Brain power

The behavioural science of recruitment and selection

CIPD, a professional body for HR and people development, has produced the research report A head for hiring: The behavioural science of recruitment and selection1.

Recruiting and selecting the right people is fundamental to the success of any organisation, but finding the best way to do this is a challenge. The report advises that:

Ultimately, any recruitment and selection process demands complex and speedy decision making from both sides.

Behavioural science has a lot to say about the way in which people make decisions in these types of settings. Our behaviour does not always fit a rational actor model but it is still systematic and predictable.

Harnessing knowledge about how people actually behave can improve outcomes for organisations. The report looks at:

  • Ways to attract candidates best suited to the job and the organisation’s broader needs.
  • The evidence behind the use of key selection and assessment tools, as well as the biases and judgement errors that may occur on the assessor’s side when using these tools.
  • The candidate’s experience during the recruitment process. Not only does the candidate experience affect our ability to decipher who is best, it also can have knock-on effects on an employer’s brand and their ability to attract talent in the future.

From the research, 18 tips for better recruitment practice are provided:

Attracting candidates

  1. Take a fresh look at person–organisation fit, considering both current and aspirational organisational culture.
  2. Test the wording of your job adverts to see how it affects who applies.
  3. Personalise your outreach efforts to encourage applicants.
  4. Make it easy for people who show interest to apply directly.
  5. Vary where and how you do outreach.
  6. Push for transparency in outreach even when using networks for recruitment and selection.
  7. Systematise your use of social media in recruitment.


  1. Group and anonymise CVs when reviewing them.
  2. Pre-commit to a set of interview questions that are directly related to performance on the job.
  3. Focus interviews on collecting information, not making the decision.
  4. Make sure tests are relevant to the job and fit for purpose.


  1. Include people in hiring decisions who have not been involved in assessing candidates.
  2. Stick to what the scores tell you for final decisions.

Recruitment strategy

  1. Spread assessments and decisions across days, but keep all other conditions similar.
  2. If discussing unconscious bias, emphasise the desired behaviour of assessors, rather than the problem.
  3. Evaluate your assessment practices.

Candidate experience

  1. Avoid creating stereotype threat in the assessment process.
  2. Ask for feedback from rejected and accepted candidates.


  1. Linos, E., & Reinhard, J. (2015). A head for hiring: The behavioural science of recruitment and selection. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). http://www. cipd. co. uk/binaries/a-head-for-hiring_2015-behavioural-science-of-recruitment-and-selection.pdf.
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Bruce Boyes

Bruce Boyes ( is a knowledge management (KM), environmental management, and education professional with over 30 years of experience in Australia and China. His work has received high-level acclaim and been recognised through a number of significant awards. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Knowledge, Technology and Innovation Group at Wageningen University and Research, and holds a Master of Environmental Management with Distinction. He is also the editor, lead writer, and a director of the award-winning RealKM Magazine (, and teaches in the Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) Certified High-school Program (CHP).

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