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We Only See What We Are Trained To See. What Is Your Bias Self-Awareness?

By Tony Misura

Anyone who has chosen a puppy or kitten from a litter has felt massive emotions. Even the most stoic of people know the joyous laughter and enthusiasm around puppies. Asking people how they select the "right" puppy is a fun cocktail question in which the answers range from pseudo-science to "whichever puppy picks me."


Hiring people is a science, but most leaders are as vulnerable when selecting a person as they are when selecting a puppy.

 What is the most important KPI no one tracks? 

In an industry that tracks dozens of KPIs, find me one company that tracks hiring decisions made per person per leader. Virtually no one measures what might be the most important KPI of any leader: their success in hiring talent. When I ask executives, they reply hiring is too complicated a task to measure. Really? Given how many factors go into measuring gross margins, labor expense, or inventory shrink, how can measuring the ability to hire the right talent be considered overly complex?


In 2011, perpetually searching for answers to become better at talent selection and determining talent selection was simply a critical thinking exercise, I was led to the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman, a Princeton University psychologist who had never taken an economics course, won the 2002 Nobel Prize for Economics. Before his work, scientists and economists assumed people generally act in fully rational ways, and any exception disappears when the stakes are raised. Kahneman exposed problematic mental biases that often warp our judgment in the most critical situations.

Commenting on Kahneman's groundbreaking discoveries, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker noted that "human reason, left to its own devices, is apt to engage in a number of fallacies and systematic errors. So, if we want to make better decisions in our personal lives and as a society, we ought to be aware of these biases and seek workarounds."


Most of our biases frequently cause us to want the wrong things. Perceptions and memories are slippery, especially about our mental states. Free will is bounded by our subconscious tendencies. We have much less control than we thought.  


Ways Misura Group Hires Smarter with Thinking Fast and Slow Concepts:

Measure Performance: Improving on anything you don't measure is impossible. We constantly measure our assessments and placement success rate. I am proud to share that we have a success rate of 88% to 94% of placed candidates in positions for two years. 

Intuitive vs. Cognitive Processes: Outwardly discussing what situations and problems are best suited for the intuitive vs. methodical cognitive process. You want to be excellent at both practices. While being decisive and moving quickly through life's challenges has its place, knowing which situations require a more methodical approach is where winning is done.

Scorecards: A prescribed set of criteria determines how candidates will be measured. To maintain objectivity, this must be done before the interviewing starts.

Force-Ranked Scores: Our team is barred from posting 50/50 yes/no scores on a candidate. A monkey could select 50/50 and be correct. Every score is at least a 51/49.

Audio-Only Initial Interviews: The tonnage of biases dumped on the human brain through video or in-person evaluation is intense. This is best avoided through an audio call to focus on the facts and data collected.

Double Vetting: Every candidate who comes through Misura Group is vetted by two recruiters. Each conducts its vetting without the notes of the other, again supporting an objective process.

Critical Thinking models: We collect and rank information by order of magnitude, relevance, and source quality. The mosaic produced by this new information array changes every time new data is introduced.

Cognitive Dissonance: The state of discomfort felt when two or more modes of ideas, beliefs, or knowledge contradict each other. Having a method to become comfortable with intellectual conflict inside your mind helps leaders make better decisions. Simply elongating the decision-making process for big decisions is smart; "letting it bake" is a common phase.  

Confirmation Bias: The tendency to favor information that confirms or strengthens one's beliefs or values. People tend to become rather entrenched in their dogma. Social media can worsen this trait, so organizing and prioritizing diverse media consumption is a vital practice for the best executives. A valuable vetting device is to ask how a candidate consumes media and how that consumption influences their attitudes, creativity, and innovation.

Danny Kahneman passed away on March 27 at the age of 90. I am thankful and fortunate to have lived during his time. His studies and scientific breakthroughs indelibly impacted how Misura Group vets professionals. Thank you, Mr. Kahneman. You have earned your 'Grandfather of Behavioral Economics' title. Your diligent work forever changed my life personally and professionally.


Hire Smarter™ – Tony Misura

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