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Smart Data vs Intuition: who will win in the battle of decision-making?

30 Oct 2018

Smart Data vs Intuition: who will win in the battle of decision-making?


Data is now at the heart of all our decisions. Our hyper-connected world generates more than 2.5 trillion bytes of data every day. And that isn’t even close to the amount of data that our brain can process in less than a second. So in terms of recruitment, who to entrust our decision-making: data or our intuition? This is the Cornelian dilemma that haunts recruiters today more than ever.

Smart Data: an intelligent asset?

According to recent studies, an algorithm is much more reliable and powerful than the human instinct! In recruitment it would increase by 25% the chances of making the "right choice"[1] , in comparison to the recruiter that relies solely on their experience or instinct.
If an algorithm brings undeniable advantages in terms of fast data processing, it also processes only the data that you have preselected. One can then wonder if the resulting analysis is reliable; or if the elements that have been taken into account are relevant?
It is therefore essential to have a "smart" approach in the choice of data and to adopt a multicriteria approach offering complementary points of view and delivering more reliable results for decision-making.

Especially when recruiting, where it is no longer only a question of choosing the candidate compatible with the position, but also of taking into account their affinity with the team, culture and the values of the organization in which to grow and evolve. Therefore, the final decision is even more difficult because the information related to the potential of a individual and their ability to adapt are invisible to the “kind eye” of a recruiter, as vigilant as can be.
From this point of view, psychometric tests prove to be a valuable source of information; they make it possible to use a maximum of relevant and complementary indicators, to reliably predict the potential of a candidate.

The digital exploitation of these indicators via powerful matching algorithms allows going further into the predictive approach. This facilitates the recruiter’s analysis and brings maximum objectivity to the decision-making process.
So can we improve our chances of recruiting the right person with data-driven decision making? Yes, as long as you are rightly selective about the data, you can identify the relevant information in advance and clearly define the expectations in terms of skills and potential.

But can we recruit based on 100% algorithm? The answer is obvious, an algorithm is a decision support tool, it will not replace the human factor.

Our intuition: an essential role in decision making?
How many times have you made an important decision following your, “intuition”, “gut feeling” or the “sixth sense”? You're not alone, according to studies, "73% of respondents said they follow their intuition to take decisions.

Intuition is defined as the ability of our brains to draw conclusions through unconscious information, without requiring proof or analytical thinking. So part of our brain can automatically communicate its own analysis of our perceptions and experiences, without we having to decide consciously, analytically.
Though our brain is very efficient and can analyze information faster than a computer, it is shown to be both less efficient and reliable when faced with a fast accumulation of varying information. The brain tends to retain certain elements and eliminate others because it can effectively process only one type of information at a time. But because it takes just milliseconds to switch from one task to another, it feels like we can think about several things at once (mental-multitasking).

This is an advantage and a weakness at the same time; example, for an experienced recruiter, the brain will be sorting its experiences and knowledge for intuition (we can only have intuition on what we know) that can be an added asset to make a more qualitative hiring decision.
On the other hand, the accumulation of information for an inexperienced recruiter can lead to flawed decision making. Because the mental sorting will be less selective. And without any point of reference in terms of experience and knowledge, the information will thus be adversely affected by cognitive biases and the intuition will then lead to faulty conclusions.

Therefore, decision making is a complex process and it can be said that there is no decision made with absolute certainty. So following only one's intuition may seem excessive, but to be solely based on facts and not take into account the abilities of our brain, would still be an exaggeration. The best approach is to reach for a clever combination between data and intuition, between human and digital.

[1] Harvard Business Review, In Hiring, Algorithms Beat Instinct, 2014

Lucia Mititel
Communications and Digital Marketing Manager
Lucia has ten years of experience in communications and digital marketing. Since joining Central Test in 2008, she developed a passion for psychology and human resources. Curious about everything, she likes to perfect her knowledge, take on new challenges and write about topics that are important to her.