Using Psychology Tools to Hire the Best Employees

A human resources professional interviews a candidate.For hiring managers, finding the right employees is important to both individual and company success. However, many companies still allow natural biases and personal preferences to guide their interviewing and hiring processes, which can prove detrimental in the long term. But when hiring managers have the training and education to use the right psychology tools, they can help their companies make their recruiting processes more equitable and hire high-performing employees.

Using Psychology Tools for Interviews

No matter the industry or the job type, most candidates undergo an interview process before joining a company. While the traditional interview process continues to be standard in most instances, it is remarkably unreliable. It is almost impossible for professionals involved in the hiring process to set biases aside, avoid making snap judgments and view a candidate objectively. Instead, hiring managers may seek out candidates who they get along with or those who form positive first impressions.

While some hiring professionals prefer to use more creative interview questions rather than more predictable queries in the interview process, using psychology may conclude that inventive interviews may be inappropriate for assessing candidates. Creative questions may be more enjoyable to ask or answer, but they inspire more judgment and bias and provide less concrete data. Plus, not every candidate performs the same in interview situations. An outgoing yet lesser-qualified extrovert may perform better than a withdrawn yet better-qualified introvert.

As a result, hiring departments may deploy psychology tools to build structured interviews instead of encouraging interviewers to ask inventive, open-ended, or surprise questions. Structured interviews may include either behavioral questions, which assess how a candidate’s prior performance relates to the job in question or situational queries, which determine how a candidate’s thought process would guide him or her through a typical on-the-job issue.

Creating structured interviews is not an easy process. With dedicated testing, implementation, and updates, however, this interview method can help managers find the ideal candidates. Adopting structured interviews can also provide companies with more value over time since a larger amount of data means that hiring departments can better assess results and predict performance.

Using Positive Psychology to Reveal Strengths

Structured interviews do not necessarily have to be bland. This interview method may not prompt candidates to discuss personal preferences that would cause biases, but it can encourage candidates to highlight their strengths. Opportunities to highlight these abilities and attributes may not always be clear, but with training, interviewers can learn to identify candidates’ positive declarations. Similarly, with practice, applicants can easily spot opportunities to make their strengths apparent.

Framing an interview with positive psychology gives interviewees an opportunity to stand out rather than blend in with other candidates. Interviewers who are trained in using positive psychology may also have the chance to learn more about candidates’ resilience, work ethic and sense of fulfillment than they could with any other method.

Encouraging Self-Awareness

Hiring managers should also strive to identify candidates’ self-awareness during the interview process, as this quality can be critical in the workplace. After all, candidates with a high level of self-awareness are often the best hires. They understand what they need to do to achieve professional fulfillment, help a company put its best foot forward and become a valuable long-term employee.

Not all candidates have the level of self-awareness that hiring managers may be seeking, but hiring managers can use psychology tools and assessments to encourage employees to seek greater insight. Inspiring employees to become more self-aware can help them accelerate their careers, and can help the company succeed by generating greater job satisfaction.

Psychological Tools for Conducting Assessments

While structured interviews can reveal extensive information about applicants, this method alone may not be enough to assess a candidate effectively. Another tool, individual psychological assessments, are also remarkably effective at evaluating applicants. Far from subjective tools, psychological assessments include professionally developed and tested measures that assess candidates’ personalities and leadership styles.

While hiring managers may administer and provide preliminary scoring for these assessments, those experienced in industrial psychology often assess candidates’ overall performance and make hiring recommendations. These assessments are most effective when combined and used in conjunction with structured interviews or other supplementary tools, such as cognitive tests or work samples. It’s also important to agree upon which candidate characteristics are most important to identify prior to the interview process.

Requiring Cognitive Ability Tests or Work Samples

Perhaps the least likely to produce biased results, cognitive ability tests, and work samples are also some of the best predictors of how well an applicant will perform a particular job. Cognitive ability tests can quickly and easily measure reasoning, logic, comprehension, and other basic skills that are essential to a position, but these tests may produce different results among candidates of different genders and races.

Job knowledge tests and work samples attempt to be straightforward assessments of candidates’ understanding and abilities, but they may not excel at predicting applicants’ aptitude to take on more complex duties.

Integrating Other Hiring Tools

There are several psychology-based hiring tools that managers can deploy to help determine key personality traits of potential new hires. These traits can be helpful in determining whether a candidate has the right characteristics to handle the demands of the job and the work environment.

Some of these tools include the following.

  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: determines where a person falls in extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving groupings
  • Caliper Profile: gauges how an applicant’s traits would fit within the context of the role
  • SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire, or OPQ32: determines how an individual’s emotions, thinking style and feelings, and interpersonal relationships may impact their work
  • Eysenck Personality Inventory: evaluates a prospective employee’s personality by determining their extroversion level, neuroticism level, and honesty

IoT Applications and Recruitment

The Internet of Things, or IoT, describes a connected network of computer devices and machines capable of transferring data without human input. It’s an increasingly important element of the modern workplace, especially for HR departments and recruitment.

Thanks to the immense availability of mobile connectivity along with improved digital speeds and bandwidth, more and more devices are gaining internet capabilities that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Applying organizational psychology tools and IoT applications can help HR professionals optimize the hiring process, as well as improve employee satisfaction and retention through data-driven strategies.

Identifying Applicants

Using IoT applications can help recruiters source job candidates by sifting through large swaths of data quickly. IoT-guided applicant software can review thousands of resumes and applications, pinpointing candidates who fit the qualifications for the position. Recruiters can adjust the search as needed to narrow or widen the candidate pool.

Interviews and Evaluation

IoT applications can also help streamline the interview and screening process for employers by conducting in-depth analyses of candidate characteristics and interests against the role specifications, and then conducting interviews through artificial intelligence (AI) based technology. This can help recruiters determine which candidates will be good personality fits for the role and team they are hiring for.

These screening tools may also help reduce biases and inconsistencies in hiring decisions by conducting automatic assessments based on algorithms. However, human biases can be built into AI algorithms and other aspects of IoT, so recruiters should be aware of this when utilizing IoT methods and applications during hiring.

Employee Retention

IoT can also deliver deep quantifiable data to improve workplaces and improve employee retention, which can mean less turnover and hiring. The quantification possibilities in the IoT can produce crucial operational insights, even when IoT applications are in the background, broadly “out of the way” of personnel. For example, IoT devices using machine vision technology may be able to discover inefficiencies in a common process, whether on the manufacturing floor or the sales floor. This can ensure that employees and operations processes are effectively leveraged to their full potential.

Deep quantification also gives IoT the potential to cut down on unproductive meeting time and optimize schedules for improved results, for example – two goals virtually all organizations hold, but often have no path to reach.

Use Psychological Tools to Their Full Advantage

It is crucial for hiring managers to understand how and when to use psychological tools and testing methods. For instance, a business with no existing data on job performance may not benefit from AI and related predictions, and a company that requires an unnecessarily extensive testing process may find that candidates lose interest or provide fake answers. When used in conjunction with other assessments, however, these skills- and knowledge-based tools can be key components in evaluating candidates.

Learning more about psychological tools and principles can help hiring managers improve their recruiting methods. USC’s Master of Science in Applied Psychology degree focuses on giving students an edge in business-related talent management and recruitment, research, analytics, and more.

Learn how we can help you become an expert at finding the right person for the right role.

Recommended Readings

What Is Applied Psychology? A Guide for 2021 and Beyond

Why a Healthy Team Culture Is Important in Hybrid Work Environments


Business News Daily, “7 Ways the Internet of Things Will Change the Way We Work”

Forbes, “The Positive Psychology of Job Interviewing”

Harvard Business Review, “Remote Workers Need Small Talk, Too”

Houston Chronicle, “How to Be Outgoing at a Job Interview”

Indeed, “8 Personality Tests Used in Psychology (And by Employers)”

Indeed, “What Is Self-Awareness? (And How To Increase Yours)”

IoT for all, “Enabling and Streamlining the Recruitment Process with IoT”

Psychology Today, “Poor Predictors: Job Interviews Are Useless and Unfair”

Scientific Research, “Psychological Factors in Recruitment”

Society for Human Resource Management, “Remote Employees Are Working Longer Than Before”

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Effective Interviews

U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Cognitive Ability Tests

U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Structured Interviews

U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Work Samples and Simulations