Hiring managers are afraid to make a bad hire. It’s a justified fear—a bad hire costs the company more than just money. So, hiring managers developed their own intricate hiring processes to ensure bad hires don’t get offers. And these processes work, right?
Bad news—the research is clear; unless these hiring processes are based on proven selection methods, complex and arbitrary processes do not reliably predict the job performance of a potential hire.
Good news—you can feel more confident about your ability to make a good hire if you use a streamlined process based on selection methods that are proven to predict an individual’s on-the-job performance.
This article takes the research available and applies it specifically to hiring technical talent. Our focus is on best practices to implement and too-frequent poor practices to discontinue.
Selection methods are the methods we use to evaluate candidates.
Validity is a measure of how accurately the selection method predicted future job performance. A high validity corresponds to a high accuracy. Validities are often expressed as a number between 0 and 1 (e.g., 0.61) but can also be understood as percentages (e.g., 61%).
While a data-backed hiring process might seem harsh and impersonal, it has other benefits besides candidate vetting. Using high-validity selection methods decreases risky hires, eliminates hiring bias, and increases diversity in the workplace.
We talk about our recommended hiring process in another article; in this article, we’ll explain what the research says, which selection methods have high validity, and considerations you should make for the candidate experience.
What the Research Says
The primary source for this article is a large body of research dedicated to effective hiring methods. The research spans a hundred years, tens of thousands of employees, and reliably predicts future job performance no matter the field or industry.
A 2016 meta-studyi compiled the available research and yielded the following high-level observations:
- Certain selection methods have a higher validity than others
- Certain selection methods, when combined, have a higher validity than others
- Combining selection methods with little-to-no correlation produces the highest validity
An additional study in 2020 that examined the validity of brainteaser interview questions was used as a secondary source.
What selection methods have been studied?
Although many selection methods have been studied, these are the selection methods we’ll focus on, since they are most often used to hire technical talent:
- GMA Tests: general mental ability (GMA) tests are used to assess general intelligence or problem-solving ability of the candidate.
- Integrity Tests: used to identify counterproductive or risky behaviors in candidates like theft, drug use, or fighting while on the job; can also measure conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability.
- Work Sample Tests: when you have the candidate perform the tasks they would do on the job; they are standardized tests that closely mirror the actual work and environment that the job would normally be subject to.
- Job Knowledge Tests: when you ask the candidate questions about how to perform specific aspects of the job; their answers reveal the depth of their job knowledge.
- Unstructured Interviews: vary from candidate to candidate because there is no set list of questions to ask candidates applying for a certain role.
- Structured Interviews: utilize an established list of questions with predetermined good and bad answers; interviewers don’t deviate from the list when interviewing candidates to reduce the influence of bias when evaluating candidates.
- Brainteaser Interviews: use unexpected or random questions in an attempt to test the candidate’s ability to problem solve and think quickly on their feet. The 2020 studyii identified three types of brainteaser questions:
- Justification – numerous plausible answers but require justification to answer fully
- Definitive-answer – has a specific and objectively correct answer
- Oddball – random question with no right or wrong answer
- Years of Previous Job Experience: evaluates the candidate’s previous work experience to determine how the candidate will perform in a job.
- Years of Education: uses the candidate’s level of education as a basis for determining how the candidate will perform in a job.
- Interests: use the candidate’s extracurricular interests or hobbies to determine how the candidate will perform in a job. This is most effective when the interests considered are vocation related.