The Science of Scoutr Vol. 1: Designed for Decision-Making

The Science of Scoutr Vol 1: Designed for Decision-Making

by Gabe Pappalardo, PhD

“As in… three weeks from now?” I prodded, attempting to mute my exasperation.

“Yes, she should have had time to review your resume by then before your interview,” she confirmed.

One hand holding the phone to my ear, my face fell forward into the palm of the other. We were two months into the recruiting process. The role was an attractive one, but as my resume moved up the chain, with each stakeholder needing time to review it before passing it along, we’d reached the point where I needed to assert myself as patient but not a pushover. Releasing the grip of my fingers in my hairline, I composed myself and spoke into the receiver:

“That’s not going to work for me. I need a decision by the end of the week.”

“Oh, I don’t know… she’s really busy…”

“I understand, but my lease is up at the end of the month, and I need to make a decision on where I am going to live.”

Every person has their difficult candidate experience to share, and I don’t mean to cast the employer in my vignette above as the villain. We have all played our part in the often broken system of talent acquisition, and as an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, it’s always enlightening to be deep in the trenches of the process I used to observe from the safe distance of academia.  The issue, at the end of the day, is that hiring decisions are hugely important, which would suggest that employers should take their time making them. However, the practical reality is that a job usually isn’t even posted until well after a hire is needed, and when you throw expiring leases and competing offers into the mix, time is simply not a luxury that an organization has.

So what to do? How can hiring managers make fully-informed, high-quality decisions with speed and confidence?

It’s a big question, and there are many places to make the first incision. In the early days of Scoutr when we decided to tackle this problem, our thoughts turned to the interface.  We pondered, “What is the user interface for making a hiring decision? Has that interface been designed with the user in mind? Has that interface evolved as the users’ needs have evolved?”

As we explored, it became apparent that the interface for making a hiring decision begins with a resume, or more accurately, a Labyrinth of Resumes. For all of the innovation in HR tech solutions, decades of work that have brought us job-posting aggregators, Boolean-search sourcing tools, applicant-tracking systems (ATS), and psychometric assessments, ultimately the interface from which a manager must determine whom to bring in for an interview is a massive maze constructed of walls of text. Technological advances have enhanced the speed of obtaining resumes and pushing them to the manager, which serves to deepen the size and complexity of the labyrinth, but these solutions have done little to aid the manager on how to find their way to the prize at the center. Armed with recruiting industry expertise, behavioral science, and passion for good user-experiences, we sought to create a new interface for presenting candidates designed around hiring managers’ decision-making needs.

In constructing an interface that would scaffold the new methodology of talent acquisition we promote at Scoutr, we considered the major obstacles in the labyrinth restricting hiring managers from making fast, fully-informed decisions:

  1. Resumes are embellished. CareerBuilder reported in a 2014 survey that 58% of hiring managers reported having caught a lie on a resume. It’s understandable that candidates want to look their best to outcompete their peers, but the tendency to embellish resumes damages the confidence managers can have in their decisions on whom to spend time screening further.  Some applicants have even learned that filling whitespaces on their resumes with keywords in white text is a strategy for subverting recommendations from keyword-search algorithms often touted by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).
  2. Resumes are unstandardized. In any analysis of a user experience, you must consider both the technology and the physical and psychological abilities of the user to interact with the technology. The lack of standardization of resume data forces users to consider candidates side-by-side with no consistent way to make fair, apple-to-apples comparisons across them. According to the Nobel Prize winning research by behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tverski on how the human brain engages in decision-making, this is a perfect recipe for unpleasant analysis paralysis followed by hasty, poorly-weighted decision (For a must-read on the topic, check out Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” or at least check out the summary in Wikipedia. May you forever view the poor decision-making of yourself and those around you with more compassion!)
  3. Resumes don’t tell the full story. As thought leaders are increasingly emphasizing the need to select for and develop “soft skills” in leaders and employees, hiring managers who rely on resumes aren’t getting any data on those skills until the moment of the interview. Resumes help you learn what a candidate has done, but how do they go about their work? Will they help fit your organization’s culture or disrupt it? Will their personality be one that is energized by the role or drained by it? For these questions, a resume provides very little insight.

Considering these limitations, it’s only with empathy that we consider the plight of the hiring manager paralyzed in some dark corner of the Labyrinth of Resumes. The squishy grey blob sitting between our ears is a marvel of evolution with many strengths, but it couldn’t be less optimized for the task of making a decision from this interface, especially not one as important as choosing whom to hire into your organization. To free managers from paralysis and empower them to move forward with their decisions, we developed the Scoutr platform to include a candidate-ranking and presentation tool that overcomes the limitation of resumes.  Scoutr presentations provide:

  1. Standardization: The Labyrinth of Resumes provides no standard way to compare the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) across candidates and requires the hiring manager to compare candidates’ skills against a job description or their memory of the role requirements, an effortful and error-prone strategy. Scoutr candidate presentations contain Skill-Coverage Visualizations that standardize the presentation, detailing out line-by-line the KSAs needed for the job and using color coding to visually demonstrate skill coverage and gaps. This enables apples-to-apples comparisons, highlights skills coverage and gaps, and suggests where training may be needed when bringing a new hire onto the team.
  2. The Full Picture: The Labyrinth of Resumes gives no insight into candidates’ soft skills, cultural preferences, or personality traits that can have tremendous implications for employee retention and happiness on the job. All employers and candidates who interact with Scoutr complete workplace culture and work style assessments so that employers and candidates have realistic expectations when it comes to areas of fit and misfit (which is sometimes desirable!). Additionally, all candidates presented through Scoutr are rated by a past manager or peer reference on five standard performance dimensions. This data is rolled up together with the KSA data into a final Scoutr Match % recommending whom to interview.
  3. A Gentle Nudge: Scoutr’s reports were designed so that hiring managers could access them anytime anywhere from any device with an internet browser. At the bottom of the candidate presentation are only two options, a big green button that say “Schedule Interview” and a big red button that says “Reject Player”(our word for candidate). Earlier designs had a yellow “Tell Me More” button. We removed it. The Scoutr report should include everything a hiring manager needs to know to make the decision, so we designed the system to nudge them out of paralysis: bring them in or let them go (and provide feedback so the talent acquisition team doesn’t bring them the same person twice!).

Altogether, the Scoutr candidate presentation provides a scaffold for the cognitively complex decision-making involved in comparing candidates so managers can make fast, fair decisions based on the right reasons. By taking a user-centered design approach and empathizing with hiring managers, we’re proud to have designed a solution to aid them in critical hiring decisions. Scoutr replaces the Labyrinth of Resumes, unstandardized, incomplete, embellished walls of text, with elegant reports that give hiring managers everything they need and nothing that they don’t for faster, fully-informed hiring decisions and a radically improved user-experience. We hope others will follow in retiring the resume and rise to a new standard of candidate presentation.

To learn more about our Scoutr candidate ranking and presentation tool and other services we provide, please visit our website and schedule a demo. Also, please ask any questions or leave comments below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Author Bio: Dr. Gabe Pappalardo is the VP of Product at Scoutr and holds a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from NC State University. Gabe has spent nearly a decade consulting organizations on HR topics. His research has been featured in Organizational Research Methods, Computers and Human Behavior, and at meetings of the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychologists and Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

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