The Psychology of Recruitment

The Psychology of Recruitment

 16 Nov 2018

I have just finished watching Mindhunters on Netflix, if you haven’t seen it, is an awesome series that focuses on the psychology of Serial Killers in the US. Now, I’m obviously not wanting to compare Recruiters to Serial Killers but this got me thinking about the psychology of recruitment…from a candidate, recruiter and client perspective. When it boils down to it recruitment is ALL about psychology, right from the moment a job vacancy arises through to the candidate starting and being retained, psychology impacts every step:
  • Writing the job spec – the hiring manager or HR put their own (mostly subconscious) slant/bias on what they are looking for in the role. If recruitment is stripped to its core – matching the right person, to the right job and organisation – then it’s essential to remember that this process starts from the time the job specification is drawn up and the message is being communicated to candidates. While a full job specification will detail the role and responsibilities required from an individual, the true element of psychology comes into play when you understand the brief behind the role – what kind of character and personality is an employer looking for?
  • The CV – Hiring managers are notoriously risk-averse, and most will therefore will make decisions on what they SEE on the cv rather than making assumptions about a candidate’s experience. But recruitment goes way beyond what’s written down on a piece of A4 paper – after all, there’s only so much that you can fit on it and it’s incredibly hard to sum up one’s career on two pages of A4. If applicants were required to elaborate on everything that they had learnt and achieved throughout their career, when a CV is requested, they would be handing over a short novel – a time-consuming exercise for both the applicant to pull together and the recruiter to go through! A CV also leaves room for assumptions to be drawn about what a candidate can, or cannot, do by what is mentioned, or (more importantly) not mentioned, on someone’s CV. As a recruiter, you have to delve deeper to ascertain what a candidate has deemed worthy enough of making it on to the CV and what has been left off. Looking at the person behind the CV, the science behind their personality, and analysing the role in the organisation, you will gain a greater understanding of whether they are the right fit or not.
  • The recruiter screening – Recruiters need to understand what type of individual and character will best suit the company, the team, the manager and the initial challenge that the candidate will face. If this is not carried out, then a recruiter is simply keyword matching from an individual’s CV to a job description. It can be all too easy for recruiters to use the technological tools available to them to match keywords in a CV to a job specification – where’s the art of recruitment in that? Getting candidates to open up beyond their educational and career achievements can be challenging. However, asking them why they are looking for a new opportunity enables a deeper understanding to be gained. Looking beyond their current job role, exploring what they are looking for, and what they would like to gain from a position, career and manager can unearth valuable information.
  • The Client Interview – Psychology plays a big part in the interview process and psychologists have done a lot of analysis in this space. The below points are key:
    • First impressions count – don’t make a negative impact as you walk in the door!​
    • Find a common interest - Psychologists call this the Affinity effect – find something you both enjoy talking about!
    • Tell a Story – take the interviewer on a journey of your life!
    • Be self-aware – don’t show off!
    • Last impressions count – leave the interviewer with a positive feeling, don’t forget to smile!​

  • The Offer – Psychology plays a key role in the negotiation of the offer, both sides normally keep their cards close to their chests but there is always some wiggle room on both sides and both sides need to feel they have got a good deal! It always makes sense to listen to what is on offer and be comfortable being honest around your expectations.
So, to sum up, as the recruitment process is ultimately just two human beings deciding whether they are compatible, there are multiple psychological factors that come into play, so it pays to be aware of this and consider the mind-science behind each step.

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