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The Principles of Evidence-Based Interviewing (Webinar)

Posted by Bob Corlett on July 23, 2020

Hiring managers want to feel confident that their new hires are being selected using valid criteria that actually predict their success on the job, working from home, in this new pandemic economy. And familiar old ways of hiring are failing us more obviously now (it’s hard to have a “gut feel” for someone you only “met” on a video call). The good news is that better approaches to hiring already exist.

In this session you will learn what 100 years of research shows about effective hiring, and how to reduce bias and become more evidence-based in every step of the hiring process:
Principles of EBI

If you missed it, part one of the webinar can be found here.

Source Material:

Use your diversity statement as a differentiator

Use your website, your blog, or your marketing materials to highlight what diversity means to your organization and show how you are taking identifiable steps to build a culture of inclusion. Here’s a great example of the work going on at Cisco.

Job Advertising

Write your position descriptions to attract more diverse candidates. Words can signal to candidates that they aren’t a fit for certain positions. For example, phrases like “world-class” or “best of the best” tend not to attract women. Consider replacing such words with more inclusive language.

Also, think carefully about what competencies are “required” versus ones that are simply nice to have but are not essential to someone being able to succeed in the role. Research shows that women are much less likely to apply to a position if they don’t meet most of the requirements. (And men tend to act significantly more confident than women even when their skills are the same.)

For more information on writing attractive and inclusive job descriptions, start here: https://blog.staffingadvisors.com/how-to-write-job-descriptions-that-attract-top-performers

Don’t focus your recruiting efforts on hiring through referrals. “Who do you know” recruiting is far too insular. Women and candidates of color are more likely to search for jobs online while men are more likely to rely on their networks when it comes to finding their next position.

Put rigor where it belongs

Commitment is not binary, it grows over time. Rigor belongs at the end of your recruiting process, not at the beginning. Source: Robert Cialdini Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Preference for Pedigree

When you read resumes, what mental shortcuts do you take? If you want to hire smart people, do you look for the reputation of their college? If you want people who are highly skilled and professional, do you look for the reputation of their current employers? And how much weight do you give to the pedigree of a candidate’s educational institution or previous employers?

Daniel Markovits refers to preference for pedigree in his book, “The Meritocracy Trap.” His point is that the most elite organizations tend to hire the most elite graduates of the most elite schools, who primarily draw students from elite prep schools and wealthier parents. As we all saw in the college admissions scandal, the system is too easily gamed by the wealthy.

Diverse Slate of Candidates

One research study showed that when the final pool of candidates for a given position contains only one minority candidate, it is almost guaranteed that person will not be hired. The odds of a female candidate being hired are 79 times greater if there are two female candidates in the pool. For minority candidates, those odds increase exponentially – it is 194 times more likely a minority candidate will be hired if there are at least two in the pool. (Admittedly this was not peer reviewed, and the experiment was conducted with college students doing the selection.) Status quo bias refers to the phenomenon of preferring that one's environment and situation remain as they already are.

If our slate of candidates isn’t a diverse representation of the market, we huddle as a team to re-examine our sourcing process and challenge assumptions we may have made throughout the search to see how we can open things up to a broader pool of traditionally underrepresented candidates. We outline our process in this short video: https://www.staffingadvisors.com/research.


Blind Audition

Blind recruitment promotes diversity in the workforce. It gained a greater foothold after a series of studies showed that people with names like Lakisha Washington or Jamal Jones needed to send out 50% more resumes before they got a callback than job hunters with names like Emily Walsh or Greg Baker. (Fast Company)

Attributes vs Competencies – what’s the difference?

Admittedly, there is room for confusion here.

In the first webinar, we shared research from Marcus Buckingham and Peter Cappelli on how we assess people. They made the case that our discussions of attributes tends to be biased and unreliable.

In this webinar, we looked at the research about the factors that actually do predict success in hiring, and we see the different language that describe job competencies being used by Professors Sutton, Grant and Kahneman. Yes, this language is a bit inconsistent between the professors, but closer to the realm of knowledge, skills and abilities, or job competencies. But there is no precise, authoritative distinction between the word attribute and the word competency that we’ve found. I think Emily Koolen provides the best summary:

“Traits are ingrained behaviors that are mostly permanent and difficult to change while attributes can be learned through external experiences. Competencies are simply combinations of skills and behaviors and are easily identified and measured.”

How to Structure the Candidate Assessment Process

The people who have studied the research seem to agree with Stanford professor Bob Sutton. He examined the literature on methods of predicting job performance, advocating for a structured interview focused on job competencies and supplemented with work sample testing, and Wharton professor Adam Grant recently reached a similar conclusion. Separately, in his best-selling book, Nobel Prize winning Princeton professor Daniel Kahneman suggested a similar way to reduce bias in hiring.

We get into the mechanics of all this in these blog posts:

Debriefing after the interview

Be careful when you are gathering feedback from other interviewers. To avoid group think, It's best to gather feedback privately, rather than in a group setting. Be sure to ask each interviewer specific questions about job competencies first, and gather their thoughts about strategic fit by asking specific questions. Keep your focus on gathering facts, and try to avoid any discussion of who anyone “likes.” This is exceedingly difficult to do. (For examples of how to approach this, see How to Avoid Groupthink in Hiring.)

Reference checks

To get more value from reference checks, start asking different questions. When you begin the reference conversation with specific and factual questions, the reference-giver assumes you already understand their context, and spends less time trying to educate you and more time verifying what you want to know.

Predicting success in a remote work environment

Here is how to assess whether candidates have the specific competencies related to remote work.

Additional reading on Evidence-Based Interviewing practices:


Topics: Webinar Recordings, Evidence Based Interviewing