The Future of Making Great Hires: How Structured Hiring Drops the Mic on Freestyle

As a recruiter, math may or may not be your strong suit. But the great thing about recruiting is it eschews the black and white world of numbers for the infinitely more subtle, infinitely more complex variables required to build and develop the right relationships with the right people.

Traditionally, the strength of one’s relationships and the end result of filled requisitions were enough; this focus only on results neglected the fact that in best-in-class recruiting, the journey is just as important (if not more so) than the destination. This means to make the best hires, recruiters increasingly must acquire proficiency with data and analytics, and transform talent acquisition from its lonely perch as one of the final bastions within most organizations where “gut feeling” matters more than math.

Anecdotal observation, emotion, and intuition have become more or less codified as “best practices” over the years, but increasingly, evidence suggests that in fact, this subjective approach to screening and selection is, in fact, pretty much the worst.

What’s always worked in talent acquisition is no longer working, and the increasing emphasis on data-driven decision making and quantifiable outcomes has transformed recruiting’s status quo from something of a disparate “dark art” into a hard science.

To get Matt Charney's brand new eBook, Structured Hiring: The Advantage of The New People Team, click here!

Thought it was a drought: The psychology of recruiting

It’s important for recruiters and hiring stakeholders to understand that the new science of recruiting requires a different approach to the unstructured and non-repeatable processes we’ve become so used to in screening and selection. It only makes sense, then, that approaching hiring like a science requires at least a superficial understanding of the scientific method.

Yeah, I know, that sounds really unsexy and boring. But even in this new recruiting reality, the truth of the matter is that, like in science, every hire involves a high degree of experimentation, testing, and iteration along the way. The important thing for scientists (and recruiters) is that testing our hypothesis—in this case, hiring decisions—is done in a measurable, sustainable, and repeatable way.

The elimination of variance and the ability to replicate what’s working is imperative and requires a standardized, scalable, and sustainable process designed to measure the outcomes of a test group (think: current candidates and future hires) against a control group (think: “benchmarking”).

That’s where structured hiring comes in.

Structured Hiring: Turn on the lights

If you think about it, our processes and procedures are moving towards a more standardized, repeatable, and data-driven approach to recruiting; the major difference in today’s transformation lies almost exclusively in methodology and mindset. Which makes sense, considering that the end goal of the screening and selection process is more or less aligned with the established science of psychology: a systematic approach to understanding a person’s intrinsic motivators which transcends the superficial exterior so inherent to the hiring process.

Every employer today, whether through surveying, independent market research, or even third-party tools like Glassdoor or The Muse, from the creation of candidate “personas” to measuring marketing metrics like NPS and sentiment analysis, is trying to more or less understand, en masse, candidate psychology and how to best target and market their message in the hopes of attracting not only the right talent, but that nebulous factor of “fit.”

Contrary to popular belief, however, this often amorphous and nebulous concept can not only be successfully managed, but also optimized. The key lies in the implementation of structured hiring, and by adopting the same approach to researching test subjects—er, candidates—that have long formed the foundation for psychological research and experimentation.

The future is now: The scientific method to structured hiring success

Of course, every recruiter has dealt with enough crazy candidates to make this overlap pretty obvious.

Here’s how to put some (scientific) method to the hiring madness through structured hiring:

Real and true: qualitative research and structured hiring

One of the benchmarks of focus group studies and clinical trials alike, structured interviews are intrinsic within psychology (and consumer marketing) for analyzing aggregate responses from a statistically valid survey size (e.g., your existing employee population or candidate pipeline. Qualitative research achieves this through administering a standard set of questions designed to answer a specific hypothesis or predict a certain outcome.

Published, peer reviewed scientific research has always required that all structured, qualitative interviews follow the same sequence of identically worded questions that are administered along the exact same timeline and format as the entire test group.

In other words, no matter what the outcome might be, for an experiment to have scientific validity, it requires process standardization and intense documentation as proof (and point of concept).

By adopting the same approach to candidate psychology, employers can better understand where to spend their marketing money, which messages are going to work best, and gain deeper insight into the top talent they’re targeting. This allows for a much more efficient, effective sourcing and pipeline building strategy—and exponentially increases the ROI of building the best brand to attract the best talent on the market.

Once that sourcing strategy has been built, however, is where the advantages of structured hiring really kick in: during the interview process.

Know the meaning: Structured hiring hacks every talent pro should know

Tell me about a time that, despite rigorous in-person interviews, prescreen assessments and background checking, you’ve made a hire that didn’t work out. I’m pretty sure all your hands are raised. The problem is that we often lack a systematic, standard approach to interviewing that can actually quantify and predict results instead of instinct.

Achieving structured hiring means not only giving each hiring stakeholder equal weight in a final decision, but providing them a standardized set of questions specifically aligned with a scorecard that, like in psychology, eliminates bias and emotion while drastically increasing the statistical reliability of outcomes.

According to a guidance issued by the Office of Project Management on hiring best practices within the federal government:

“Structured interviews have demonstrated a high degree of reliability, validity, and legal defensibility ... The benefits of consistently selecting quality candidates and reducing the risk of legal challenges far outweigh any costs of adding structure (e.g., additional time and expertise).”

My point here is that if the federal government has adopted the structuring of interviewing as a best practice already and you haven’t, then it’s probably a pretty good sign that you’re a little behind the times when it comes to attracting top talent.

Of course, moving from gut instinct to standardized structured hiring isn’t easy. The good news is, I’ve got your back. Make sure to check out my brand spanking new ebook, Structured Hiring: The Advantage of The New People Team, which tells you everything you need to know to put some scientific method to your hiring madness. Simply click the button below!

Structured Hiring: The Advantage of The New People Team

Matt Charney Headshot

Matt Charney is the Executive Editor and Partner at Recruiting Daily, where he oversees editorial and industry coverage, partnerships, and content strategy. Matt began his career as a corporate recruiter for such companies as Walt Disney and Warner Bros before moving into marketing leadership roles at a variety of HR Technology companies. He currently serves as an advisor for HR and hiring-focused startups such as Textio, Clinch, HiringSolved, Rolepoint, Take the Interview, Universum Global, Talent Tech Labs, InterviewJet, and Human Predictions, among others. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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