How many times have managers at your company made a bad hire, only to complain that the candidate “interviewed so well” during the hiring process? It’s not uncommon for a mismatch to slip through the cracks every now and then thanks to a psychological phenomenon known as inattentional blindness, or in HR terms, hiring blindness.
Inattentional blindness occurs when a person fails to recognize unexpected stimulus happening right before their eyes. Magicians exploit this phenomenon while performing tricks. They divert your attention away from what is really happening in order to dazzle you with the appearance of magic.
Why Managers Suffer From Hiring Blindness
Inattentional blindness was put on display by cognitive scientists in one of the first viral videos on the Internet. The video starts with a narrator asking viewers to count how many times players wearing white T-shirts pass a basketball to one another. Ten seconds in, a man in a gorilla suit walks into the frame, beats his chest and walks off screen. 50 percent of the people who watched the video never saw the gorilla because they were too focused on counting the basketball passes.
The video, and other experiments like it, show inattentional blindness is human nature, not a matter of personal weakness. When bad hires make it through the interview process, it isn’t necessarily the fault of a poor manager. An interviewer sits down with predetermined expectations, and when you set yourself up to see very specific things, you can be focused so intently on spotting them that you miss even the most obvious of red flags.
How HR Can Cure Hiring Blindness
Managing hiring blindness requires both strategy and finesse. If HR tells managers that they are blind to candidates’ obvious flaws, it could ignite serious conflict. Instead, design hiring processes that help mitigate against bad hires. Consider deploying these strategies to curb your company’s hiring blindness:
- Conduct prescreening before scheduling interviews. Phone screens can go a long way in narrowing down a list of candidates. Include questions that would regularly be part of an in-person interview to see how candidates think on their feet.
- Skills testing. Aptitude tests aren’t applicable to every position, but they can help determine whether or not a candidate is being truthful about their skill set.
- Personality tests. These give you insight into how well the person will fit in with a team and with the company as a whole.
- Get the right people involved in interviews. IT managers might be adept at measuring a candidate’s skills, but less adept at picking up soft skills. Conversely, HR teams might be swift at identifying cultural alignment but lack technical knowledge. Make the interview group as diverse as possible to make them as objective as possible.
- Conduct thorough reference checks. Don’t just verify employment. Speak at length with former supervisors to get a feel for how the employee will perform on the job.
Overhauling hiring processes to cure hiring blindness is no easy task. One way to ensure great matches is to partner with a strategic recruiting firm that can shoulder the burden for your internal team. Expert recruiters have developed processes to create precise matches between employers and candidates, which leads to reduced turnover, higher retention and stronger teams.