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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Gut Feeling Recruitment

Gut Feeling Recruitment post image

Recently I’m recruiting a lot again. What I’ve noticed is how my approach to recruitment changed over past few years. Well, probably if you refer to recruitment tips or avoiding hiring mistakes series changes aren’t that drastic. However I still see a big difference.

I was always putting down a lot of notes during interviews. When you’re recruiting like crazy that’s the only way you’re going to distinguish different candidates after a while. It hasn’t really changed. Where’s the difference though?

Now I’m writing way more about my feelings about the interview and interviewee than I used to. I actually focus on this instead of scribbling specific answers I get to my questions.


That’s simple. I found that actually my feeling about the candidate are more valuable in terms of deciding whether we want to hire someone or not. It’s kind of gut feeling recruitment but then if you ask right question your gut feeling can be pretty darn good.

And yes, now that you ask, there is a trick here. I generally don’t ask about any technical stuff, no matter whether we hire developer, quality engineer, designer, technical writer or whoever. This is another part of the interview – there are people who actually know the technical stuff, whatever kind of stuff we’re actually discussing, way better than I possibly could. What more, most of the time I’m not in the room when all those hard-core questions about programming languages, testing tools and such are thrown at an interviewee.

It wouldn’t change my gut feeling anyway.

What I’m personally looking for during an interview is the way people think, methods they use to tackle problems, whether they are creative beasts and generally whether they are folks I’d love to spend an evening over a couple of beers discussing professional stuff.

And of course, there are situations when my gut feeling tells me “go” and my fellow recruiters tells me “not even close to yes” and that of course means rejection. However you’d be totally surprised how rare these cases are. I actually am. And by the way it’s never the other way around – when I say “no” while my fellow recruiters tell me “hell yeah!” It just doesn’t happen.

For some reasons if you aren’t a person who is interesting speaker when we’re discussing rather general subjects, sometimes even loosely connected with a job description, you won’t get away with good answers to technical questions. Actually you’re probably going to fail at technical part of the interview at least as much as you failed as non-technical one.

That’s why now I care way more about my gut feelings built during general chit-chat.

in: recruitment

5 comments… add one

  • Pawel April 20, 2011, 2:44 am

    Pawel, I don’t think your way of recruiting is “gut feelings”. In fact you perform a thorough candidate examination. During discussion on various topics loosely connected with the job you’re not checking the candidate’s knowledge, but:
    – adaptation skills: the candidate has to understand your point of view to come up with the arguments you could find compelling,
    – creativity: even if the candidate doesn’t know anything about on a given topics there are still good ways to get away with it, i.e. by asking intelligent questions,
    – listening skills: to come up with an interesting answer, the candidate must understand the question
    and so on…
    Technical check verifies whether the candidate is suitable for the job today, your “gut feelings” method checks whether the candidate will be as good in the future too.
    During my career I’ve been recruiting a lot and I must say that I’ve been using similar approach, maybe even more relaxed.

  • The Sanity Inspector April 20, 2011, 8:30 am

    Yes. We often find that any team, whether sports, musical, or business, is more successful when built with an eye to chemistry rather than to chops.

  • Pawel Brodzinski April 20, 2011, 10:37 am

    @Pawel, To some point you’re right, but only to some point. Communications skills, creativity, active listening are all taken into consideration, but than it often falls to “there’s something wrong with this guy, but I can’t say exactly what it is.”

    Besides setting focus on so called soft skills I also try to get some opinion about something such intangible as chemistry. Now, define it if you can.

    By the way: there’s one flaw of the method – you have to take into consideration how much the candidate is stressed. They can ruin pretty much whole interview just because of how stressed they are so you better do a good job building friendly and nice atmosphere or you may omit some gem.

  • Peter Z April 29, 2011, 1:48 pm

    Gut feeling proves to work for me too, if it’s recruiting or assesing clients (“will this person be appreciating the work, or always complaining one?”). I found a lot of interesting “gut feeling” stories and science behind in a book from Malcom Gladwell: Blink. It persuaded me there are a sound reasons why this kind “intuition” really works.

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 4, 2011, 3:26 am

    @Peter – Basing on gut feelings is always a bit tricky. When it comes to recruitment you can reject a good candidate because of gut feeling but then I believe it’s OK, as you don’t want to hire someone who would ruin the team even if they’re damn good engineers.

    With clients it’s a bit different as you aren’t always in a position to reject clients even when you genuinely don’t like them. Few companies can comfortably do that.

    Then you can use the method to evaluate your coworkers. I assume they’re given and you don’t choose or hire them. And the lesson I get over and over again is that you change your opinion about people you work with quite often.

    We usually start basing on something we heard about our coworkers which may but also may not be true or is vastly interpreted by someone sharing information with us. And then after weeks or months of cooperation we build our own opinion, which can be different.

    I guess it may be a counterargument to use gut feeling in recruitment as well but then we’d have to refer to trusted sources. The problem is, during recruitment we usually have none of trusted sources and obviously we don’t have much time to make our decision. When we’re a part of the same project team, there’s plenty of time and we probably don’t have any choice anyway so I believe the situation is still much different.

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