Evidence Based Hiring

Evidence Based Interviewing

Any organisation is as strong as its weakest links, and just a few poor performers can adversely affect your entire team.


Poor performance can mean poor attitude, poor behaviour, or a lack of flexibility, and so on, as well as poor performance per se.
Though there is no fool proof method for always getting your hiring right, there is a system for minimising mistakes. Use of such a system means that you will get it right much more often.


Often times, hiring managers make their hiring decisions based on gut. It sometimes works, but it is not always effective.


Sometimes, hiring managers accept too easily that the candidate has the skill that is required, but fail to test the truth of what they are told or what they have assumed.


These pitfalls, and more, will be explored in this article.


The key to dodging the pitfalls is to train yourself to make all your hiring decisions based on evidence, not gut.


Pitfall 1 – Skills


Far too often, we hear from hiring managers, usually very soon after hiring a new recruit, that they were fooled by the candidate, and they can now see that the new recruit doesn’t have the level of skill that they were led to believe they had. When we explore this, it is the case quite often that the hiring manager made very big assumptions based on the candidate’s CV, asked them very few or no questions to assess skills, and certainly did no testing to actually assess the skill level.  In other words, they made their selection decision based on limited evidence, and a lot of gut or subjective information.


Recently, an IT Manager told us that a Technical Support person he hired just does not have the level of skill that he thought he had, and is now thinking of letting the person go. That’s never easy to do, and it would be far better all round that the hiring method was fixed to avoid having to let go future new recruits.


This often happens also in other areas, not just the IT/tech field.


If you’re hiring for administration, you want candidates to have a good level of skills in Word, Excel, Outlook and so on.


You will also want people, for all roles, with skills in numeracy, business and email communications, and so on.
You will be looking for problem solving skills, and much more.
Wherever there is a skill involved, when you are the hiring manager, you should always seek to use an objective assessment or test of skill. This is superior to making assumptions or merely seeking verbal confirmation from the candidate at interview time, as you may find out later that the skill level falls far short of what you require.


Skills Assessments


The solution is to use skills assessments or tests.


You can create your own or you can use assessments that are available from various publishers of skills tests.


It is a simple job to create your own Word, Outlook, Excel, and other Microsoft or similar tests.


Just make sure to test them internally first, to get your timing for the test and the content for the test right, and make sure to set up the same conditions for all candidates. A precise marking system allows you to score the candidates based on 100% objective data, not gut feel, not assumptions, and not just based on the candidate’s story.


Likewise, you can create tests related to your own internal systems. If candidates have never used them before, you can observe how they react, how well they adapt, how good they are in listening to instructions, how accurate and/or how fast they are, and how good is their learning ability.


Google and other such companies are known for creating internal tests related to thinking-out-of-the-box. In many roles in Google, and elsewhere, thinking-out-of-the-box is an essential skill. 


We see some interviewers adding in questions such as “If you were an animal, what would you be” or such like. It always gets a giggle, but, really, it adds no value to your selection decision.


One of the best things to remember when selecting staff is to look for the evidence.


Pitfall 2 – Gut and Emotion


It is said that we will make decisions about people within 7 seconds of meeting them. Even if this seems like a big over-generalisation, we certainly do make decisions very quickly. In an interview situation, we will naturally form an opinion very quickly based on human responses –warm/cold handshake, eye contact, looks, communication, rapport, chemistry, and so on. As interviewers, we have to recognise this, and then pull back from our natural tendencies.


The motto for the interview must also be “Look for the Evidence?’


You should have your list of traits, competencies, attributes – whatever you wish to call them is fine – identified and understood for the role. Something of the order of 10-15 priority attributes, competencies, or traits would be usual for a role.


So, you might spend the first few minutes in ‘small talk’ and getting an overview from the candidate about their career. Then in understanding their motivation for applying for the role, their motivation for leaving their current role, and in gaining a general impression of where they want to take their career, and why they see the role and your organisation as a good fit for them.


You then want to move on to gather the evidence to see how well the candidate matches against your 10-15 competencies, attributes or traits.


Interviewing Solution – EPOLA Technique


The way to do this is by using the evidence-based interview technique, and to assess past performance or past behaviour. This is the key to predicting how the candidate will perform on the job.

Thus, all your questions should explore what the candidate has done, not what they could do or might do if they were in the job. It is all about past behaviour or past actions.

You can ask the candidate for several examples of what they have done.

If they are glossing over the examples, you can use the EPOLA Technique to get underneath the bonnet.



  • E – Example
  • P – Probe
  • O – Outcome
  • L – Learning
  • A – Application



You can look for Examples, several of them, from the candidate. Every time they mention an example, from their current or previous jobs, you then Probe to dig deeper. You then ask questions to find out about the Outcome or the results i.e. what happened. Finally, you ask questions to identify what the candidate Learned and in what way they Applied their Learning. The latter is critical, as you are most likely looking to hire someone who can learn from his or her experiences, and keep growing and developing in your organisation.


Interviewing is a hugely important skill for hiring managers to develop. The € cost of making the wrong hiring decisions and the emotional cost of having to let someone go during or at the end of probation, is huge. There is also the cost to the business in terms of disruption to service, members, and to the team. Then there is the cost of re-hiring and of the hiring manager’s time in running the process again.


Look for the Evidence.


Look for the evidence to support your selection decision, and ensure you select the right people for the right role.


There are numerous tests for skill that you can design in-house. There are many more that you can purchase at relatively low cost and where the Return on Your Investment is excellent. Contact us for more information. These tests are applicable right up to CEO level.


We run courses on Evidence Based Hiring. Contact us to find out more.