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Are You Hiring Blind or with Blinders? Know the Difference

by Joseph Murphy

Rachel Feintzeig’s recent WSJ article “Why Bosses Are Turning to ‘Blind Hiring’” raises some interesting points yet misses the mark on many others. She describes how a handful of companies are “trying to judge potential hires by their abilities, not their resumes.”

However, work-sample-based hiring is already in broad use. Shaker’s Virtual Job Tryout technology relies on capturing work sample data to screen millions of client candidates each year. Feintzeig also highlights some companies use a practice of stripping resumes of information like names and alma maters to ensure recruiters and hiring managers are evaluating candidates’ work and not being influenced by other factors. But instead of debating methods for how best to rely on resumes to put candidates into Yes, Maybe, and No piles, we should be focus on how work samples are indeed a stronger predictor of job performance. And being able to collect them in a time-efficient, objective, and fair manner is essential to making successful hires.

A Question of Effort

Feintzeig cites two examples of companies asking candidates for a work sample.

  • One scenario required a candidate to spend four to six hours performing a task similar to what they might do on the job, such as writing a blog post. 
  • The other example described how job candidates were instructed to create an Instagram marketing campaign, where the selected candidate—who had neither studied nor worked in marketing—invested 12 to 16 hours to create the winning strategy. 

In contrast, let’s look at the findings from the 130,000 candidates who participated in the Talent Board’s 2015 Candidate Experience Awards Survey. This program uses corporate and candidate survey data to improve the recruiting process. According to the 2015 survey, candidates are not willing to invest hours in the application process. The sweet spot for time to apply was 15 to 60 minutes. Less than 15 minutes and candidates did not feel they were able to adequately demonstrate their abilities. Taking more than 60 minutes to complete an application has a negative effect on the candidate experience. Spending several hours on a task, as Feintzeig cites, may be making unrealistic demands on the candidate. Employers need more effective and more time-efficient methods to collect work samples. Simulated tasks delivered online can capture robust and reliable work samples in minutes.

Blind vs Blinders

Resume data are subjective, unstructured, and random. Blind or otherwise, very little on a resume allows for objective comparison of candidates (see my white paper). Comparing the same work samples from multiple candidates better demonstrates and emphasizes the differences in candidate’s abilities. It’s not hiring blind, it’s hiring with blinders. Blinders are used on horses to minimize distractions and keep their eyes on the road ahead. An exceptional recruiter experience presents candidate data in a manner that minimizes or removes bias triggers. An objective, fair, and job-relevant work sample focuses the act of candidate evaluation on the road ahead. Candidates get to demonstrate their skills, but perhaps not their work style. In this way, as valuable as they are, work samples still only tell part of the story.

Fit: Fun, Fair, Factual

“We were hiring people who were fun to talk to... but were often a poor fit for the job", Feintzeig quotes a CEO, illustrating the perils of relying on factors that might be compelling about a candidate, but ultimately are not meaningful to their overall suitability for a particular position. Blinders are useful for masking details or characteristics about candidates that may be distractions. Work samples at the front end of the candidate experience help to fairly and consistently identify best-fit candidates with factual, objective, and job-relevant data. But the candidate evaluation should also include an examination of culture fit. And culture fit requires a different type of evaluation experience, such as having to handle simulated coworker interactions. To accurately examine job fit, the evaluation experience should mirror the full complexity of the job and dynamics of the company culture.

Collecting work-sample data from applicant populations can also create an exceptionally valuable source of internal, job-specific big data. Predictive modeling can use work sample and culture-fit data with on-the-job performance metrics to calibrate candidate results to the likelihood of on-the-job success. As a result, recruiters can objectively rank applicants based upon potential to perform and fit the culture. Recruiters and hiring managers can therefore spend more time with candidates who are both fun and functionally equipped to perform. This is not hiring blind, but hiring with blinders—to focus on the right information and not be distracted by hazardous or misleading cues. It’s hiring with deep, meaningful insights.

What’s in Your Candidate Experience?

Candidates want an opportunity to perform. Recruiters need objective and job-relevant candidate data. Don’t hire blind. We can help. Request a demo. You may be amazed by what you see.

Looking for More?

For more information about talent analytics, read my white paper Is Your Assessment Working?.
Find about more about The Talent Board.