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Do you recruit by gut feel?

by Jamie Radford


What was your immediate answer when you read the title of this post? Yes? No way!? There are both proponents and opponents for recruiting with the help of gut feel. Some experts say if you are in tune with your “gut” it can help to secure the right candidates for certain roles, while others say it definitely has no place in recruitment.


Opinions already start forming in the recruiter’s mind during the interview, and as much as this shouldn’t happen, it does naturally. “First impressions count” is all too true in many instances including interviews. However, if you are involved in recruiting for your company, it is your duty to remove bias and snap judgements. Your responsibility is to assess skills, experience, education and overall suitability for the role for which the candidate is being interviewed. Sometimes gut feeling does come into this overall assessment but it shouldn’t be the main decider.


Unfortunately, some interviewers who are not highly skilled vetting professionals, specifically trained for recruitment, will automatically judge based on first impressions. During the course of the interview, an interviewer could then naturally interpret the responses of the interviewee so that he or she continues to fit their original impression and instinct, instead of assessing them on their own, individual merits.


The Disadvantages of Using Gut Feelings


  • You are highly likely to get it wrong

Many candidates are well-versed at putting on a great show for the interview and have practiced potential answers and pep-talked themselves to leave any negative traits at the door. For some candidates, nerves could get in the way and they could come across as tongue-tied or overly anxious – not portraying themselves in the best light when in reality and on the job, they could be the perfect fit.


  • Recruiting mistakes can prove costly

If you’ve employed the wrong candidate, you’ll need to find a replacement and this means another recruitment fee. Even when not using a recruitment agency, advertising costs, time spent on the interview process and time spent on training the chosen candidate can all add up to one hefty amount.


  • The team can suffer

Should the gut feeling recruitment turn out to be a mistake, the rest of the team could suffer in a variety of ways including the additional workload when the new staff member doesn’t work out.



The Advantages of Using Gut Feelings

There are times when gut feelings have a genuine place in the recruitment process, for example:


  • If a candidate is late for an interview

There are of course certain situations where lateness could not have been avoided but usually the candidate will have allowed extra time to arrive at the interview on time. If they arrive late, gut feeling could come into play where the interviewer begins to think about the poor first impression, how this translates to the workplace on a day to day basis, could the candidate be someone who is not a great timekeeper and their tardiness could affect the rest of the team?


  • The candidate didn’t prepare

If it’s clear the candidate did not prepare in advance of the interview, knows nothing about the company and has no questions to ask about the role or the company, gut feeling could be well placed.


  • Be weary of candidates who don’t appear to have weaknesses

Some candidates will not be able to give examples of any weaknesses when asked during the interview, but are able to provide a long list of their strengths. You may have a gut feeling on these candidates and you could be right to listen to it!


Sometimes gut feelings have no place in the recruitment process and it is good practice to have more than one interviewer in the room so that bias is less likely, however, there is still a process to follow and there are some instances where gut feeling should be heeded such as in the above examples. Successful entrepreneurs and managers are using instinct more and more in their daily decision making and, as you can clearly see, there are instances where it can prove wise to pay attention.



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