There is a scene in one of my favourite movies, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, where a main character talks about a conclusion they have come to based on a feeling they have, saying they just know – “it’s the knack”. This “knack” he is referring to, or this “gut feeling” does not actually come from thin air, it is a subconscious thought process we often call intuition, which really comes from skills, aptitude or training learnt from experience.

Don’t ignore your gut feeling – try to find out more

We are privileged to interview many clients and candidates around a diverse range of positions, and through our experience we often know a candidate is or isn’t going to be appropriate because we too have the “knack”. However, these decisions are based on extensive questioning, initially with the client and then the candidate to ensure proficiency and cultural alignment. Obviously, it’s extremely beneficial if the data, the repeating patterns of behaviour match with what the intuition is telling us. When it doesn’t, it is cause to probe deeper or to determine which one to follow.

Seymour Epstein (2010) explains ‘Intuition involves a sense of knowing without knowing how one knows based on the unconscious processing of information’. Intuitions also appear to be holistic – combining insights from multiple sources and often requiring a leap in thinking based on limited information.

Sometimes good on paper and past experiences aren’t enough

Recently we had a candidate who demonstrated all the skills necessary for the role however there was just a sense they might not be able to provide the level of sophistication in dealing with some of the complex issues the client was facing. The referees did not disprove that, however the candidate’s previous working environment they described clearly was not as complex, and expectations were not as high as the advertised role. While the person would have been able to do the job, there was a strong sense they would not have been able to fulfil it to the expectations of the client. If we had merely gone off previous experience and positive reviews from referees, this candidate may have progressed further. But intuition guided us to look further, and this confirmed the new working environment and expectations were not going to be a good fit.

We regularly engage a psychologist to complete psychometric profiling as part of our recruitment process, and he explains ‘the knack’ or intuition as a personality trait that contributes to being open to ideas. While it’s described as being less rational, it’s only because the evidence supporting an intuitive decision is difficult to define (like superstition). There’s a famous story of a lead fireman who ordered his team to evacuate a room just before the roof collapsed. In the debrief afterwards he was unable to justify his decision rationally, he just said it was a gut (intuitive) decision. It’s like our minds are making decisions but won’t show us the working out.

In the recruiting environment, the sense we get from a candidate and our intuition provides a helpful guide for us – an addition check we can make to ensure we are placing the right person in a role. It prompts us to look beyond just experience and skills and really examine whether the person will be a good fit. Our intuition comes from many, many years of meeting with clients and candidates and our deep understanding of the businesses we are working with. We then utilise the tools, behavioural observations and processes we have in place to confirm our gut feeling is correct, we can ensure that in most cases, we end up with a successful placement.

If there is anything you would like to discuss, please get in touch.

Happy recruiting!

Andrew Hill

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