What's Gut Got to Do With It? A Case for Predictive Hiring

By Plum

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How Optimized Hiring Practices Lead to Better Long-Term Applicant Outcomes


Part Three of Our "Talent and the Future of Work" Series.

Now that we have that song in your head (you’re welcome), we want to ask the talent acquisition professionals reading this: “What’s Gut Got to Do With It?”

Too many hiring practices are rooted in hunches and unreliable gut feelings. Today’s technology makes it possible to systemize hiring around more reliable predictors that speak to an applicant’s potential long-term success in your business — especially their ability to adapt, innovate, and manage change.

Why Skills and Knowledge are Poor Predictors

Most companies assess years of experience, attained education, and (once in the interview stage) subjective impressions of the candidate’s skills, knowledge, and perhaps “cultural fit.” Yet this approach leads to inconsistency in hires, and there’s little accountability down the road regarding whether the person is successful or not.

After all, it’s difficult to gauge how much of a potential asset the candidate may be to your company if you focus exclusively on skills and knowledge. Hiring a salesperson, for example, looking only at the size of their sales region or volume of deals signed in a given year, doesn’t tell you whether or not that individual will be adaptable and show the social skills needed to succeed as your business grows and innovates.

And gauging a candidate's potential based on their skills and knowledge is only going to get harder in the future of work. With jobs emerging such as Augmented Reality Journey Builder, AI-Assisted Healthcare Technician, and Chief Trust Officer, how do you find candidates who have the relevant education and previous work experience?

The world of work is changing at an increasingly rapid pace. Your hires are going to need to demonstrate different abilities than the employees you brought on board just a decade ago. Looking forward it’s likely you’ll be searching for the individuals that:

  • Innovate (recognize opportunities, think creatively)
  • Collaborate (know when to lead and when to support the team)
  • Adapt (open to change and learning new things)
  • Solve problems (can propose new, effective approaches)
  • Observe critically (objectively evaluate situations to identify possible improvements)
  • Resolve conflict (negotiate, stay calm under pressure, keep the team in mind).

At Plum, we call these talents, and they're how we understand and measure human potential. Today, the traditional resume review and bottom-of-the-funnel employee assessments don’t address these attributes.

Truly understanding a candidate’s potential fit into your workplace means forming a well-rounded view. Yet, for reliable results, you can’t base your interpretation of soft skills on your personal feelings alone. Instead, bring predictability into the process by turning your team into one more arm of your organization learning and acting in a data-driven way.

Optimize Hiring Practices for Predictability

Google is a great example of a company that captured people metrics to improve its hiring process and cut down time-to-hire. In 2013, the company set out to crunch all of its hiring, firing, and promotion data since its 1998 incorporation to identify the top seven traits that predict a new hire’s long-term success.

Still, you don’t need to be as well resourced as the search engine giant to make people analytics work for your business. To take a proactive, forward-looking hiring stance, recruiters instead might assess metrics around candidates’:

Still, you need to find the best tools with which to gather this data. While MBTI and DISC assessments may make candidates feel good about themselves, they’re about as predictive of on-the-job success as a “Which Character from Friends Are You?” Buzzfeed quiz.

Using the science of industrial/organizational psychology, it’s possible to assess for cognitive ability, social intelligence, and personality, and to use multi-dimensional results to predict the talent that applicants will show on the job.

Questions asking candidates to identify patterns and relationships can gauge problem solving skills. Situational intelligence items can assess interpersonal competencies. Then, with algorithms powered by artificial intelligence, these results can be combined to estimate how well each applicant’s talents fit with what is required for a given role or job. This allows you to identify top candidates in a reliable, predictable, and data-driven way.

Top performers produce 80% of an organization's output. 


HR professionals are challenged by a need for speed and efficiency. At the same time, they should be hiring not only for the current job opening but with an eye to the individual’s long-term success at the company, and their ability to adapt, innovate, and manage change. Thus, optimizing for predictability has several benefits:

  • Hire more top performers
  • Mitigate risk
  • Transform subjective and biased hiring practices
  • Ability to measure the health of your talent pipeline

By collecting competency ratings, cognitive ability, and personality data, and examining it in relation to outcome data such as job performance and turnover, you can see trends and identify relationships to hire reliably and responsibly.

Want to know more? Next we’ll address AI’s promise for talent acquisition and HR practices.