When we’re preparing to hire, it can feel a bit like going into battle.  We create a plan, gather our forces and hopefully move towards a successful outcome.  But like any battle, we can have resounding triumphs and stunning, costly miscalculations (think about having to go back to the drawing board to hire a Director of Finance after a six month period).

So how do we ensure we succeed in the hiring trenches? Here are our hiring tips.

What’s the Connection to Hiring?

Like most of us who are tasked with hiring finance and accounting staff, we assume that we are objective in the process. After all, what could be more black and white than comparing two resumes. And although we may question the truth of some of the ‘facts’ on a resume, we hardly ever question our own objectivity.

Here’s the thing – we think we’re in a place where we can make an objective, calculated and sound decision, but there’s an enemy behind our hiring lines and it’s the psychology of decision making.


  • Situational factors and our lack of knowledge about their effects can sabotage the process
  • We can overvalue positive or negative traits depending on how we frame the decision (i.e.are we selecting a candidate or rejecting a candidate based on a specific trait like designation?  More on this later).
  • We are substantially impacted by how someone presents options to us

So think about it. We believe we understand the hiring process. We have the best of intentions to apply objective criteria to reach a sound decision. Instead, our own psychology is potentially sabotaging the outcome.  That’s something worth understanding because, at the end of the day we need to be able to show success in the form of a great hire.

To a certain extent hiring anyone is a bit of a gamble. We do what we can to mitigate risk, but at the end of it all, the candidate still has to deliver.  What’s most interesting is that we rarely question our own objectivity in the hiring process. We gather resumes, rank candidates, sit down to make our next round of cuts (or selections) and find ourselves re-evaluating our earlier decision. Top candidates move down the list and lower ranked possibilities move up.  We assume that this happened because our decision making process and criteria were honed.

But what if we were wrong? What if this assumption could be the one that sends us back to the finance hiring drawing board 3 months later?

You Have to Know When to Hold ‘Em

When Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman set out to understand decision making, he thought he would approach the kind of people who constantly weighed the odds before taking action – gamblers. What he found surprised him. Even gamblers, who should be well versed in calculation and risk, changed their decisions dramatically based on whether the gambles were framed as losses or gains. It didn’t matter that either choice offered the same objective value, simply by framing them differently, researchers could greatly affect people’s choices.

What Does This Mean to Hiring?

Research has shown that the way options are presented can have a major impact on which option we choose. Of particular importance is framing a decision as ‘choosing’ or ‘rejecting’.  We can overvalue positive traits in the choosing mindset, or overvalue negative traits in the rejecting mindset.


Let us explain.

Consider our resume example from our introduction.  If we are culling resumes in the first round (rejecting) we might bypass a candidate with many positive traits because we are in the mind frame of rejecting. This rejecting point of view causes us to focus on the candidate’s negative traits (not the right number of years of experience, or the lack of a specific technical skill). We might by-pass a candidate who could be exceptional. Of course, that same candidate, if we were in a choosing mind frame, might make the cut because they have the industry experience we’re looking for.  Yikes!

Since GI Joe wisely insisted that “knowing was half the battle” we knew at Clarity Labs there had to be a way that someone involved in a hiring scenario could circumvent this psychological grenade to make better decisions.

Let’s explore the 3 things you can do to take charge of the hiring process and reduce your risk of bringing the wrong candidate on board.

Step 1: Know What You’re Trying to Accomplish

Decide which approach – make the word ‘approach’ a link to Alex’s white paper (choosing or rejecting) you need to use.  For example, are you hiring for a role that is particularly high risk? In that case, you may want a stable performer. Using a rejection strategy in which candidates are “rejected” based on negative criteria may be the preferred approach as it will eliminate candidates with more “at risk” traits.  In contrast, if the role needs someone who can spur growth or challenge the status quo, a selection strategy will favour those with positive traits who support the company’s objectives.

Step 2: Know Your Criteria

Establish your criteria in advance. Craft a scorecard based on it and give it to those involved in the hiring process. Here’s why.  Research has shown that we mold information to justify the decisions that we make. Given that we know people become attached to their candidate of choice as the process moves along (the Endowment Effect – make this a link to Is Your Judgement Clouded), it is crucial to establish and stick to a set of predetermined criteria.

Step 3: Understand Confidence

Does this sound familiar? You like a particular candidate and you want to hire them.  You’ve taken your time, vetted him/her carefully and feel confident in your decision. After all, look at all the upsides he/she has.  Time to make an offer right? Not quite yet.

Interestingly, when we use a choosing strategy, a strategy that favours positive traits, we will have more confidence in our decision than if we used a rejection strategy.  This has particular implications if different members of the team are advocating for different candidates. Consider how each member came to their decision. Understanding if a choosing or rejecting strategy was used will go a long way to mitigating biased overconfidence or under-confidence in selecting a candidate.

So how do we move forwards toward a successful hiring outcome? We take the time to understand what we are trying to accomplish and what approach offers the greatest chance of success. We establish objective criteria and a scorecard for everyone to use.  And we remember that the process we select of choosing or rejecting can lead to overconfidence/under-confidence in our decision.  If we do so, then we’re well on our way to adding a top performer to our team who can be a difference maker for our organization.

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment.  Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.

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