we are human beings with convictions and values that define us. Why not consider using these feelings from intuition as criterion for observing candidates while not judging? As the guarantor of the company’s recruitment, the recruiter or talent acquisition professional can use their intuition to determine if the said candidate corresponds to the company culture, for example.

Psychometric tests: the science of future skills

The two necessary criteria for properly using intuition in recruitment are very difficult to bring together. Recruiters can equip themselves with more scientific solutions, though to achieve this and ensure uniform, neutral recruitments.

Do soft skills appeal to you professionally or personally? They are essential elements in most recruitment processes today, but it’s also the skills of the future that we need to be focusing on now. Psychometric tests, drawn from behavioural sciences, help recruiters quantify character traits, work style preferences or even the kind of relational affinities of candidates. This recruitment technique, which is more scientific, makes it possible to detect qualities not claimed on a CV or a Linkedin page (as well as debunking ones that are unjustifiably there). Leaving aside technical skills, you can also go further in detecting a person’s potential through their cognitive capacities, personality, behavioural aptitudes and motivations. Thanks to these impassive algorithms, the recruiter’s cognitive biases won’t interfere with the results.

AI used to validate feelings through science

By using AI in recruitment, HR, Recruitment and Talent Acquisition can now arm themselves with data allowing them to anticipate future behaviour according to the evolution of the company and the employee. It is not a question of dehumanising or devaluing the role of recruiters, but rather providing them with a scientific solution that makes their decisions more reliable and optimises their recruitment efforts. If the feeling was good during a first physical interview, impassive AI algorithms will allow them to make a decision confirmed by the psychometric test, effectively removing the risk of falling victim to their own cognitive biases.
It’s easier to curb problems at the source, rather than play cleanup with the issues they cause further down the line. 77% of Human Resource professionals surveyed in a study by My RH Line say they are “very tired” and there is no shortage of challenges that employers have to face. You might as well put the odds on your side to recruit effectively. Intuition is not sufficient when managing human capital capable of facing the future. Decision makers need to begin anticipating future needs, turning to science to make lasting decisions so that they can surround themselves with professionals capable of supporting the company in its evolution.