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The Pepsi Taste Test - in HR?

We had the opportunity not too long ago to run a nice little ‘live experiment’, testing the validity of the fit-first approach that is embedded into the core of the HiringSmart methodology.

This opportunity was presented to us in the form of an invitation to lead a full-day program for a group of nearly 50 HR Professionals in Toronto.

The title of the session had something to do with ‘new approaches to recruitment and selection’, which of course we had no difficulty addressing for eight hours. While we had to tread a fine line between presenting innovative ideas and shameless self-promotion (you may appreciate what a challenge that is for one of us), we did manage to build in some exercises that allowed the audience to actually experience the difference between the conventional résumé-based approach and the fit-based first interview we offer.

Of course, we had much debate in the room over the importance of the résumé and the cover letter. We’ve made up so many rules and conventions about what ought/ought not to be in a CV that we’ve lost sight of the fact that most people don’t even write their own, and the degree of ‘embellishment’ renders it next to useless as a reliable tool on which to base the decision of whom to see and whom to set aside. Oh, and God forbid there’s a typo! [We’ve yet to find any correlation between spelling skills and retention or performance in any role (except perhaps copy editor.

In spite of the overwhelming defence of the status quo, this group of seasoned HR pros presented us with a golden opportunity to test the fit-first approach… so we devised a diabolical plan and wove it discreetly into our workshop. We ran it in two parts, mid-morning and early afternoon, so people were less likely to game the exercise.

Our simple assertion was this: Reliance on résumés as the admission ticket actually forces bad choices about which candidates to admit into your pipeline and which to exclude. Our research proves conclusively that there’s nothing in the résumé that is in any way predictive of quality of hire, how good a performer they will be, or how long the candidate will stay.

But we had to let the pros in the room form their own conclusion…

Here’s how we built up the exercise. We dug through our database to come up with six candidates who had applied for a particular Customer Service Manager position with one of our clients. We were able to obtain both the résumés the candidates had been using at the time and the online interview they completed for the role (and yes, of course we changed the names and personal data). There was, of course, some variation in the content and sophistication of the résumés, and while one or two contained minor grammatical or spelling errors, we hadn’t doctored them up. This was a live experiment.

In the first round, we had participants form small groups of 5-6. Each team was handed the position description for the CSM role and six résumés. The assignment was to review the documentation and, using their best judgment based on their years of experience, identify the top three candidates whom they would advance to the interview stage. Participants were instructed to form their own conclusions first, then share their decisions within the group and come to a group consensus.

It would be charitable to say the process was ugly. Everything was fine until participants had to share and justify their individual rankings. The room became very loud, tension mounted, and we ended up having to intervene after 25 minutes to force group decisions.

We captured the results on a flipchart; they truly were all over the map, with very little agreement either within groups or between groups. Everyone, it seems, had a different perspective on how to weigh information in the CV and reconcile it against the position description. Nevertheless, Candidates 1, 2 and 5 received the nod to advance to an interview from more than half the room.

In the second round, after lunch and after the details of the first round were forgotten and people were friends once again, we reconvened the groups and handed out the same SCM position description and six actual fit-based interviews completed for one of our clients by the same six candidates (their names were hidden). Participants were given the same instructions: pick the top three you would advance to the interview stage on the strength of the fit-based interview. Once again, we asked participants to rank them individually and then discuss their choices to come up with a team consensus.

This round could not have been more different from the first. There was silence in the room and groups were ready to report out their consensus decisions in less than ten minutes.

This was incredible.

Even more telling were the results. As you’ll see in the table below,

 

Top Three Candidates selected to advance to interview

Round 1, using the résumé as admission ticket; Round 2 using the fit-based first interview

 

 

Round -> 

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

Group 4

Group 5

Group 6

Group 7

Group 8

Total Votes

1

2

1

2

1

2

1

2

1

2

1

2

1

2

1

2

Candidate 1

X

 

 

 

X

 

X

X

 

 

X

X

X

 

X

 

6

2

Candidate 2

 

X

X

 

X

X

 

X

X

 

X

 

 

 

X

 

5

3

Candidate 3

X

 

 

X

 

X

X

 

X

X

 

 

X

X

 

X

4

5

Candidate 4

X

X

X

 

X

 

 

 

X

 

 

X

 

X

 

X

4

4

Candidate 5

 

 

X

X

 

 

X

X

 

X

X

 

X

 

X

 

5

3

Candidate 6

 

X

 

X

 

X

 

 

 

X

 

X

 

X

 

X

0

7

 

The experiment validated what we believed: that résumés actually force an entirely different and less reliable decision process and are an impediment for organizations when it comes to seeing the right people.

When we rely on a résumé, we have no window into the person behind the credentials. We end up filtering in people who might have the right creds but not the right attitudes… and we filter out potentially great candidates whose CV may be imperfect.

The direct link between fit and engagement and business performance is well documented and irrefutable… isn’t it time more organizations relied on fit as the admission ticket that decides which candidates they will invest time in, and which they will pass on?

This little workshop almost had the makings of a MasterCard ad…

50 HR professionals.

6 Résumés.

1 Job.

Priceless!

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