How do you find the right talent? Written by Katrin Homer

11th July 2017

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In my second blog post on talent, I’d like to explore the all important question – How do you find the right talent?

As in my first article I will be using Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s brilliant ‘The Talent Delusion‘ with its vast amount of data and evidence as my point of reference.

Having been involved in talent identification I know how baffling it can be to find so many different ways of approaching it. I know a hiring manager in financial services who does at least three rounds of interviews with candidates that get past the first interview so that she can test them with different panels of interviewers as well as put them through some real-life scenarios.

Another colleague relies on ‘one stop’ interviews, basically aiming to find the right candidate through one interview only. Other contacts (in pharma and banking) mention the frequent use of assessment centres and psychometric testing as the norm, together with the use of structured or unstructured interviews.

It seems there are lots of different strategies and opinions on what works best. However one point everybody I know agrees on is this: If you get talent recruitment wrong, it can be very costly! Depending on where you look (CIPD, HR Review and The Telegraph), amounts to replace a staff member vary from £6k to £30k.

So what does Chamorro-Premuzic have to say on this topic? How do you find that RAW talent, namely those that are Rewarding to deal with and that are Able and Willing to do the job?

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Job interviews

Job interviews are the most widely used talent identification method, regardless of job, size or type of organisation. Since interviews are such a popular choice, there is also plenty of meta data on the accuracy of interviews to predict work performance.

And this is where it gets really interesting: these studies show ‘that structured interviews are very useful to predict future job performance’, whereas unstructured interviews (which don’t have a set of predefined rules for scoring or classifying answers and observations in a reliable and standardised way) ‘are considerably less accurate’.

This point certainly made me think. I’ve been on the panel of plenty of unstructured interviews which were the sole basis for talent identification decisions. Were they always the right ones, I wonder?

Furthermore, it turns out, unstructured interviews increase the probability of biased judgements, inferences based on race, gender, age, disabilities etc which are not relevant the job.

Research also suggests that initial impressions such as a handshake influence interviewers’ decisions. Again, I can certainly put my hand up here: I admit, on occasions, to having been influenced not just by a handshake, but also by what a person wore, how much make-up they had on, and what kind of laptop they brought along for their presentation!

Assessment centres

To put it simply: Chamorro-Premuzic says assessment centres (where you can demonstrate a wider range of skills than you would have been able to during a face-to-face interview) are the best:

If time and money aren’t issues, assessment centres are hard to beat as talent identification method. It is as simple as saying that if you want to work out whether someone will be good at a given job then you can just make him do that job and see.

Interestingly, job applicants also tend to regard assessment centres as fairer than any of the other methods.

IQ tests, personality assessments and other methods

The author presents a number of other methods to identify talent which are often used in conjunction with interviews and assessment centres.

IQ tests evaluate how quickly people learn and how well they respond to training. Many studies have shown that IQ tests predict both job and training performance.

Chamorro-Premuzic emphasizes that few organisations take IQ scores into account when building teams, ‘yet there is arguably no better predictor of effective team performance than the average intelligence of a team.’

People work better with others when they have similar levels of intelligence (whether they are high, average or low).

He also points out various problems with IQ tests, one of them being that they often have a negative impact on some demographic groups, especially poorer and less educated people. ‘Recent research shows that children from less privileged backgrounds already perform worse on IQ tests at the age of two, and that these small initial differences are accentuated dramatically by the time they are sixteen.’ Which is ironic given that IQ tests were invented to increase meritocracy, rather than augment inequality.

One fascinating point he explores when discussing personality assessments is the notion of impression management (defined as any deliberate attempt to generate a positive image). He says:

Traditionally, psychologists viewed all impression management as a nuisance or distortion of the talent components different assessment methods are trying to gauge. However, since most jobs involve dealing with people and in all those instances it is important that one creates a favourable impression (…), impression management is a job-relevant skill and a relevant signal rather than ‘noise’.

One other method which grabbed my attention is the 360 assessment as an internal recruitment tool. Personally, I’ve only ever experienced 360s as a leadership development tool but there is no reason at all not to use it for promotions inside an organisation. There is arguably no better way to get a comprehensive view of someone’s performance and reputation at work – especially when jobs are complex or when they involve dealing with a large number of employees.

What Chamorro-Premuzic demonstrates in chapter three of his book is that whichever talent identification methods you and your organisation have used so far, it’s always a good idea to reassess them to see whether you’re getting the best talent from them. If not, then the author gives you a head-start by providing you with a comprehensive set of methods. In my view, certainly a must-read this summer for anybody involved in hiring and recruiting talent!

As always, if you’d like to discuss this topic further, please do get in touch!

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