Applying the Scientific Method to Recruiting

Many people think of science as this nebulous concept whereby things are explained and laws are created. To me, science is much more accessible and doable – in fact, I think we are all scientists who utilize the Scientific Method on a daily basis, and recruiters especially can (and do!) utilize scientific thinking in performing their jobs to maximum capacity.

Defining the Scientific Method
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the Scientific Method is defined as "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses." Tangibly and more simply stated, science is the process of observing something, thinking about those observations and coming to a conclusion – then, doing further research to confirm or modify that conclusion. 

Utilizing the Scientific Method
If you were a researcher, your process would be very detailed and sometimes repetitive, with certain regulations that define specific “observations” and what constitutes a “theory” (there are no laws in science anymore). But, throughout everyday life, regular people also utilize some form of the Scientific Method. For example, consider the following situation:

You, a regular person observing the world around you, aka, a scientist, see someone come in from the outside wearing a wet jacket.

Observation: That person has a wet jacket.
Hypothesis: The jacket probably got wet from rain.
Conclusion: It’s raining outside.
Further testing and verification: Observe other people’s jackets, listen to conversation from others who are also testing the state of the weather or go outside and test the weather yourself.
Alternatively, you might have heard the rain on the building, hypothesized that it’s raining, then observed people’s coats coming in from outside and finally concluded that it’s raining.

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Some form of this process also occurs when meeting new people, checking prices at different stores, using reviews to make purchases or finding movies, among many other situations. Generally, our hypotheses come after some observation, but we usually look for more observations/tests/measurements after we have some idea or goal in mind.

Recruiters as Scientists
You, a recruiter performing your job, aka, a recruiting scientist, post a job advertisement for a position in a city on a major job board.

Hypothesis (based on observations from previous postings): Posting my job on this major job board will get me qualified applicants, because this job board has drawn qualified candidates for other positions in other cities.
Observation: Not many qualified people are applying to my job.
Conclusion: The qualified people that I want do not visit this major job board.
Revised Hypothesis: Posting my job on a niche job board will be better for getting qualified applicants for this position in this city.
Observation: More qualified applicants are applying to my position.
Revised Conclusion: The Revised Hypothesis is confirmed – the niche job board is better for finding qualified applicants for this position in this city.

Again, recruiters use some form of this process while performing most of their job duties. We hypothesize about a candidate’s quality by looking at their resume, we search for ways to improve inefficient processes, and we adapt our knowledge of position requirements based on hiring manager feedback.

Challenge
According to the Cielo Talent Activation Index, 72% of Leaders are “very effective” at using data and analytics to inform strategies, whereas only 6% of Laggards are “very effective.” I challenge you to consciously inject more of the Scientific Method into your recruiting efforts. By following a Hypothesize-Observe-Change process, you can better understand what works/what doesn’t, and then systematically optimize your procedures to maximize results.

 

Post contributed by Katie Marks. Tweet at @JKatieMarks and @CieloTalent with your recruiter-scientist observations and enhancements – she’d love to hear from you!

 

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