The hiring process within organizations requires a fair and unbiased approach to making decisions that will select the most qualified employees for the available positions. However, preconceived notions and judgments are common in these organizations and create challenges in the recruitment and selection of new employees. Kahneman and Tversky established the representativeness heuristic as a means of predicting an event when conditions are unpredictable and unforeseen. From this perspective, hiring practices must take unexpected situations into consideration because behavior and other factors play a role in shaping these decisions. It is important for recruitment practices to attempt to lessen the significance of the representativeness heuristic because bias and preconceived notions may impact hiring decisions. The following discussion will address the representativeness heuristic relative to the theories of Kahneman and Tversky in order to determine how hiring is influenced by probabilities and preconceived notions of prospective candidates.
The development of a recruitment and hiring practice must be as bias-free as possible because bias may lead to poor decision-making, high turnover, and low productivity. Many organizations find it difficult to refrain from bias in human resources decision-making, even if steps are taken to eliminate this factor. For example, hiring a family member, also known as nepotism, is accepted in many organizations but is unacceptable in others; therefore, this practice may serve as a key form of bias and a demonstration of the representativeness heuristic in action. Kahneman and Tvesty established this concept in 1972 and sought to identify areas in which similarities would lead to a likelihood of events taking place. With this in mind, recruitment and hiring practices are filled with unexpected challenges and candidates from a variety of backgrounds. Therefore, it is likely that some candidates who possess characteristics which are similar to other employees and share parallel values have a greater likelihood of being chosen for an available position. Although hiring practices are supposed to be as neutral as possible, there is almost always some degree of bias towards one or more candidates; therefore, recruiters must learn to let go of these issues to make the most informed decisions.
The representativeness heuristic is likely to play a role in challenging an organization’s ability to remain neutral regarding its hiring practices because many case examples demonstrate that similarities in personalities is not always the best policy. With this approach in mind, organizations seek employees who are similar to them and who are best able to execute their mission and vision. However, candidates with similar personalities are not always dynamic and do not always offer the greatest level of experience and fit for organizations. Therefore, similarities do not always equate to accomplishment. It is the responsibility of human resource departments to better evaluate prospective candidates in the context of their ability to perform the job over a period of time with maximum productivity over all other characteristics. It is important for organizations to develop new methods of recruitment and hiring that will lead to predictable results because employee infrastructures are anything but predictable.
In the process of recruitment and hiring, it is imperative to be neutral and generally devoid of emotion because this could lead to a greater probability of candidates who do not necessarily fit the mold but are appropriate and worthy candidates. Under these conditions, the representativeness heuristic is not a viable option because they are not the most likely choices. Organizations who hire a well-rounded group of employees are more likely to achieve greater success over the long-term than those who hire for convenience and with bias. It is the responsibility of organizations to reduce preconceived notions when hiring individuals, even if it requires the prohibition of nepotism, which is not likely to benefit many businesses. On the contrary, this practice appears to expand the representativeness heuristic because the most likely candidate will be chosen rather than through other means. Therefore, the development of a successful practice must incorporate a number of key concepts which reduce the ability of organizations to select candidates with any form of bias or preference in mind. This will balance the process more effectively.
The representativeness heuristic is a unique concept which considers the likelihood or probably of a given event, based upon prior history of that same event or similar events. In the workplace environment and in recruitment and hiring practices, this concept is challenging because it introduces a number of issues for organizations in selecting candidates who do not have and personal ties or do not possess the same agenda. However, when using other concepts to make hiring and recruitment decisions, there is likely to be a more equitable approach to this practice. This, in turn, leads to improved decision-making capacity in selecting employees. These efforts are also important because they challenge the status quo and require managers to make unconventional decisions that are based upon the less likely choices. This is an important tool in recruitment and hiring because it impacts how organizations respond to trends in hiring and in how they choose candidates for their available positions so that the organization realizes significant benefits from these decisions.
Gilovich, Thomas, Griffin, Dale, and Kahneman, Daniel. Heuristics and biases: the psychology of intuitive judgment. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Rivadeneria, Walker, Galesic, Mirta, Wallsten, Thomas, and Norman, Kent. “Is the
representativeness heuristic similar to similarity?” Presentation at Laboratory for Automation Psychology and Decision Processes, University of Maryland, 2004.
A. Walker Rivadeneira, Mirta Galesic, Thomas Wallsten, and Kent Norman. “Is the representativeness heuristic similar to similarity?”(presentation at Laboratory for Automation Psychology and Decision Processes, University of Maryland, 2004).
Thomas Gilovich, Dale Griffin, Daniel Kahneman. Heuristics and Biases: the psychology of intuitive judgment. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002).