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Should you Trust your Gut as a Recruiter?
6 July 2015, by Level Recruitment

Should you Trust your Gut as a Recruiter?

Evaluating a CV and getting a quick grasp of a person’s level of competence is quite easy. Learning to recognize and trust your intuition however, is difficult. Very difficult.

Today, most recruiters work by following a structure that dictates how to best find candidates that meet requirements set by the profile of the position in question. This guarantees that in most cases a perfect match will be made between the candidate and the company hiring. It is important to use suitable tools or methods to ensure the highest grade of precision when estimating the future success of candidates. That is where intuition comes in, something that is often referred to as “the black sheep in recruitment”. Intuition can come in handy when handling information that requires you, as a recruiter, to analyse, read between the lines and get a feel for.

Different opinions

Whether or not one should rely on intuition, or gut feeling, in the recruitment process, is a topic heartily discussed within HR in Sweden. There are many different opinions regarding the matter; some claim that recruiters tend to overrate their intuition and that it could betray them and give a false sense of security which in turn could result in a sub-optimal recruitment.  One sceptic to this, the philosopher Kristoffer Ahlström, claims that one shouldn’t trust ones intuition due to the fact that our brains haven’t developed in the last 40 thousand years, meaning that we aren’t adapted to this type of modern situation.

Those who on the other hand think that one should trust intuition, claim that it is a result of the experiences we have gained in life and therefore should be taken seriously. In the book “Attraction and Chemistry”, the author Ingid Tollgerdt-Andersson has gone in depth in the reasoning behind the decisions of recruiters. Her studies found that many people choose to rely on their intuition when making important decisions in the recruitment process.

Your gut feeling is your friend, not foe!

In the world of HR, one often refers to the reliability of the method of recruitment as a whole. To justify this reliability, one must take into account the different tools at one’s disposal to then put them to use for an overall assessment. Reliability and validity are important terms in this process. Validity here focuses on one making sure that one measures or works towards what was intended initially, to make sure that you stay true to your task. For example, if you are trying to measure or determine how dominant a person is, you should make sure not to start from that and start measuring things such as aggressiveness, two things that are similar.

The level of accuracy you have depends on the reliability of your methods. Would testing a candidate twice change the results? The tool many think has the most prognostic value is the result of work-tests. This method is most commonly used within more practical lines of work and tends to be too time consuming for most other types of employment. When looking at the prognostic value of interviews, one sees that structured interviews are superior to ill prepared for ones, especially when predicting the potential of a candidate further down the road. The reason for this is that all candidates are judged by the same conditions and fairly, which means that the recruiters personal opinions, mood, or gut feeling have a harder time influencing the outcome.

Use your intuition in the right way

Naturally, all recruiters have some degree of intuition. As in any social situation, you will always be affected by positive or negative personal chemistry with other people, and the same applies to candidates you interview. The difference here is that you, as a recruiter, aren’t allowed to let those personal feelings effect your decisions. Instead, you should see these personal opinions as an indicator to perhaps investigate specific things in more detail, maybe the candidate in question should take occupational psychology tests, maybe you should double check their references, etc.

Since the recruiter won’t be working with the candidate, any potential personal chemistry is irrelevant and should be treated as such. During the meeting with the person in charge of the recruitment however, the recruiter should turn their intuition on and give his or her honest opinion. The most important thing is that a candidate feels right. For a recruitment to be as successful as possible, something that leads to a prosperous future within the new company for the candidate, the recruiter must keep every part of the recruitment process as reliable and valid as possible.

As a recruiter, you will always feel the presence of your gut feeling. Learn to accept its existence, but also learn to differentiate between it and personal feelings/chemistry. It is a feeling that is affected largely by your past experiences. Avoid basing your decision on your gut feeling or intuition, and try instead to see it as a signal that can keep you on track when you pick up on important things.


Should you Trust your Gut as a Recruiter?

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