How to make instinct your greatest asset

15 March 2019

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Ever wondered, as you were agonising over the finishing touches to your CV and covering letter for that ideal job you’ve coveted since you were 18, if it was all worth the effort?

We’ve all been there - talking up our qualifications and experience, trying to make ourselves look more rounded and cerebral, discovering a sudden aptitude for single-figure handicap golf and a fondness for opera.

Should we leave out our exam grades and mention only the subjects we took – and failed - fudge our age or try to make our current role sound more impressive than it is?

We can become so hidebound with trying to perfect every of inch or our applications, right down to the placing of each comma, that our true worth risks being overlooked.

How many of us have found that the harder we try and the more effort we put in, the worse a job interview seems to go? And yet, when we’d all but given up hope and aren't really trying, is the one occasion when we're offered the job? 

A new report suggests the key to a great interview is not necessarily perfecting your CV, researching the company to destruction or even being the best qualified for the job.

Most business leaders admit that, when it comes to recruiting, personal chemistry with a candidate is often what swings their decision.

Some 95% said intuition was “very important” in hiring and promoting staff and that it should be used to improve the diversity of shortlists.

Research by Signium, an executive search and leadership consultancy, found that softer skills, defined as “the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning”, were more important than traditional methods like psychometric testing and data-driven competency frameworks.

Its report said companies often pick the wrong people because they exclude candidates who may be more able or qualified but who don’t come from a white, older and male demographic, favoured by traditional recruitment methods.

Those well-tried-and-tested methods could be lagging because their trust in intuitive thinking is lower. Only 55% of human resources (HR) decision makers said intuition was important when looking to hire or promote someone, according to the study.

More than 300 directors and senior decision makers were interviewed for the study along with a similar number of HR decision makers.

It found that using intuition in hiring and promotion judgments was important in 82% of large organisations, versus 62% of smaller employers.

Respondents in the healthcare, education and construction and engineering sectors said intuitive thinking was important to their business. Only half of those in the legal sector said it was very important.

One business leader said it was often better to make a ‘leap-of-faith’ when seeking to embrace ‘radical change’. Others said it was useful when deciding who to hire between two equally qualified people and discerning whether staff are engaged in their work.

Intuitive decision making when recruiting will lead to more diverse shortlists and challenged existing assumptions, said the report.

“White male extroverts will always put their hands up and say they can do a job, despite not always being a clear fit. But other candidates which would bring diversity often say they aren’t qualified enough and will not put themselves forward because they are more introvert and lack confidence in their competency fit.”

It added: “This is why current recruitment methods don’t work – they play to the white, male, older personality types and as a result we fail to deliver a truly broad and diverse shortlist of candidates.

“We need to use intuitive thinking that links to cultural fit and company values, and it needs to be done up front, not at the last minute when you meet the candidate.”

The next time you’re sweating over your CV it’s worth bearing in mind that trusting in yourself and the force of your personality could ultimately be more persuasive in landing a job than trying to be something you’re not.

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