Business Sense: Using Your Intuition in Hiring


Interviewing and hiring is one of the most important decisions you make in your business. And most business owners and managers that I know have stories where they look back and realize they overrode their intuition when making a hire, either through the urgency of needing someone immediately, or sometimes putting too much stock in a resume or a key staff member's opinion.

As Tony Hsieh of Zappos says“One bad hire can lead to a domino effect of more bad hires and decisions costing a company millions.” And he even estimates that this has cost Zappos over $100 million in losses over time.

Hiring has always been a mixture of art and science. The science part is being able to analyze someone’s CV, their experiences, background checks and skillsets, in order to predict their future performance.

The art of hiring is that while someone might look great on paper, our ‘gut’ or intuitive intelligence might be revealing other signals. So how do we account for who looks great ‘on paper’ and our inner compass that gets a feel for cultural and values fit that is even more important for long-term success?

One way that Zappos overtly measures this is by having two sets of interviews. One set is the standard type of interview, such as relevant skills and experience. The second set of interviews is purely based on cultural fit where they might meet other members of the team in formal or casual settings to get a feel for team chemistry.

The importance of the second set of interviews can’t be underscored enough, as team chemistry and collaboration are the lynchpin of team success. According to the 2016 Gallup Poll, with employee engagement usually hovering around 32%, the value of team engagement and culture is not being addressed in a way that motivates staff to bring their passion and motivation to work every day.

In fact, I have a business that I coach that brings in the whole department or even outside staff to the second interview of a candidate in a casual, fun setting to see how this new prospect gets along with the current culture. They might be playing billiards, drinking a beer, going to a local sporting event, and getting to know each other in a way that breaks the conventional mold.

All candidates are trying to sell their best selves to you and it’s so critical to go beyond the presentation to see what people are really about. Changing the scenery away from the office can help shake the formalities up. Yet the art of training managers to listen to and trust their intuition is the key component that is often not taught in the hiring process.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series that goes deeper into this very question: How do you teach your managers and staff to listen to and trust their intuition in the hiring process? And how to make sure it’s a true hiring instinct you are listening to versus outdated conditioning or prejudice that may be getting in the way?