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Irreducible Search for Hiring Accuracy: Talent Decisions Will Not Get Better with Practice

selection golftTalent Decisions Will Not Get Better with Practice

This is the third in a series

about barriers to selection success.  The

first looked at the gap between what HR practitioners believe and what has been

proven through scientific research (Link to – How Pole Vaulting Helps with Better Hiring Decisions). The second examined the reasons that there is

no perfect approach to talent decision making.

Here we discuss how imperfect talent decision making is…and how to

manage the imperfectibility barrier.

We want to believe there is a way to achieve nearly

perfect accuracy in predicting future job performance: do more interviews?  Better resume screening?  Some really clever (or crazy) pre-screening


Somehow we feel sure that if we just figure that out that

magic question or secret selection step, we would prove that “…the complex

characteristics of applicants can be best assessed by a sensitive, equally

complex human being.”[1]  Not going to happen.

Here is what does happen: we rely on our own expertise – it

is more socially acceptable than relying on some objective test score or statistical

formulas. It is completely understandable that HR practitioners, recruiters,

and hiring managers would be reluctant to undermine their status as hiring

experts by administering a paper-and-pencil test or plugging ratings into a

mechanical formula – these are too impersonal and cannot possibly capture the

nuances we think are necessary for good decision making, right?

Actually not right. Assessments and statistical formulas

have proven to improve selection decision accuracy by first, identifying the

non-observable characteristics that drive successful performance on the job and

second, delivering that information to the decision maker to incorporate into

her selection decision.

It is true that people are somewhat unpredictable. It is

important to know that selection decision making is simply not perfectible –

there are always things about the candidate that are un-knowable at the time of

the decision.   But adoption of proven

decision support tools like valid assessments and highly structured interviews

improves decision accuracy.

And one more thing…companies whose HR professionals stay

current with research literature have better bottom-line financial performance

than those who don’t read the literature[2].  Does that make a research-based decision

making more attractive?

Written By: Dr. Deborah Kerr

[1]Highhouse 2008.


Rynes, Sara L., Amy E. Colbert, and Kenneth G.

Brown. 2002. Seven Common Misconceptions about Human Resource Practices.  Academy

of Management Executive 16 (3): 92 – 103.