Avoid hiring turkeys, even if you don’t recruit a single eagle

What do Greg Savage, John Plummer and Geoff Morgan have in common?

Not only are they each a member of a very influential group of recruitment industry leaders, they are also introverts.

Introverts in recruitment are in the minority. The stereotypical image of an agency recruiter is an agreeable extrovert; showing up in interactions with others as a smiley, pleasant person.

Introverts tend to show up as quiet, more reserved and not quick to initiate or join a conversation. They are less easily impressed and don’t try to be impressive (by being competent they just are impressive) and are often hard to read.

Clearly these traits of introversion have been no barrier to success in the recruitment industry for Greg, John and Geoff, quite the contrary.

So, obviously, introversion is no barrier to success as an agency recruiter but is it, generally, an advantage to be an extrovert, given the nature of the work an agency recruiter does?

I don’t have the research to answer to that question for recruiters as a specific occupation group, but I do have the answer for workplace performance generally: irrelevant!

Recent research ranked extroversion (outgoing, talkative) 27th and agreeableness (accommodating, avoids conflict) 28th, out of a total of 31 job performance prediction KPIs, only beaten for irrelevance by openness to experience (curious, artistic), graphology (judging traits from handwriting) and age. 

# This research, is documented in The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 100 Years of Research Findings by Schmidt, Oh and Shaffer was summarised by Natasha Ouslis at Western University in Canada.

It’s an update on the meta-research I wrote about twelve months ago that confirmed, amongst other things, what many recruiters would instinctively know; that total years of education is a very low predictor of work performance.

This updated meta-research was carried out  15 years after the original 2001 paper, due to the inclusion of new KPIs that didn’t exist in the older research set, including: situational judgement tests, college and graduate school grade point averages (GPA), phone-based structured interviews, emotional intelligence, person-job fit, person-organisation fit and personality traits. 

At the other end of the scale, the research  demonstrated that the most important selection method, by far, for predicting job performance was General Mental Ability (GMA but also known as Cognitive Ability), which explains 42% of job performance.

When pairing a screening process with GMA, one wants to tap into qualities of an applicant that aren’t covered by the general mental ability test. The next best science-based hiring practises with low GMA overlap are integrity tests (20%) and structured interviews (18%). By adding either of these, you learn more about an applicant that helps you predict their future performance. 

Why does using these proven predictors of job performance matter so much?

The research here is conclusive:  

The difference between the average person (50% good) and an above average (84% good) employee’s output is at least 40% of their salary. For a salary of $40,000, the difference in output between below-average (16% good) and above-average (84% good) is at least $32,000. This means above average people’s output is worth almost twice that of below-average people’s output. 

If you just use GMA and integrity tests for the sole benefit of avoiding the recruitment of below-average employees, there will still be substantial bottom-line benefits, even if your recruitment process fails to recruit a single above average employee.

So here it is: If you are hiring extroverted, agreeable people to be agency recruiters without testing their cognitive ability and integrity, you’re asking for trouble, big trouble.

Just preventing the hiring of turkeys will still be a significant win even if you fail to recruit a single eagle.

# a big shout out to Hung Lee whose excellent newsletter On Hiring – it’s recruiting brainfood for the week ahead I recommend you subscribe to

related blogs
Can years of education predict work performance?
High Achievers: Born or Made?*
Is your candidate just very confident or really a charismatic narcissist?


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.