Should you trust your gut when recruiting?

How many of your hiring decisions are made based on what you feel versus what you know?

So you’ve hired your first few employees and you’re happy with who you’ve found. Now you’re considering adding the fourth or fifth member to your team. Gut instinct is an important factor for entrepreneurs – you have to follow that feeling deep down that says yes or no, and sometimes take a leap of faith.

It may not be entirely logical but it makes sense to you, and it’s served you well in the past. But exactly how much trust should you place in your gut, and are there times when listening to your head may be a better option? Here are 5 tips for trusting your gut when recruiting:

Combine logic with gut feelings

Research has shown that when choosing the best candidate for the job, a simple equation which takes into account applicant data and matches it to job criteria actually surpasses human decision-making by at least 25%. However, you’re unlikely to feel comfortable leaving the hiring process entirely up to an algorithm, so it is probably best to combine logic and gut feelings. Perhaps narrow down your choice of candidates to 2 or 3 based strictly on definable things such as skills, experience and achievements, before letting instinct guide your judgement in the final stage of the process. Having a set of predetermined questions for your candidates can be a good way of keeping a level playing field and making it easier to narrow down the applicants.

Charisma isn’t everything

Some people are able to simply charm their way through an interview. While you should definitely look for someone who will get on well with the rest of your team, don’t be completely won over just because someone is charismatic. Ask for specific evidence of their skills, and even ask them how they think their personable nature helps or hinders them in the workplace. Depending on your business, would they be too nice to fit into your cut-throat world? Or is that exactly what you’re looking for? – someone whose personality wins others over and helps them succeed in their work. And conversely, remember that job interviews are stressful; sometimes candidates will be nervous, but they may still be the right person for your team!

Is your gut usually right?

Before hiring a new employee, perhaps look back at your past interviews and what it was that made you choose each member of your team. Was it primarily their experience? Was it a gut feeling that struck you during the interview? And has your gut usually been right? These signs can help to inform your decision-making, and ensure you make the right choice.

What are they looking for in you/your company?

Don’t just think about what you and your business need from a candidate. Ask also what they are looking for in both you as an employer, and your startup as their new job. They may well fit the bill when it comes to experience, but what does your gut tell you about their passion for and their interest in your business? If they seem genuinely enthusiastic about the position and share the same values as you, the chances are that they are going to be a better fit for your team than someone who simply has the right experience.

When your gut tells you ‘no’

Finally, it can be difficult and frustrating to admit, but your gut may tell you that none of the candidates you have interviewed thus far have been right for your company. It can happen, but it can also be a positive thing in the end. Reassess the way you have advertised the role, and revisit the job description to see if there’s anything you could improve on. Perhaps you have not quite been asking for the kind of person you need to make your startup succeed. It may take some fine-tuning but a lengthier recruiting process could end up being a smart move for you and your business.

Here’s an infographic that outlines the science of decision-making beyond hiring.

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Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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