How to Make the Right Hiring Decision (According to Science)

Published by:
Joe Caccavale
August 3, 2022
10
min read

Work Sample Cheatsheet

Recruitment is a minefield. Confronted by hundreds of CVs and cover letters, you have to whittle candidates down to find just one applicant who’s worthy of the role. 

All the while knowing that when you finally arrive at your final hiring decision (exhausted, sweaty and ruffled), you might regret who you pick. 

A bad hire costs companies time, money and culture. After all, who likes it when their favourite teammate leaves? 

Repeat this process often enough and you’ll find yourself at the end of your tether (as our very own Demetre found out). 

To ensure you hire the most capable candidate (whilst dramatically simplifying the hiring process), you must use data-driven recruitment methods. 

It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Let research dictate what works best when making hiring decisions. 

Yet many organisations struggle to bring their hiring process up to speed. The are 3 very predictable reasons why. 

3 Biggest Obstacles To Making The Right Hiring Decisions

We’re going to show you exactly what the research says about making hiring decisions, but first we’re going on a quick tour of where data-backed hiring goes wrong

Change Management

Changing the way your organisation makes hiring decisions is in the best interest of your company. 

Yet getting your leadership’s blessing isn’t going to be as easy as emailing them this article, is it? (you should still do it though) 

When it comes to change management in hiring and recruitment, you need four ingredients for success: 

  • A clear framework
  • A sense of urgency
  • Simple ways to empower action
  • Low-hanging fruit to create momentum 

You can start this process today without our recruitment change management guide, though it may take some time to win over your leadership. 

Important reminder: your organisation has managed every other change it’s faced, and it’ll manage a change to candidate assessment, too. 

This change will be easier than in the past because we will help you. And it helps that the benefits are massive. 

Clinging To Culture Fit 

Behind the veil of culture fit is the desire for new teammates to fit into your organisation

There’s no shame in that sentiment: management teams work hard to bring collaborative employees into the organisation who will work well together. 

But culture fit isn’t what you think it is. 

Even though culture fit on the surface might seem warm and fuzzy, you might as well call this the “homogeneity factor.” 

Let’s peel this onion. 

  • Conscious level: new hires should be a good culture fit. 
  • Subconscious levels: they should fit into the existing team. 
  • They should stick out as little as possible. 
  • Core feeling: I want to hire someone that I like. 

When you reach to hire people that “fit in,” you reach for people who:

  • Look like your existing workforce 
  • Speak like your existing workforce 
  • Are from similar places as your existing workforce 
  • Enjoy the same things as your existing workforce 

You shoot your odds of hiring the best candidate in the foot when hiring based on culture fit

The only thing your hiring process should look for is which candidate can do the job the best. 
Impact of culture fit (chart)

That might sound harsh if culture fit is a beloved organisational buzzword, but it’s affecting hiring decisions in a big way. 

Be honest: are you thinking about clicking away because you feel like your hiring situation isn’t all that dire? 

Take a look and see with our Hiring Health Check and see if we can surprise you: 

Hiring Health Check

The opportunities you find may just help make you AND your candidates happier. 

Poor Candidate Experience

This is a fear that employers should actually have, because a bad candidate experience causes an undesired ripple effect. 

The underlying cause of this fear is that anything new will be disliked. 

But here’s an important question to ask: 

Do candidates like the STANDARD review process? 

The standard review process where…

Let’s be clear: candidates don’t like the process the way it is. But they DO like the research-based approach to hiring (AKA the Applied Method). 

Applied candidate tweets

Is your hiring process so refreshing to candidates that they feel compelled to share their positive experience online? 

It can be. 

Candidates love the Applied Method because it’s backed by research. 

And yes, we even have research to back up that statement. 

How candidates rate the Applied process (chart)

Let’s cut through the buzzwords to what “data-backed hiring” really means: letting science choose the best candidate for your open positions. 

3 Biggest Assets to Making The Right Hiring Decisions

Let science decide who the right candidate is. 

Let science decide it all:

Science has to be in the driving seat in order to make the right hiring decisions because human nature is to make decisions based on unconscious biases, not facts. 

These biases are so predictable and well-researched that we’ve identified the four primary prejudices that affect hiring decisions:

Examples of bias

These biases can be either positive or negative. For organisations, they’re dangerous either way the pendulum swings: 

  • Hiring based on positive biases leads you to overlook the best candidate  
  • Hiring based on negative biases results in the same for organisations, but additionally it often perpetuates descrimination 

Your greatest weapon against making those mistakes starts with CVs. 

Ditch CVs

CVs aren’t worth the pixels they’re printed on. 

What do they actually tell us? They give us the name, age, education and extracurricular activities of an individual. 

Interesting at best, and detrimental to decision-making at worst. 

CV biases (chart)


CVs trigger a cascade of different unconscious biases. 

Research has shown that the CVs of those with white, male names receive far more call-backs than those with female, ethic minority ones. 

CVs needed to recieve a callback (chart)

But I would bet you £50 that you’re not surprised by this. 

Because we all know how common this discrimination is. 

Your manager knows. Your CEO knows. The leadership team know. 

So why would ANY organisation leave names on their applicants’ CVs? 

Every single company can use anonymized hiring software to subvert common discrimination opportunties from CVs, including: 

  • A photo of the applicant 
  • Their current addresses
  • Their name 
  • Date of birth

What will you be left with? It turns out, a much higher-quality pool of applicants. 

Companies got 3x the number of offer-worthy candidates using the Applied Method. 

The truth is: even in a perfect world void of unconscious biases (where CVs weren’t actively decreasing the diversity of organisations), they still fail. 

A CV simply isn’t predictive of how someone will perform in a job. 

Cut them out of the process and move on to something that DOES. 

Use Work Samples

Work samples are the most predictive talent assessment tool you can use. 

It’s a radically simple idea: base a candidate’s merit on their ability to do the job they’re applying for. 

A CV or set of abstract psychometric tests can’t give you this info, but work samples can.

Predictive valdity of assessment methods (chart)

These are short prompts that let you look at how a candidate would actually perform in the role. What could be more predictive than that? 

Here’s an example of a work sample question: 

Example work sample question

By seeing how a candidate approaches a problem (that’s actually related to the role) and how they explain their process, you’ll have a good understanding of how they’ll perform on the job. 

Candidates complete this step before the interview stages. Qualified candidates won’t be scared away because the prompts are to the point; in fact, they might actually enjoy it (our software developers certainly did). 

Making the right hiring decision starts with knowing that someone is actually qualified, and work samples give you the answer before you ever even interview them. 

The Applied Methods makes this process even more effective by anonymising the answers that candidates submit. 

This means that if an applicant scores badly on one particular question, it won’t affect your perception of them going forward (a perfect example of confirmation bias). 

After you’ve flipped through all of your qualified and eager job candidates, it’s time to enter the final stage of an effective hiring process: the structured interview. 

Structured interviews

Now the business end of proceedings: the interviews. Meeting a stranger in person, whether for an interview or otherwise, is an event wrought with bias. 

Without us even knowing, our minds seek the smallest of cues about them in order to create a fuller picture. 

How they speak, how they hold themselves, and even how attractive they are all come into the picture, influencing our overall perception of them.

This isn’t our fault – it’s just how we’ve evolved. It does, however, have some serious negative consequences for recruitment. Blinkered by our unconscious biases, we’re at risk of making a hash of our hiring. 

To avoid this from happening, you must use a structured interview.

Unlike the 180-degree turn that CVs have to make in order to be effective, this change is minor. 

This is simply an interview that follows a predetermined set of questions aimed at probing the skills of the candidate. 

That means…

  • No chit-chat about where they went to university 
  • No bantering about last week’s football 
  • No comments about the obscure fun facts on their CVs (which we’ve effectively shredded, thank goodness) 

Seemingly inconsequential chit-chat is a radical distraction in the interview setting. 

Just a simple series of task-based questions that are designed to uncover an applicant’s ability. 

How does this help? 

It keeps you on the straight-and-narrow, minimising the space for your unconscious bias to distract you.
Review template

Even better (in fact, highly recommended), is having the interview conducted by three people – not only does this help to further reduce any judgments made on irrelevant aspects of a candidate, but it also gives interviewers an oversight on how they appraise the skills of candidates. 

Need any more convincing? Google uses structured interviews as part of its recruitment process. Done. 

Because everyone who works at Google must be super smart, right?? (alarm bells: halo bias) 

Google is a tech company with more than 150,000 full-time employees. You can bet your paycheck they use data to help save money and avoid bad hiring decisions. 

You should be more like Google. 

Final Thoughts

Worried about how to make a tough hiring decision?

Let science choose your best candidate. 

Not gut feelings. 

Not a sense of someone’s ability to fit into the team. 

Traditional ways of recruiting just don’t cut the mustard anymore (if they ever did, in fact). 

They lead to a lacklustre homogeneous workforce with a dearth of capability. 

Decision-making in recruitment and selection is straightforward. 

Let us show you a better hiring decision process. If you want to grow your company in a meaningful way, swap out the CV and bias-ridden bants for job-related tasks and structured interviews. 

Applied created a data-centric recruitment platform, enabling companies of all sizes to hire the best people regardless of arbitrary aspects like where they’re from, who they know, or how they look.

Applied is the essential platform for fairer hiring. Purpose-built to make hiring ethical and predictive, our platform uses anonymised applications and skills-based assessments to improve diversity and identify the best talent.Start transforming your hiring now: book in a demo or browse our ready-to-use, science-backed talent assessments.