The real trouble maker of candidates and HR specialists; “availability error”. How can we diagnose it? How can we prevent ourselves from it?

The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal — Aristotle

Human beings still live with through the help of survival instinct as if it is their biggest guarantee of existence. Through the centuries, people have shifted their security understandings from homogenious orijins to race or community categories orijins. Wars, nationalization, institutionalization and universal codes have helped to this reality. This series of changes took roles on advancement of communities in a good way, however people still judge with the arguments of survival instinct. This is where availability error joins in the game; this error is the subset of the invalid instincts. Of course, availability error has it’s own subsets too.

availability error is the distortion of one’s perceptions of reality due to the tendency to remember one alternative outcome of a situation much more easily than another.

The source of this error is the necessity of thinking fast which protected people for centuries. If the people were living by judging all the parameters on a constant basis they would not be able to move an inch further, would not do their jobs. To avoid that, human brain does not calculate every detail and uses closest data. Thus brain can judge as fast as needed. But we have witnessed that considerable number of people in the history used this judgement as racists. People have believed that the security only comes with fellow and homogeneous creatures or communities and have tried to kill others in the past.

How does this error effect candidates and HR professional during cv screening and interview? Lets look into that.

Firstly, almost all of the fresh graduates do this mistakes in their job preference. They apply mostly or only to the companies that produce consumer products which they consume or use from their youth until today. This is not a mistake of course. But some of the candidates do not know their other possible opportunities and feel unsecure or ignore these opportunities which might be more suitable for their qualifications. I want to share with you guys here; loving this computer does not make this computer company suitable for you or does not make you suitable for this company; loving to eat that wafer does not make this fmcg company suitable for you or working there might not make you happy. This mistake reveals itself with it’s 2 dimensions. First of all, candidates thinks that their options are very limited and secondly, they only follow others success stories just because it is seeable and close even if the job is not suitable for their qualifications. In fact, they give up their dream job only because the community does not give the proper respect to it.

How can candidates defeat that error?

  1. You need to work as trainees or part timers during their high school or university education. They can find out whether they are going to love the job or not.
  2. Visit your network at their offices or work areas when they are working. Ask questions, breath the environment, see the atmosphere, meet people.
  3. Run after what you love. Follow your curiosity even if it is far from working global work environment. You may choose to work as carpenter. Research for carpentry. Are there any solid & effective education?
  4. Join to student communities if you are a student or simply join to social communities to discover your capabilities, talents, desires. You discover world and yourself faster if you are eager to travel, ask and meet people.
  5. Stop following up what people say, what people give respect to. Stop caring perception of people. But you still need to act within a plan; I am not asking you to go romanticly.

Well. How does this error effect HR professionals?

HR professionals can make judgement mistakes by having many application during screening or interview phases especially if they work for companies that produce consumer products and have superior recognition. The filter that they use might be irrelevant to the related qualifications. For example people often think school name has a direct effect on the job. Of course, it is easier to narrow the number of candidates down to a meaningful number of candidates as a long list. But if we examine the tendency of hr people on the candidate search and how they use the filters, we can clearly see that many hr professionals use the same filter for completely different job descriptions. That proves this tendecy on filtering with scholl name is becoming generic and is being copied many colleagues. So, we are looking for the exact people with exact past experience. What do you think? What is the reason? The reason is searching for security. And guess what; it is irrelevant. Many researchs show that diversity with it’s widest meanings has real power on growth.

On the other hand, as subsets of availability errors, halo effect and lucifer effect give damages hr professionals judgements.

halo effect is a potential inaccuracy in observation as of a person, due to overgeneralization from a limited amount of positive evidence or the influence of preconceieved beliefs or a priori hypotheses

For example, you might think that a person is very democratic and very open to discuss and sharing just because of s/he is being very kind. However, being kind is about behaviours, being democratic is about attitude and belief. But every hr professional should remember taht people can change their behaviours when they are new to the community or environment. Lets give one more example; lets say you are about to hire a sales representative and you are seeing candidates. One of the candidates is speaking fastly with an excited way while the other speaks slower than the first one and keep his/her excitement away from your observation. Hr professionals who experiences these interviews has a tendecy to choose the first candidate. It might be right as well. But we need to be aware of this effect and do not let this cloudy judgements capture us. Researchs show that the highest employee turnover is among sales departments. Maybe we need to take it differently.

lucifer effect is a potential inaccuracy in observation as of a person, due to overgeneralization from a limited amount of negative evidence or the influence of preconceieved beliefs or a priori hypotheses

With this error, people begins to think negatively right after they see a negative proof and they let this perception clouds their judgement. It is also because of our survival instincts. The inner us tries to protect us. Let say, you interview a candidate and found out that the his/her GPA is not high. If you have a belief on a correlation between high GPA’s and business success then you might close your ear to hear good things or simply stop trying to discover good qualities. But correlation and causality are different things. The cause of the low GPA can be related to one subject that might be irreleated with yor job opportunity. Or lets say candidate from a reputable campany told you that he/she had problems in his/her previous company. People has a tendency to think that candidates most probably were not right on their case. It is not because of we judge right, it might be the respect that you have for this reputable company. We need to think companies are walls, tables, cars and numbers in sheets. People make business with people in companies. The candidate can be right on his case at previous company. And he/she can be happy and harmonious at your company.

Well, how can hr professionals defeat availability error?

  1. Job portals are not efficient and enough to find candidates. Know your core business, meet with people in same area, know competitors, visit sector network meetings or conferances.
  2. Use recruitment consultancy companies to meet more relevant and proper candidates.
  3. Know your line manager’s desired qualifications that they want candidates to have.
  4. Meet with candidates without urgent needs of your company. Get rid of the reality that you have only 1 hour to know them.
  5. Improve the assesment center tools make them special for your company. Do not go for generic tests. The more generic the test is, the more familiar is to the candidate. Make it better.

If the goal is to find the right person, we need to increase the number of approach to find them, need to get rid of biased approached and availability error and we need to stop letting wrong filters to kill your possibilities in finding the right person. Right talents are vital for companies; companies win with people and lose with them!

Consultancy companies are very helpful for you. But giving a hiring project is not enough. You need to make them understand your business, introduce your company and the line managers and tell them about your organization charts. Choose the right partner, right consultant and create a partnership with them. They will help you!

And please get rid of the availability error; successful companies were carved out themselves of unbiased approaches.

Best wishes on finding the right one.

Safak Boy, Randstad Turkey