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Recruitment Psychology

At a November human resources workshop Dr Adrian Low addressed the psychology of hiring and the creation of successful job descriptions.

Scientific methods in psychology, when applied smartly to the recruitment process, can not only be effective in helping to hire the right talent, but also markedly enhance employee retention.

At the “Smart Hiring: Psychology and Job Description Writing Workshop” organised by in partnership with MP HR Community, chartered psychologist Dr Adrian Low shared insights into recruitment psychology. Among the first psychologists to use bio-feedback in a corporate setting to get objective feedback from employees, Dr Low also guided attendees through a practical step-by-step approach to writing job descriptions that would be effective in attracting the most suitable applicants. Held in November, the interactive workshop drew many HR practitioners, who packed a multifunction room at the SCMP Office in Causeway Bay.

At job interviews, apart from listening to the answers from candidates, recruiters need to pay close attention to their body language. “It provides subconscious glimpses of the candidates. Verbal only reveals 10 percent of the person, compared with the 90 percent revealed through body language,” Dr Low said.

Understanding several elements of body language, including cluster, context and congruence, helps recruiters build a more accurate picture of a candidate. Cluster means two or more gestures made in quick succession. Context refers to the environment which may lead to a certain gesture, like crossing one’s arms because of the cold. Congruence means words and gestures are in agreement. For instance, a gesture consistent with the statement “I’m open to your idea” would be the showing of open palms. It indicates openness and honesty.

By means of strategically phrased questions, recruiters are able to identify the personality traits and types of candidates being interviewed. Dr Low said it was vital that HR executives discuss with team leaders hiring new colleagues, prior to the interviews, what traits and types would be ideal. Based on the popular DISC, which stands for ‘dominance, influence, steadiness and compliance’, Dr Low has developed the four Cs, which denotes the business types: ‘commander, cheerer, calculator and collaborator’. “In most cases, a candidate will be a combination of more than one business type,” he added.

Commanders exhibit authority and like being in control. They are competitive big dreamers and result-oriented. They set goals and then take action and they tend to delegate and are willing to take risks. Commanders look at the big picture, and thus are not especially detail-focused. They like to use statistics to explain matters. “To identify a commander at a job interview, the recruiter can ask the candidate to select a solution from among several options and see how quickly the candidate makes the decision. If the candidate makes the decision quickly, he/she is likely to be a commander,” Dr Low said.

Cheerers are passionate about their jobs and they like the excitement and recognition derived from their work. They like being popular among colleagues but are less committed. They enjoy being around people and being the centre of attention. They have a positive attitude and like to influence other people, he noted. “Cheerers tend to talk a lot and are fast decision makers. They add energy and enthusiasm to a team. However, they are not detail-oriented. When they are under pressure, they may not be able to deliver.”

The attributes of calculators include their good problem-solving capability and great attention to detail. They are highly organised — they usually have to-do lists — and are systematic and methodical. It takes time for them to make decisions. “They are perfectionists, logical and focused on evidence. Calculators can communicate with commander types very well because both types like to present facts, supported by statistics and data. They take a step-by-step approach to projects and restructuring processes,” Dr Low said. “Most calculators do not take criticism well. They prefer written communication. They do not share their opinions easily, unless they know the subject matter well. Sometimes, they tend to over-analyse issues. When they encounter difficulties, they will analyse even more and slow down the progress in accomplishing tasks.”

At job interviews, the commanders may ask about the goals and vision of the company, cheerers may focus on the fun and excitement associated with the position, while calculators may enquire about the processes, he added.

Around 70 percent of people will have the personality traits of a collaborator type. Collaborators like to connect with people. They enjoy interaction at the workplace and teamwork: they like to be aware of the strengths of other team members so that they can identify the ways to optimise collaboration. “Collaborators value fairness and justice at work. They do not have much criticism. Because they like stability at work, they tend to resist change. Communication with collaborators is usually one way: you talk and they listen. They like to know how tasks are completed and they agree to others’ decisions easily,” he noted. “When a candidate asks about the stability of a job, he/she is likely to be a collaborator.”

“To engage a happy collaborator, team leaders and colleagues should be patient in answering their questions because collaborators are detail-oriented,” Dr Low continued. “Collaborators want recognition at work. They like seeing the benefits for themselves and others. [When presented with projects without full details] they can connect the dots and see in what ways they can contribute.”

At the interactive workshop, Dr Low took attendees through the “4T Model” designed to successfully create recruitment tools. Each attendee followed the step-by-step approach by completing the worksheet on the Job Description Template for Hiring New Employees. The “4T Model” refers to: choose the right ‘type’; select the ‘traits’; create job description ‘terms’; and develop the interview ‘tools’. The “4T” model not only helps recruiters identify the right candidates, it also helps enhance retention. It is essential for recruiters to include traits sought in the right candidate in the job description. “Based on the ‘4T Model’, recruiters can tailor-make their interview tools,” he said.

In step one, recruiters need to decide to which types the ideal candidates should belong. It can be a combination of two types or more. In step two, they need to select the traits. Around eight traits should be selected for each position for optimum results.

In step three, Dr Low took attendees through the JD template. The job description covers defining the job, type of employment, skills and experience, and performance goals. In step four, recruiters work on the tailor-made questions. If the recruiters are looking for a planner, they set questions to help them with the identification. For instance, they can ask the question “Do you like trying new things that come to you on the spur of the moment, or do you prefer to develop strategies and then implement them step by step?” “If the candidate chooses developing strategies, he/she is likely to be a deliberate planner. Meanwhile, pay attention to the body language. The same question can be asked at different times to see if the candidate’s later answer is consistent with the earlier one,” Dr Low said.