Instincts, Analytics & The Science Of High-Stakes Hiring

There’s no one perfect process for successfully recruiting, hiring, onboarding and developing talent. But there’s a marked difference between how large firms do it, and how small- to mid-sized businesses do it, and unsurprisingly, a lot of it comes down to scale and the tools at hand.

SCALE AND THE HIRING PROCESS Consider, for example, a fast-growing 20,000-person tech firm. They’re always hiring, and doing so in large numbers. They effectively use analytics to screen candidates and ensure a high-quality pipeline of people that will be suited to the job, the culture and the rewards of working there. These analytics can be highly specific and quite expensive to develop, but the sheer volume of the candidates makes the process worthwhile, efficient and effective—necessary, even.

The small-to mid-sized business, on the other hand, isn’t always hiring. It isn’t applying a complex, big-data analytical template to each hiring decision, because each hire is aligned to a specific set of competencies. Employers here tend to go on their gut feelings—their instincts—to make decisions about people, as well as what salary, benefits and culture will attract and keep them. It’s a real challenge to make all those factors line up, at just the right time, for just the right hire.

ANALYTICS VS. INSTINCT: ARE THEY REALLY SO DIFFERENT? What may not be obvious is that an employer’s instinct is usually based on some soft analytics of their own, metrics that the employer may not even be conscious of. These can include factors like commute distance, the candidate’s current employment status, cultural fit and other factors that can be red flags when hiring for maximum retention.

So instinct based on experience is, at its core, at kind of analytical process, too. The big drawback is that it can be inconsistent—and in a small- to mid-sized business, every departing employee has the potential to cripple the entire operation, at least temporarily. And unlike the 20,000-employee tech firm, you don’t have an automated pipeline to draw from.

So, the question is how to supplement instinct with hard analytics.

SCALING ANALYTICS DOWN TO A SENSIBLE SIZE The key to faster recruitment, better hires and longer retention is to apply the lessons of big-firm analytics on a scale that makes sense for the business’ needs and budget. Several software solutions exist that can help address some of these dimensions internally.

It’s one of the modern miracles of the 21st century that a small company can hire just as effectively as a trillion-dollar multinational—without losing the confidence of going with one’s gut.

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