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Why organisations still use experience-based hiring

Lead consultant at Test Partnership, Ben Schwencke, why organisations still use experience-based hiring.

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There's a good few reasons why organisations are still using experience based hiring instead of skills based hiring. From my perspective, it's an obvious win win in that measuring skills directly is going to be infinitely better than inferring these skills from CV content.

You know, that has never made sense in my mind, and the academic research is not supportive that what they put in their CV matters at all, where they went to university is not very powerful as a predictor of performance, where they've worked previously, and anything more than that is, you know, just an unfair advantage to people fundamentally from very privileged backgrounds.

But there are a lot of organisations that, you know, perhaps wouldn't want to admit that up until now, their approach has been both ineffective from a recruitment perspective and inherently biased.

Towards people from higher socio economic backgrounds. That's a key part of it. It's very hard to acknowledge up until the, the, the, the way our organisation perhaps has been working throughout its entirety of its operation, uh, has been ineffective. Okay, that's a very difficult pill to swallow. Um, and communicating that to people will often result in backlash.

They may just double down. They're like, yeah, well, you know, we've been using it for years and we have all these great employees. And yeah, maybe you have some great employees, but you're obviously not taking into account the people you fire every year because they're awful, as well as just the armies of mediocre people that make it through, and then just do very little once they're there.

People get their backs up against the wall when you accuse them of doing things effectively, even if the evidence is very supportive, you know, even if it's very clear, logically, empirically, that that's not the right approach. People will just stick to their guns and double down. Additionally, practically speaking, it is very convenient as well.

Very convenient using experience based hiring. You can just pick up a CV and see a particular name from university. And that's all you need to know about the, the applicant's cognitive skills, their abilities to write, their ability to read, their level of trainability. Just pretend that that is all you need.

They went to Oxford and that's all I need to know. Now in reality Cognitive ability is a normally distributed variable. You're going to meet a lot of really low cognitive ability Oxford grads, and a lot of brilliant genius ones and everything in between. And conversely, you'll meet a group of people who dropped out of university, and you're going to get an equally mixed bag.

Very low performers on one hand, extremely high performers on the other, and everything in between. And so, even if one normal distribution is slightly higher than the other, even if Oxford grads are on average smarter than people who dropped out of school, there is going to be overlap, and you're going to get it wrong a lot of the time if you use that as a proxy.

It isn't a proxy. Especially when it is super straightforward to measure cognitive ability. You won't need to infer it, you can literally just measure it. But, that is uh, that's a process you need to outline. You now need to vet a provider that offers these assessments. You need to get them on board. You need to get used to the assessments, and how they work, and how the reporting works.

It is a step that organisations need to take is associated with cost and time and risk, of course, because you may pick the wrong provider. It is natural that there would be some apprehension here. However, you have to think about these things holistically, in that, yeah, it's really convenient to just pick up a CV and read it like a crystal ball and pretend that that is somehow indicative of performance in the future, and you've been doing it up until now, and you've had no resistance from doing it, you could continue, or you could double, triple, quadruple the quality of hire and actually assess things that matter.

But accept that that's gonna be a little bit of work, and you're gonna have to own up a little bit and acknowledge that until now, we've not been doing it effectively. Okay. And that's, that's a, it's a brave step to take. It's not easily done. People are very, very stubborn in this regard. So if you can do that and get over that mental gap, you can then think, okay, what can I do to improve the recruitment process from here?

How can I find a provider? How can I assess these skills? What are the skills that are actually important? And rid yourself of the mindset that yeah, their CV is all the information we need. There's nothing in there that's worth reading, to be honest, other than very basic: can you work in this country? Do you have some necessary qualification that would otherwise bar you from the profession?

Other than that, there's skills that matter. You should be measuring those.