So you want to eliminate the human dimension from selection decisions.......It’s tricky

January 3, 2019 at 12:32 PM

The psychometric industry continues to develop tools and techniques aimed at taking bias out of selection processes and decisions.  This means, where possible, neutralizing the error-prone human dimensions around hiring people. In principle, objective, non-leading, job-related questions/simulations/questions and/or tests are presented directly or on-line to every candidate in exactly the same manner with their responses rated objectively. Presumably, the holy grail of hiring decisions without ever meeting the successful candidate won’t be far behind.

While the push to develop more reliable and effective objective tools accelerates, research continues into how to optimize rather than eliminate the human dimension in selection processes. A study by Chen et al points out that as long as interviewers are part of selection processes, candidates will try to read their emotions, cues and responses to determine how, and how much, to respond. The study suggests that this interplay is not an insignificant variable and that interviewers who recognize and leverage it, stimulate far richer responses from candidates by which to make better decisions. For example, an interviewer who expresses (or feigns) interest during an interview, and in the candidates’ responses, generates more positive impressions from the candidates who in turn behave in a more receptive manner.  In other words, they are likely to say more. They recommend prompts such as ‘tell me more’ as well as responses such as ‘isn’t that interesting’ in order to elicit fuller responses.

Such research suggests that the coveted clinical interview which asks each and every candidate the same questions, in the same manner, in the same setting, with the same interviewer will elicit richer, better or minimally altered data from some candidates if that interviewer smiles and nods.

About the Author

Robert Hebert is the founder and Managing Partner of StoneWood Group Inc., a leading executive search firm in Canada. Since 1981, he has helped firms across a wide range of sectors address their senior recruiting, assessment and leadership development requirements. 

Contact Robert by email at or call (1) 416-365-9494 Ext. 777