A team of researchers sought to answer that question in a recent study, in which they proposed a test for assessing whether companies should rely on hard metrics such as job test scores or grant managers discretion in making hiring decisions.
For fans of the human element in hiring, the outcome was not good.
“[The study] definitely suggests that more decision-making powers should be given to the machine relative to the humans,” University of Toronto professor and report co-author Mitchell Hoffman told the Washington Post.
Hoffman and colleagues obtained a dataset consisting of 300,000 hires at 15 companies that use job tests for low-skilled positions such as call-center workers and standardized test graders, according to the Post. The authors measured how hires were initially assessed, whether a hiring manager overruled a low test score in order to bring someone aboard, and how workers performed later in their jobs. Testing not only improved job tenure by 15 percent, but introducing human intervention to the hiring process was also associated with “significantly worse results,” the Post noted.
And, while workers chosen for their performance on the computer test didn’t wind up being much more productive than those brought in by a hiring manager, they weren’t less productive either. This finding suggests that “recruiters weren’t even making a worthwhile trade-off between a worker’s effectiveness and longevity in the job,” the Post’s Lydia DePillis writes.
Computer-based tests that help foretell a would-be employee’s performance are certainly not a new phenomenon, and, as DePillis points out, such assessments are “getting better and better at being able to predict someone’s suitability for a given job.”
Given this reality, she asks, “Why do HR people still think they know better?”
DePillis asked that question of Julie Moreland, senior vice president of strategy and people science at PeopleMatter, a Charleston, S.C.-based workforce management software provider.
In Moreland’s estimation, “about a third” of hiring managers don’t put enough emphasis on the results of this type of assessment.
Part of what PeopleMatter does, of course, is develop job tests and offer software designed to “make it easy to see who your best-fit hires are,” according to the company’s website. So you could argue that Moreland is supposed to say that HR departments should be leaning more on technology to make good hires.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s off-base. And she also offered up an explanation for what may be happening when hiring managers’ instincts steer them wrong.
“From a human perspective, we like people who are like us,” Moreland told the Post. “They’re not thinking about the job, they’re thinking ‘I can work with this person, I relate to them.’ It skews their logic. Anybody that says they do not have bias in their interview is not being real.”
There’s some truth in that statement. And, while there’s still plenty of room in the hiring process for old-fashioned intuition, it’s certainly fair to say that fancy algorithms and sophisticated computer machines can help make the job easier.
“What true [HR professionals] realize is they’ve taken something and made [hiring] more efficient,” said Moreland, “and therefore they can spend more of their time on strategy rather than interviewing.”