An organization’s hiring process outlines how a hiring manager intends to evaluate candidates to determine if they will perform well and be a good fit in a particular role. Many organizations follow a process that includes a job application, collecting resumes or CVs, and conducting interviews. But this is not always the best approach when the goal is to find a candidate who will be a good match for the company and the role. Additional planning and design of the hiring process is needed to identify candidates with the necessary key skills, abilities, attributes, and attitudes to succeed.
Why should organizations design a hiring process?
There are several reasons why organizations should invest time and careful thought into designing an effective hiring process. A well-designed hiring process will identify the best candidates from a pool of applicants more quickly, consistently, and accurately. A well-designed process will also ensure that applicants will be treated fairly, important for organizations to build their employer reputations and overall brand perception. Finally, a hiring process that also brings together the latest scientific research and best practice applications will provide legal defensibility if challenged.
What are the steps involved in designing a hiring process?
There are many steps involved in designing a hiring process. The subtleties and specifics will vary according to each individual hiring challenge, but some common elements typically include:
1. Job analysis
3. Decision criteria
How is a job analysis conducted?
The ultimate goal of a job analysis is to identify a confirmed list of key criteria that the new hire must have proficiency in to succeed in the role. It is critically important to get the right information and data to inform the criteria selection — objectively, without bias, and focused on actual role behavior. This should involve multiple stakeholder groups — job holders, line managers, colleagues, customers, etc.
Common data collection methods include:
Conducting interviews about critical incidents and exploring the root causes of what has previously led to successes or failures in that role
Ranking a list of helpful and role-relevant behaviors or competencies to determine the most critical elements
Using online profiling questionnaires
The collected data then needs to be analyzed and validated. If possible, the findings should be compared to actual performance metrics and KPIs that are relevant to the role. This may require expertise from statisticians or psychologists to interpret.
It is also important to involve all key stakeholders in the hiring process to get agreement on the final list of key success criteria. This can then be used as the basis for writing the job description against which applicants will be measured.
Can off-the-shelf job profiles be used?
Having to conduct a job analysis every time a new vacancy becomes available is costly and time-consuming. Many organizations build their own internal library of job families, in which similar roles often make use of the same job profile.
But even when there is no pre-existing information to draw on, there are resources available to make the job profile creation process easier. These include government guidance and proprietary or commercial models that consultancies have developed over time with their own client base.
When making use of job profiles compiled by an outside source, pay close attention to how they are comprised and how criteria are measured.
How can I assess candidates for key skills, abilities, attributes, and attitudes?
The most common way to assess whether a candidate meets expectations is an interview. However, not all interviews are equal in terms of effectiveness, and there are additional methods to consider that can be more time- and cost-efficient.
Industrial or organizational psychologists have developed a range of different assessments that can be used when designing your hiring process. Selecting which ones to use is often a balancing act of considering their predictive power, how engaging they are to candidates, their relevance to the role, their scope, and cost to use.
A quality job profile should naturally point toward which assessment(s) to use. If there are criteria related to complex reasoning, then a cognitive ability assessment will be beneficial. If interpersonal skills are important, a personality questionnaire will be helpful. If following rules and guidelines is key, a situational judgment test might be useful.
While designing a hiring process, you should also consider the candidate experience. Lining up lots of assessments will get a very comprehensive understanding of each applicant but will also take up a lot of their time and energy.
You should be aiming to get the right balance between predictive rigor and candidate engagement.
What are the most predictive candidate assessments?
Psychologists will refer to an assessment’s “predictive validity.” This is a way of talking about the research conducted about an assessment and what the data shows about how well scores on that assessment relate to how well people perform after they’re hired.
Research has shown that the assessments with the highest predictive validity are cognitive ability tests, situational judgment tests (or SJTs), and personality questionnaires.
Cognitive ability tests
These ask challenging, problem-solving questions to see how many correct answers candidates can give, usually under some time pressure. They are often colloquially called “IQ tests” but, while appearing similar on the surface, have a different research foundation more suited to the work environment. Cognitive ability is a significant component when identifying learning capacity and future potential.
Situational judgment tests (SJTs)
These present scenarios to candidates that might be common or critical to the role and explore what their response might be in that situation. They often take effort to design but are especially good at exploring role-relevant critical thinking in a large number of candidates.
These offer a deep understanding of what drives people, generating thought-provoking insights into role suitability and employee development strategy.
Remember, though, as good as these assessments are individually at identifying candidates likely to perform well in the role, the best advice is to use a combination of assessments and methods of measurement.
What are the most engaging candidate assessments?
Work simulation exercises
These get candidates to perform a task that is common or expected in the role they are applying for. This will vary from role to role and often tests more technical skills, like coding or data analysis. Interpersonal skills are often assessed by asking the candidate to present their findings or role play a discussion on the topic.
Gamified puzzle tasks
These bring together technology from the gaming industry with advanced data analysis techniques. Candidates are presented with a series of puzzles. As they complete the puzzles, thousands of data points are collected. While the puzzles are often interesting and engaging for candidates, they can be questioned for their role relevance and about what psychological traits are actually being measured.
Where possible, include a combination of both engaging and predictive assessments in a hiring process.
How do I design an interview?
The ultimate purpose of an interview is not to just get to know the candidate, but to get a deeper understanding of their experience and capability and assess whether this meets the set criteria of the job profile.
Scoring a candidate based on an interview can be subjective, so it’s important to design elements into the interview process that increase objectivity. These may include:
Structuring the interview so all candidates get asked the same questions. This includes giving the interviewer specific prompts to help candidates struggling to answer certain questions.
Having at least two people interview the candidate. This allows one interviewer to ask questions and hold the conversation while another observes and takes notes in real time to be called upon as evidence later.
Getting interviewers to complete a rating scale or form immediately after the interview. The form should include indicators, key points, and examples that the candidate should have covered in their answers to quantify the quality of the response.
The most important design consideration is the style of interview and type of questions to ask.
How do I decide who to hire?
If you have designed an effective hiring process, the decision about who to hire should become relatively straightforward. After going through all the assessments, candidates will have racked up scores against multiple selection criteria. The candidates with the highest scores at the final stage are the ones who are likely to be most successful in the job. If there are multiple candidates left at the end, the previous rounds’ results can be called upon to break the tie. One way or another, there will be plenty of data to support and justify your decision.
How can I overcome bias in recruitment decisions?
It is our knowledge and experience that informs our decision making. In many ways, this is a helpful process that ensures we continue to make better decisions more automatically. However, the more automatic our thought processes, the more we can be blind to why we are making each individual decision.
This can be a problem for hiring managers and they should not let their guard down to the possible ways their experience is biasing their judgment and decision making.
A well-designed hiring process doesn’t completely eliminate bias in recruitment decisions, but it can certainly help you to be mindful of where bias might come from and what its consequences might be.
Some simple best practice tips to overcome bias in recruitment decisions include:
Define the process up front and stick to it.
Don’t change the process when it’s underway, except when data suggest a previous assumption was severely flawed. Even then, ensure the redirection applies fairly to all candidates.
Think through the exceptions before they occur.
Understanding what exceptions to the process might arise and how you should respond to them will keep you from making reactive and possibly bias-laden decisions. For example, how will candidates with disabilities or neurodiverse conditions be accommodated throughout each assessment? What provisions need to be made?
Give everyone suitable training.
Make sure your team works like a well-oiled machine. Each person should know exactly what their role is at each stage and how they should be making decisions. They should be using data as evidence and following escalation or exception processes when necessary. Assessment providers should be able to support you with this to ensure their assessments are used correctly.
Collect multiple data points.
Always get multiple scores against each key criteria from multiple assessments and methods of measurement. Use multiple managers or raters when possible. This will help you to corroborate scores and can possibly raise awareness of issues from an assessment that isn’t pitched or scored correctly.
Review the process and spot patterns and trends.
After your hiring process has finished, look back at the data to learn lessons. Were scores in line with expectations on all assessments? Were there any anomalies in pass marks? Did all groups perform as expected? Were there any differences in how interviewers and raters gave their scores?
The only true and proper way to overcome bias is to keep following best practice, keep doing research and self-inquiry into how the process goes, and be prepared to spot mistakes that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Won’t my hiring managers just become robots?
Designing a clear and consistent process doesn’t mean your hiring managers cannot project their personality and enthusiasm into the process.
However, it does help to avoid jumping to conclusions based on a “gut feeling” that cannot be substantiated or defended when challenged.
It is still very valuable to get input from hiring managers about their perceptions of role and team fit. Candidates often look to talk to as many people from the organization as possible. If you don’t give them these opportunities, it might be off-putting or give them the wrong impression about your company culture.
Everyone who speaks to the candidate should be involved in a debrief about the candidate’s application. But these different opinions should only be some of many data points you collect about the candidate to build up a picture about who they are to inform your decision about whether to hire them.
How can I make sure my hiring process is legally defensible?
You can design a hiring process to be legally defensible when questioned or challenged by applying the latest research and following best practice guidelines.
Ensure a thorough and robust job analysis is done to identify role-relevant success criteria at the outset.
Only measure work-related characteristics through the assessment process.
Use each assessment as it has been designed and ensure everyone is properly trained.
Carefully review what sensitive data you are collecting and whether it’s necessary.
Use fair measures with data supporting low adverse impact.
Use valid measures with data supporting future performance prediction.
Follow data security and processing standards.
Review the effectiveness and fairness of your process and document and implement lessons learned.
If you cut corners or fail to do due diligence in any of these areas, there is a chance that any future decisions you make could be difficult to justify.
How can I improve my quality of hire?
To improve the quality of your hiring decisions, go back and review your hiring process. The goal of a well-designed hiring process should be to find the best candidate for the job quickly, efficiently, and consistently.
There are often tweaks and refinements that you can make to improve the quality of hire.
Was your job analysis as good as it could have been? Are all the key performance criteria covered? Are the criteria well defined, clearly understood, and used correctly? Are the assessments accurately and reliably assessing these criteria? Are there better assessments available? Are candidates remaining engaged throughout the process? Are hiring managers remaining objective in their decision making?
There may also be other factors to review that are not related to the hiring process itself.
Are you attracting the right candidates? Should you advertise the vacancy more widely to attract a more diverse applicant pool? Is your brand attractive to the types of candidates you are looking for? Is the benefits package commensurate to the experience and expertise you desire?
Finally, are the people in your organization running the process suitably trained? Are they supported by the assessment designers to interpret scores correctly? Are they comfortable making objective decisions using the job profile criteria? Even the best and most experienced hiring managers will struggle to avoid their “gut feeling” clouding their judgment.
Assuming these bigger picture issues are addressed, optimizing your hiring process based on available data of what is working well and what isn’t working as expected will help improve the quality of hire.
How to create engaging cognitive ability tests and minimize assessment anxiety