Making Decisions About People



How can we make the best decision possible when choosing whom to hire (or befriend or date or commit ourselves to for one reason or another)? Is there a way to predict a candidate's future behavior or performance on the job? As you may be aware, thousands of companies purport to do exactly this, using a variety of methods from resume keyword matching to background checks to video interviews to assessments to even handwriting analysis—called graphology—to predict a job candidate's future on-the-job success. Graphology has been relatively popular in parts of Europe for many years, despite a lack of research attesting to any stable predictive power. Nevertheless, it would not be unusual to apply for a job in Paris and have your writing quietly analyzed by a graphologist, who may well report that your personality does not fit the requirements of the position. 

But graphology is an exception—and an easy target given its lack of scientific basis. How well do the other more accepted methods like interviews and assessments really predict human behavior? Well enough to know with a high level of certainty what a person will do in the future? Almost certainly not. But well enough to make a difference in your hiring process? Definitely. 

Science has a very difficult time predicting what specific things individuals will do in the future (if you yourself don't know how long you will keep your next job, how can anyone else?). But, by precisely measuring job-relevant competencies using modern assessment technology, we can identify those candidates more or less likely to be successful in a job, and so, in the aggregate, pre-employment prediction tools can have measurable impact and a large return on investment in the hiring process.

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