How to Use Neuroscience to Hire the Best Job Candidates

At the end of the day, you can only tell so much from someone’s credentials. You need to understand how the person thinks—and how you think. Surprisingly enough, neuroscience can be a great help in that regard. After all, the more we know about and understand the human brain, the better equipped we will be to optimize our talent acquisition process.


Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

Presumably, you want to hire the best and brightest for your business—people who will help your business rise to new heights and professionals who will both embrace and enhance your company culture.
There’s just one problem: You’re not really sure how to find them.
I will be frank. Most modern hiring processes are objectively terrible. That’s made worse by the fact that there really isn’t one single reason for our current state of affairs.
Slapdash questionnaires offer little in the way of value, wasting both the candidate’s time and the interviewer’s time. Interviewers are far too focused on qualifications and far too prone to their inherent biases.
There’s a better way, and it starts with an understanding of neuroscience.
That makes a strange amount of sense if you stop and think about it. At the end of the day, talent acquisition is about people. The more you understand the human brain, the better you’ll be at figuring out who would be a perfect fit for your organization.
But how exactly can you apply neuroscience to the hiring process?

Use Automation Sparingly (and Intelligently)

As we move into the era of artificial intelligence, plenty of gung ho recruiters are looking to automate their talent acquisition process. That’s great. Technology can be a great way to make things more streamlined.
The problem is that in most cases, these recruiters don’t know what they’re doing. They want to completely replace the hiring process with an automated system. In so doing, they create a list of arbitrary questions and requirements that eliminate a large swathe of otherwise promising candidates.
And jobseekers, for their part, are fed up with it, with 82% expressing frustration with how automated the hiring process has become.
There are several problems here. First, the questionnaires often featured in automated recruiting have been created with human biases and have a focus that’s either too narrow or too broad. Moreover, these questionnaires rely on self-assessment—if someone knows what an interviewer is looking for, it’s incredibly easy to fake answers.
We’ll talk more about that in a moment.
The second is that recruitment professionals are leaning too heavily on technology. Yes, candidate-matching software is invaluable. Yes, automated recruitment and elimination can significantly streamline talent acquisition.
But if all this technology is not tempered by a human touch and human interaction, it’s useless.
Don’t forget that at the end of the day, hiring is all about people. It’s about understanding how they think and feel. More importantly, it’s about structuring your talent acquisition efforts to be focused on who you’re looking for, not what.

Understand that Qualifications Are a (Small) Part of the Picture

At the end of the day, every single candidate who makes it to the final stages of your hiring process will possess more or less the same qualifications. In theory, that’s why we interview job candidates—to determine whether they’ll be a good fit for our business.
Unfortunately, interviews don’t give us a full picture of who each candidate is. They’re both highly fallible and subject to human bias to a great extent. Neuroscience provides us with an alternative.
According to talent acquisition expert and neuroscience specialist Jan Hills, you can gain a much better understanding of who a candidate is by watching how he or she interacts with other employees. Rather than seating him or her across an interview table, instead create an environment that allows the candidate to experience life in your office. You can still sit him or her down for a chat if you must.
Just know that you’re not going to get a complete picture of that candidate.
On that note, I’d also advise modifying the earlier stages of your hiring process to be more focused on the traits and personal qualities that can help someone succeed in your organization. Education, qualifications, and skills are still important, of course.
But they shouldn’t be the only things you focus on.

Throw Quizzes and Questionnaires Out the Window

As I’ve already mentioned, questionnaires are imperfect at best. They rely largely on self-evaluation, a skill that some people lack (and that others are very good at faking). I’d advise doing away with candidate quizzes altogether.
Instead, have prospective hires play a few games. There are plenty of neuroscience-based talent acquisition specialists entering the market of late, such as New York-based Pymetrics or mobile job-matching app Mercer Match. The tests they’ve created evaluate many of the same traits that questionnaires look to identify.
The difference is that it’s extremely difficult (if not impossible) to fake your way through them.
Figure out which qualities or traits are non-negotiable in a new hire, then select tests that are related to those traits. Have your top employees take each of those tests, and record their scores. That’ll give you a baseline for what you should be looking for.

Hire Smarter

The hiring process can be intimidating, frustrating, and tedious for both employees and employers. But it doesn’t have to be. With a grasp of basic neuroscience and the right tools, you can make things more streamlined on both ends. More importantly, you can ensure that whoever you do eventually hire is a perfect fit in both skills and personality.

Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom T-shirts.

Learn more about using Neuroscience in the recruiting process when you attend the Hot Topic Power Talk, “Behavioral Economics: Using Neuroscience for Smart Incentive- and Recognition-Based Program Design,” at TalentCon 2019 on March 12—13, 2019, in San Antonio, Texas. Click here to learn more or to register today!