CEO of ECA Partners, Atta Tarki explains how evidence-based methods will define how successful organizations recruit over the next decade.
When Google tried to introduce evidence-based methods into marketing, their efforts were met with strong resistance from industry professionals. Tim Armstrong, a Google sales head at the time, recalls customers saying “Who the hell is Google to tell me the success of my ads? I’ve been in advertising for fifty years – I know what a bad ad is, and this isn’t it!” Everyone “knew” that the success of an ad relied on at least two dozen moving pieces, ranging from which photographer you used to whether the clothing matched the model’s hair color, and so forth. Business executives therefore believed that the best way to tell a good ad apart from a bad one was to rely on folks with unmatched marketing intuition which allowed them to spot a great ad within seconds. Replace the word “marketing” with “recruiting” and fast-forward some twenty years and you’ll see how most companies treat their hiring decisions today.
Many companies make their recruiting decisions based on intuition and old industry practices. According to industry organization Society for Human Resource Management, three-quarters of organizations don’t even try to measure the quality of their hires, let alone test the quality of their hiring techniques.
But investing in evidence-based recruiting methods pays off. In fields where the effects can be measured, organizations making even small investments in data-driven hiring techniques outperformed their competitors by 44 percent. If that’s the case, then why don’t more organizations invest in these methods?
One reason for the low effort is that it’s just not easy. Measuring hiring success requires an organization to go through and overcome all the following painstaking issues:
- Defining success: Coming up with quantifiable definitions of success.
- Investing upfront time and effort: Designing structured interviews and tests that yield valuable data requires a lot of time and effort.
- Overcoming measurement difficulties: Many qualities important for on-the-job success are difficult to measure. For example, one of our clients has seen their doctors with more empathy be more financially successful, however, they had a hard time assessing and measuring empathy in an interview setting. One would need to overcome these difficulties in order to compare candidates systematically.
- Forming a deep understanding in how to overcome measuring difficulties: Correlation is not causation. And disentangling the effect of each screening tool when you have 10’s of various initiatives running at any given point of time is not easy.
- Overcoming test design challenges associated with job interviews: For instance, it is easy for a person to fake being reliable during the interview and the first week on the job. It is hard to fake being reliable a year into the job.
- Overcoming low sample size issues: For every new idea you want to test, you have to get a sufficient sample size in order to ensure that your results are accurate and replicable.
- Being disciplined: It’s easy to follow all these steps for a few weeks, but it gets harder to stay disciplined a few months later.
- And maybe the hardest thing of all – being patient and waiting for accurate, verifiable results: In many roles, it takes a long time before you can determine who is successful and who is not. You may need to wait for months or even years before you can understand if your screening criteria are effective.
In fact, fixing the feedback loop requires so much effort that it would be almost illogically difficult. That’s exactly why almost no one does it. But the alternative is that you will keep doing the same things and hoping for different results. 11 percent of US organizations have already adopted HR analytics and more companies are doing so by the day. The reason is simple: executives building winning organizations don’t hope for better results; they want to know if they are improving results or not. That’s why evidence-based methods will define how successful organizations recruit over the next decade.