Our brains are bombarded with information every day and we need to quickly process it to make hundreds of big and small decisions. So, to keep up and be efficient our brain takes mental shortcuts: called cognitive biases. These quick decision making hacks enable us to quickly assess situations, but they can also lead us to make poor decisions. This is true for recruiters, too!
These mental shortcuts can be social influence, prejudice or motivational factors. If we cannot overcome them, we can try to recognize them in order to reduce their influence on our decision-making. There are about sixty different ones.
In the world of HR, Patrick Leguide, founder of Central Test, identifies five main cognitive biases, which hiring professionals often fall victim to.
While our emotions have a role to play in our decision-making process, they should not take precedence over our critical thinking. "This cognitive bias is particularly observed in inexperienced recruitment professionals who are seduced by the ease of certain candidates and forget to check the consistency of their speeches with their achievements", notes Patrick Leguide. Knowing how to balance intuition and fact is an art that is acquired with experience, believes the founder of Central Test.
Contrary to the naivety bias, this cognitive bias affects certain recruiters who imperatively seek to disregard their emotions in order to judge candidates only on factual elements. "They refer to the technical skills, experiences, diplomas of their future collaborators, but hide their personality and their know-how".
This tendency pushes us to seek information confirming our preconceived ideas, our assumptions. A cognitive bias that can lead a recruiter to interpret certain information in their direction, for example by minimizing a shortcoming of the candidate. “To counter this trend, setting priorities upstream makes it possible not to lose sight of them over the course of recruitment,” notes the founder of Central Test. Faced with a very attractive candidate, it is also important not to forget to ask questions other than those intended to reinforce your own convictions.
An accomplice of the confirmation bias, projection bias is our tendency to be attracted to those who share our values, our thoughts, our psychological states. A recruiter may tend to choose a candidate who looks and thinks like them, “which in itself is not necessarily negative” observes Patrick Leguide. The key is to know if we really need a person in our image with shared ideas and values for the position we are looking to fill.
We all have unconscious beliefs, preconceptions and an ease in associating a set of characteristics with a group. "Thus, some recruiters still tend to believe that a candidate coming out of a business school or with a prestigious diploma will necessarily have all the skills required," he adds.
Many other cognitive biases exist, and trying to master them all would be a futile mission. In order to reduce their impact, recruiters can use tools that allow them to objectify their decision-making, such as personality tests and case studies. "The tests allow us to approach the emotional with more hindsight", notes Patrick Leguide.
On the other hand, each recruiter should be well aware of these biases in order to counterbalance them.