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Can software make better hiring decisions than people?

Salman Ralf, VP of HCM in EMEA at Infor looks at whether software can make better hiring decisions than people

August 6 2014 - A new breed of software claims to be able to select employees who perform better. Based on behavioural research, the software means that in the long run people may no longer be needed in the selection process in order to assess whether a candidate is the best fit for a given role or job. But how realistic is this shift? And will software ever replace human selection?

The problem with people...

It can be incredibly hard to find the right employees for a company experiencing growth. Despite the best intentions and undoubted expertise of management and HR departments, processes are rarely perfect, and mistakes still happen.

Testament to this is that approximately 40% of new employees leave their respective companies within just a year, typically because they did not live up to expectations, or the job was not what they thought it was. The net result of these high levels of staff churn is that it soon becomes very expensive and resource-intensive. Momentum is lost and education and training resources are wasted. Hiring the wrong person can cost a company thousands in wages, lost productivity, severance packages and re-recruitment costs. In addition, in some cases, putting the wrong employee in the wrong position can cause huge brand and reputation damage.

So why is churn typically so high? Traditionally organisations have worked methodically to identify the discrepancy between the demands of the job and the abilities of the person - usually with the implicit assumption that the person has failed in the role. But new research shows that when things go wrong, the cause may be the difference between the employee and the company's personality and values - a falling out, rather than a failure.

In an attempt to understand this further, research fromthe University of Michigan's School of Business has shown that writtentestsare four timesmore accuratethaninterviews. Interestingly, the project showed that this is because in a written interview most people are not able to identify the type of person interviewing them and as a result, divulge more honest and objective responses. In contrast, in a face to face scenario, interviewees attachtheir own values to an interviewee figure and respond in a biased way.

The software solution?

Research from Infor People Answers has found that there are other, consistent behavioural patterns that can help avoid errors in recruitment. The key is to identify shared character traits and behaviours of the interviewee and the company. This enables the company to identify candidates that will not only match the job but also the company's culture and needs.

Of course this does not mean that all employees will be the same personality type in all areas,but that each division or team finds the key behavioural factors that are essential for the specific alignment of their part of the business.

If proof of this concept were needed, there are a number of examples of how retention is improved substantially through adopting this approach. Retail companies like Neiman-Marcus, Savers, and Gold's Gym announced that they have reduced the number of early dismissals by more than 40% and can retain 35% more employees using behavioural based systems. (source: www.peopleanswers.com)

The best of both worlds

So will software ever totally replace human insight? Do we face a future of computers assessing and controlling our entire career? Of course not - not in our lifetimes at least. But the progress towards aligning behaviours and attitudes between employees and organisations can no longer be left to a gut instinct, or the idea that someone 'has a face that fits'. Software will enable this part of the recruitment process to be made tangible and transferable, creating real value and boosting the kinds of retention levels needed for businesses to thrive.


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