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How to avoid hiring people that are less competent than you

30 Mar 2018

How to avoid hiring people that are less competent than you

Recruitment Tips 0 comments

Recruitment is a subtle art, fraught with pitfalls. On average 46% of new recruits end up failing and are dismissed within the first 18 months. For this reason, one must remain vigilant when recruiting. One of the keys to success when recruiting is to counter cognitive biases, which are governed by our emotions, and can lead to errors in judgment. This article will look at one of the most pernicious and destructive cognitive biases in organizations, which derives from the Peter principle, and can be named the "preservation bias".

According to the Peter Principle, an individual will be promoted to their level of incompetence. We could assume that as a manager, the individual might then tend to recruit individuals they consider less competent than themselves, out of fear of being replaced. The new employee will eventually do the same, and so will the subsequent employees, thus creating a pyramid of incompetent managers. To counter this bias and its harmful consequences, here are 5 tips:

1- Appropriately define the role you are hiring for

Any recruitment should start with defining the vacancy. This responsibility usually doesn’t lie within the Human Resources department only. The hiring manager and relevant decision-makers are also involved in the job specification, and they may be subject to the preservation bias. Indeed some managers might frown upon the idea of recruiting a candidate who might overshadow them. Therefore, we might expect that they will recommend and push for profiles that they view as having a lower level of competence instead of brighter individuals. This is why properly defining the profile and the requirements to be successful in the role is crucial, and must be done by several hierarchical levels.

2- Never entrust the recruitment decision to the manager alone

One classic mistake is to give the direct manager the task of identifying or selecting the candidates, without enforcing any control by a relevant third party. As has been established above, the manager may not necessarily be motivated or objective enough to recruit a candidate with high potential. When there is the slightest doubt about the candidate, the manager will naturally find any excuse to justify rejecting them. For this reason, it is preferable that the recruitment process be carried out by at least two evaluators and a third neutral observer.

3- Reverse the chain of command

One can potentially question the chain of command in recruitment processes. If the direct manager is at the beginning of the chain, even after a first interview or selection phase done by HR, the manager can easily reject good candidates. Thus, insofar as the recruitment process is conducted in several stages, which have the power to be eliminatory, it might be wise to place more senior managers as the first in line to see the candidate. This will make it more difficult for the direct manager to justify rejecting the candidates for subjective reasons. The same risk applies when selecting a successor, because the direct manager will often be the sole decision-maker. It is therefore important for the manager to be coherent and surround themselves with good advisers.

4- Make the evaluation process objective

Some methods such as structured interviewing, psychometric testing, and role play can significantly reduce the risk of error, especially if these methods are used in conjunction with each other. Using objective assessment tools, from the start of the process, is essential to counter these cognitive biases. In particular, combining personality assessments with aptitude tests is an excellent way of using objective data to inform decisions. For example, if you are looking for a creative and/or enterprising candidate, the results of a psychometric assessment can provide the relevant information to help streamline the decision process.

5- Encourage internal promotion

Regardless of the safeguards in place, it is impossible to fully escape the “preservation bias” induced by the Peter principle. It is only natural for a manager to avoid recruiting candidates that may overshadow him. However, the ability of a manager to project into the future and his opportunities to move up within the company can make him more assured, and therefore less prone to this bias. Internal mobility, as long as it does not facilitate an individual’s promotion towards their threshold of incompetence, can enable the placement of candidates with high potential.


Source : Linkedin

Patrick Leguide
Founder and CEO
CEO and founder of Central Test, Patrick has two degrees, in Cognitive Psychology and in Management. He is the head of the Research and Innovation department, and is actively involved in the creation of tests.