Is there a ‘moment of truth’ in hiring?


The decision to hire or not hire someone is a crucial one as it directly or indirectly impacts not only business performance but also the workplace dynamics. While the hiring process is now backed by a lot of reliable data and analysis, human judgement and intuition still play a significant role in making the final decision.

Have the interviewers or recruiters ever had to wonder whether their intuitions or judgements  with regard to the candidates  will really stand true in the real scenario? What is the real moment of truth in the hiring process? How does it impact the hirer’s decision or how does one deal with it?

Rajesh Padmanabhan, director, group CHRO, Welspun Group

The hiring process over many years has been consistent on assessing the candidature vis-a-vis the role. The candidate is put through to a few hiring decision makers and run over a process to normalise the decision. It is seen through different lenses so that the overall decision is balanced.

The whole process is about looking at what the candidate brings to the table in terms of skills, experiences, ability to deal with situations, leadership style, learning agility, soft skills, and so on. Post this, hiring managers visualise the prospect in the proposed role and then invariably back it with the intuition about the candidate succeeding or failing. In doing this, the hirer has to wear the overall lens of the organisational culture and the probability of the prospect fitting in. The need of filling in the role plays a big part too in rushing through with the decision. In all of this, what invariably stands out would be fulfilment time and finding the so called ‘right talent’.

The moment of truth is “no one hires anyone”. Let me explain this. The candidates remain candidates and perform a road show of displaying their fit with the role. There are likely clear oversold positions the candidates may make, which need to be discounted by the hirers. Invariably, the decision to hire is made in the mind from the 10th minute to the 20th.

Subsequently, it is just a validation of that assumption which is carried out. Actually, the hirers  are backing themelves with the decision made and not actually backing the candidature. The plain truth is, it is a tick in the mind that happens at some stage of the process. Once that decision is made, the hirers go through the full haul of formalities, making the candidate successful or otherwise. So the real truth is that the hirers are backing themselves with the decision.  

The prospects evaluate the role on three counts, namely learning, growth and experience.

The anxiety to make an impression that they are the right fit plays heavily—even more than the outcome. Together, the experience of a good meaningful conversation where both hold the mirror truthfully is the ultimate moment of truth.

Vaijayanti Naik, head – HR, ICICI Securities

Hiring decisions are based on both available data and evidence, as well as on intuition and judgement. As far as data is concerned, recruiters look at candidates’ track records, domain expertise and external relationships built over time. When hiring at senior levels, organisations validate the references as well.

But besides that, talent-acquisition professionals also need to look at the organisational cultural fit. This is because performance cannot be ported from one company to another easily. One’s performance is impacted by organisational culture, and hence, it is important to look at the softer aspects of one’s personality traits to find the best culture fit—Who can succeed in that specific organisational setup.

At ICICI Securities, we want people to succeed, and hence, we have designed a structured process to help us take the right decision and eliminate biases in recruiting. This process is structured around key competencies required from the incumbent. Multiple levels of interviews give us different points of view on the candidate within the hiring framework .This increases our confidence in the hiring decisions.

Makarand Khatavkar, group head – human resources, Kotak Mahindra Bank

The level at which a company is looking at hiring a candidate is crucial in defining the moment of truth. At the junior levels, an employment decision is predominantly based on the skills a candidate possesses, while culture fit plays a secondary role. For middle-level hires, the importance of culture fit increases with some of the skills considered including soft skills and team-management abilities.

However, it is at the senior- level hiring, that the real moment of truth has to be confronted. At the senior levels, it is more challenging to hire as cultural assimilation and chemistry between the person and company culture and top management is of utmost importance. At times, while senior hires may tick all the right boxes in terms of competence, things may still not work out. The flaws in such cases are quite often either in the chemistry between the top management and the professional or in the cultural fit with the organisation.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to such challenges, I believe that having a number of interviewers or key people across the organisation, who can assess the candidate not only on skills but on culture fit and chemistry, can lead to better hires. Having that rigour in hiring is very important.

Another aspect that’s mostly overlooked in hiring is – the skills of the interviewer. For instance, an interviewer who is only focussed on the candidates’ past achievements may not make the best decisions. Hence, asking the right questions and assessing the all-round fit of the candidate is crucial.

Lastly and most importantly, it truly has to be a consensus-based decision for it to be the best. As there is nothing such as a perfect or a 100 per cent fit, the skill or the art of a recruiter is in determining the level of fit and the existing gap, and whether it is possible to live with that gap. Since hiring involves a lot of human judgement and subjectivity, there is an X factor that’s intuition-based and the trick is to keep the X factor or the uncertainty to a minimal level.

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