Using gut instinct to make hiring decisions is a bad idea

While it would make the hiring process a lot simpler if you had a sixth sense about whether a candidate would be well suited to a position, even recruiters with good interviewer skills can be influenced by unconscious biases.


Traditional recruitment methods might give you that intuitive good vibe about a candidate; but that doesn’t mean your feelings are accurate. It is highly likely there are other factors at play that have clouded your view.

Not to worry though, this is something that inhibits all human decision making in an attempt to make life that little bit easier for ourselves and simplify the world around us. Cutting cognitive corners and being unaware of our swooping generalisations means we find it extremely difficult to be truly objective and impartial – but allow us to make decisions a lot faster!

Unfortunately there are more organisations than you’d think relying on instinct as the key decider in their recruitment process, so here are just a few of the biases your thought process could be subjected to:


Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias = forming an early hypothesis about someone and seeking to confirm it; favouring information that confirms our pre-existing views.

In an interview setting this could mean asking questions based on pre-existing beliefs about a candidate, resulting in interviews which gain little new information and which are difficult to compare across candidates, as they have been asked a wide array of individual-specific questions.

See our post about Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates for more on how to tailor your interview questions specifically to each candidate.

Halo Effect

Halo Effect = a cognitive bias meaning that if an individual possesses one positive attribute or specific desirable trait, we inaccurately believe they will also possess other desirable traits by default. The opposite of this is known as the horns effect.

The most common example of this effect is when we meet someone who we believe is physically attractive; we also perceive them as having other positive attributes such as being intelligent or having above average interpersonal skills. This of course can distort perceptions of candidates applying for a job.

In-Group / Out-Group

In-group & Out-group = we tend to prefer people who we identify as belonging to the same group as us, our in-group, compared to those belonging to an out-group.

Anything as trivial as someone’s favourite food to more obvious social groups such as including, where someone is from, or our friends could create an in-group. We tend to feel some kind of affinity towards these people which affects our ability to be impartial when making decisions about them.


Stereotyping = broad over-generalisations about a certain group of people, with an assumption that a trait or characteristic is true for every individual in the said group.

People may have stereotypes about very broad or narrow groups of people but regardless, these unfounded generalisations could influence their hiring decisions. For example, research suggests that there is a negative stereotype around people that are obese, and because of this, they were less likely to advance in the recruitment process.


A valid and reliable psychometric tool will provide objective psychometric assessments. They provide clear cut information about a candidate without pre-conceptions or judgement based on things as trivial as what someone looks like or where they grew up. This means our tools correct for cognitive short cuts, such as these biases, which we cannot always control.

Using psychometrics means that human error is taken out of the equation and can give an accurate overview of someone’s preferences at work.

On another note it is also important to make sure the hiring process is free of these biases due to the potential cost of poor human decision making. For example, someone could miss out on a position at the hands of discrimination as someone may not be aware of their internal biases. As organisational culture and recruitment are intimately linked (candidates may be attracted because of culture, culture is cultivated by employees) the risk of including discriminatory behaviour into this would have extensive impact.

If you think you might be plagued by biased hiring decisions, contact us on 01273 734000 or email us via the form below.



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