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Considering A ‘Gut Instinct’ Hire? 12 Decision Making Tips From HR Leaders

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at November 17, 2021

Anyone who’s ever hired an employee knows that you’ll often get a “gut feeling” about someone after interviewing them. Ideally, your intuition is aligned with that of your colleagues, but there may be times when you’re leaning towards hiring a candidate who isn’t highly favored among the rest of the hiring decision makers.

While hiring based on instinct rather than logic or data could be considered ill-advised, there’s a lot to consider before dismissing the candidate entirely. Below, 12 members of Forbes Human Resources Council each describe a time they’ve gone with their gut instinct when hiring someone and what lesson they would impart to a leader in a similar situation.

1. Make Sure The Fit Is Authentic

I have gone with my gut to hire candidates that weren’t the best fit on paper. More often than not, it worked out, although my colleagues were skeptical until the hire had proven themselves. I’ve also done the reverse—didn’t hire someone because they didn’t feel authentic, despite others in the organization wanting to make the hire. Again, it turned out to be the right call. – Lynne Marie Finn, Broadleaf Results

2. Consider Employee Morale

Great hiring can happen when leaders follow their gut instinct, especially when it comes down to a few quality candidates, but it’s not the best way to make hiring decisions, especially if everyone isn’t on the same page. You never want to add someone to the team who your colleagues aren’t excited about: It lowers morale and sets the new hire up for drama they didn’t sign up for and don’t deserve. – Laura Spawn, Virtual Vocations, Inc.

3. Let Intuition Guide You

The idiom “go with your gut” typically steers individuals in the right direction. People are social beings, so when they trust or follow their intuition, it generally serves them and the team well. There have been times when I followed my gut and hired employees who showed a willingness and aptitude to learn, plus they were a great culture fit for the company. – Niki Jorgensen, Insperity

4. Explain Your Decision

The key for me was explaining and showing that successful hiring wouldn’t just come down to the abilities of the person being hired, but would also depend on my own abilities and willingness to invest in the relationship. I ended up being right about that hire and about the importance of the relationship and it changed their perspective on how to evaluate candidates in the future. – Nicole Fernandes, Blu Ivy Group

5. Embrace The Unknown

I think the phrase, “embrace the unknown,” should be the rule, not the exception. How else can you measure the unknown but without having the guts to go with your instincts? When you create trust amongst your peers and colleagues, they will trust those instincts and things typically work out well. In cases where you may have misjudged, use the introductory period properly to course correct or move on. – Tina R. Walker, California Community Foundation

6. Watch For Bias

Hiring candidates should be unbiased. Today hiring is determined by the cognitive soft skills of the candidates and gut instinct can enable a manager to see whether the candidate is able to foster better resilience, lifelong learning, collaboration, empathy and trustworthiness in the future. – Soumyasanto Sen, People Conscience


Forbes Human Resources Council is an invitation-only organization for HR executives across all industries. Do I qualify?


7. Be Able To Answer ‘Why’

Hiring on intuition alone can be dangerous, but when combined with other factors, it can have profound effects on the business’s success. It is crucial that there is enough strength in your “why” that supports your position as you engage in open and honest discussions with your colleagues about your decision. By doing so, you create unanimity on the company’s vision and the path forward. – Tammy Harper, CAI

8. Seek Opinions

Your gut is usually right. However, making sure that you validate your gut is the next step. Ask people to share a presentation to show you how they really think and to understand their thought processes. – Keri Higgins Bigelow, LivingHR, Inc.

9. Leverage First-Hand Experience

I persuaded the leader of my department to hire someone I’d worked with before. I knew her strengths and that despite not having the perfect profile for the role, she’d be a great addition to the team. We brought her on and she helped us automate, making the entire team more efficient and is a great resource to internal customers. Guts, when guided by first-hand experience, can be right. – Danny Speros, Zenefits

10. Think Outside The Normal Job Description

I hired a fantastic graphic artist by listening to my gut and having the manager experiment with me on the role. She is still with the company over five years later and is very successful. Bottom line, she was qualified even if it was not through “conventional” experience and she had a passion that I could not find elsewhere. Even unconventional experience can translate into roles you normally would write off. – Kelly Loudermilk, BuildHR, Inc.

11. Utilize Behavioral-Based Questions

I’ve hired against my gut and been proven right several times. As a talent acquisition leader, I emphasize behavioral-based questions and a non-tedious interviewing process. When going against my gut lead to poor hires, I decided to translate my gut feelings into behavioral-based interview questions. – Nakisha Griffin, Virtual Enterprise Architects

12. Prepare For Shifts Within The Team

My gut was right. The one outlier on the team, who did not like the candidate was unhappy with the selection and chose not to support the new staff member. The outlier, who actually was not a good fit for the team, moved on. The candidate brought not only diversity of thought, but also value to our organization, as well as the team. – Misty Johnson Oratokhai, Events DC

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