3 Ways You Can Use Market Research as Part of Your Hiring Process

market research hiring process business tipOrganizations don't often think inward when discussing market research. Naturally, Voice of Customer (VoC), Customer Experience (CX) and market research in general is focused on learning about customers. This type of research naturally gravitates to an outward perspective. How do we obtain more customers? What can we fix with current customers? Are our non-customers aware of our brand? However, much can be gained from using market research principles and processes on internal procedures. One that immediately comes to mind is utilizing market research as part of your hiring process.

Applying basic market research principles to the hiring process can provide your human resources team with the data and feedback necessary to make a more educated decision on candidates.

For many small businesses, the hiring process can be a bit of a crap-shoot. Interviews are based on gut decisions, likability of the candidate is, and other subjective takeaways. Making hiring decisions like this can often turn out well, but they can also backfire extremely poorly, costing your company time and money to fire and re-hire. The data says if you do not properly manage a process well, mistakes will happen, sooner or later. True in business and in hiring in particular.

However, as a market research company ourselves, we always encourage adding data to the hiring process. We crave it, no matter what the topic. Hey, you can't blame us for loving numbers, can you? Customers or non-customers, employees or prospective candidates. Give us some data to look at. Structuring your hiring process using market research can create a much more organized and educated process. The result is a better hiring decision based on data.

How can market research be used as part of the hiring process at your organization?

Here are some examples.

Example 1: Qualified Candidates Email Survey, Sift Through the Junk

As a person who has done a lot of hiring in the past, one thing is for sure: you'll likely get a boatload of resumes to sift through no matter what the position. This good and bad. The good is you have a lot of options. The bad is you have a lot of options. This can be problematic from both a time and capacity standpoint to make your way through the pile. In today's digital world, most people apply online which means you have their email.

This piece of contact information is vital and can help you sift through job inquiries faster than doing so by hand. If you are able to whittle down the list to a smaller number of potentials, think about sending a short 10 question (3 to 5 minute) online survey out to respondents to inquire about additional information. Don't have a survey software, add a hidden page on your website with a form fill. Or hire us (shameless plug for Drive Research.) Many expensive HR and systems can help do this, but sometimes for smaller businesses, short surveys are just as effective.

Ask for some information about items not found on the resume. We even use a question or two to ask about interests and hobbies.

  • How did you find this position to apply for?
  • What excites you the most about working for our company?
  • What makes you unique?
  • What do you do for fun on your free time?

This type of data provides you with some additional insight as to who to include in the next round of your interviewing process (e.g., who you may want to call or invite in.) It also gives you some additional perspective and "off-the-cuff" feedback rather than reviewing a straight-forward and stale resume. Candidates can pump out hundreds of the same resume to employers. But answers to your survey will be unique.

Another added benefit of a quick email survey? You can eliminate those who do not respond or take a week or more to submit their responses. Those who do respond and respond timely get the leg-up. This alone eliminates upwards of 10% to 50% of candidate submissions. Candidates you no longer have to review or attempt to contact.

"A candidate's motivation to be hired can be telling of their motivation as an employee."

Example 2: Observational Research or Ethnography, Task-Based Exercises

All companies will talk to the candidates over the phone or in-person (I hope right?) Interviews can be deceiving. Candidates can misconstrue truths, tell employers what they want to hear, and fake their way through the process. Professional interviewers do exist and it can be easy to get duped. This is why it is vital to have candidates perform some type of on-the-job task while at the interview.

When hiring for a market research analyst, this could be as simple as showing them a few charts and graphs and asking them to scribble a few takeaways. Another example could be to review a survey script and have them identify misspellings, typos, and logic errors. If you are hiring for a graphic design position it could involve showing the candidate a current flyer or brochure and giving them 10 minutes to review and critique it. The idea is to make the task relevant to the day-to-day work. If the candidate is an expert in PowerPoint or Excel, have them walk you through a task. "Sell me this pen" is a common and probably overused sales example.

All of these are good examples organizations should incorporate into their hiring process. Although all positions require some type of learning, having this perspective lets you know if the candidate can walk the walk in "a day of the life of... [Enter Role Here.]"

After giving them 10 minutes or more alone (depending on the complexity) to work on the task, come back into the interviewing room and debrief. Ask them to walk you through what they did. What was their process like? Why did they start with Task C instead of Task A? Explain a little more about your decision to change XYZ. Watch them as they walk you through their line of thinking and their process.

As a guide, don't make this a hyper-fast timed test. In reality we all deal with deadline and pressure but there are also several candidates who are good and planning and are willing to put in the extra work to get something done. Asking them to write a 10-page report in 10 minutes while on a job interview is just cruel. Handing a candidate 3 tasks that each take 30 minutes to do well and telling them you have 15 minutes to complete them is unrealistic. As I say when it comes to unplanned emergencies in business:

"Your lack of planning does not constitute as my emergency."

This happened to me once in an interview and I wanted to (but didn't) ask the HR Manager if I could instead spend the 15 minutes going the to the project manager's office to attempt to understand how he or she let 3 major priorities slip leaving me no time? Don't make potential candidates think this is the type of deadline-driven, high-stress culture that exists at your company. Unless it is true. If it's true, perhaps you start by opening up the hiring process for the President & CEO and start over. Give the candidate more than enough time to collect his or her thoughts and provide feedback on these tasks. As would normally be the case in most well-run businesses.

This type of ethnography and follow-up interviewing on real-job tasks makes the conversation more relevant. I believe it's more applicable than throwing out canned interview questions or questions that are so "pie in the sky" the candidate is left wondering "how does this question relate to the job I am applying for?"

Example 3: Candidate Evaluation Matrix, Your Hiring Market Research Report

This step is more of an internal report of findings, and not one that directly involves a participant. After the job description is created you should work with the management team to create a matrix of important criteria of what factors will most influence success of the position. If you are hiring for a sales job you may include factors such as self-motivated, organized, and communication skills as weighted very high. Whereas if you are hiring for a market research analyst, you may value analytical skills, Excel skills, and statistical background as the 3 most important criteria.

Regardless of the position create your matrix with these top 10+ factors in-mind. Then review and score each candidate on those same criteria. For example, see the image below. This lists the factors horizontally across the top scoring each with a weight of importance using a percentage. All of the percentages total to 100% (or 1.) Each candidate (vertically) is scored using a 1 to 10 scale with "10" being very good and "1" being very poor.

Scores for each candidate are then tabulated in the total score column to the right (6.15, 7.70, etc.) This is the sum of all scores multiplied by the weights. For Brian F. the score of 6.15 is calculated by totaling 8*.25 + 6*.10 + 5*.40 + 9*.05 + 10*.05 + 4*.15.

Although scores can be somewhat subjective they should be based on interview survey data, resume takeaways, telephone interviews, and in-person interviews. Do you have multiple people interviewing each candidate? Ask them all to rate the candidates and take the average.

Based on the analysis above, the top 3 candidates are Shawn T., Jess M., and Brian F. However, Shawn T. appears to be the leading candidate by a differential 1.50 over the 2nd best candidate. Using data like this constructed through basic market research and statistical analysis can provide your hiring department with a ton of insight into a decision. It also attempts to provide you with fact-based and evidence-based strategic direction.

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