The Ideal Recruitment Process – according to science

Our partner, Alva Labs, explore how science and research can help predict job success and maximize your chance of choosing the right candidate for the job.

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On May 7, our partner Alva Labs will host an exclusive training session together for us. It will be led by Kajsa Asplund, PhD in organizational psychology, book author in Talent Management and Lead People Science at Alva. In this 1.5 hour session, she will share insights on:


  • Why up to 40% of all recruitments fail
  • How to spot a candidate with the highest likelihood of succeeding
  • Actionable best practice for how to improve your selection process

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Hiring the right people is hard. It can sometimes feel like you need a crystal ball in order to see into the future – which one of these candidates will perform best on the job? But if you don’t have that crystal ball, we would recommend looking at what science and research tell us will predict job success the best. And with a well-structured recruitment process, you can maximize the chance to choose the right candidate for the job.

I work in the People Science team here at Alva (and yes, we do have a People Science team). Our purpose is to bring scientific research to organizations in an accessible and easy to utilize manner, as I aim to with this blogpost. 

But before we start looking at what we believe is the ideal recruitment process, let’s start with what research tells us. This will give you insight into the science behind any recruitment process, and give you a roadmap of how you can align yourself with the methods most backed by research.

Look at what actually predicts job success

“Education and past experience were found to have some of the lowest job performance predictability”

Firstly, you need to consider what selection methods you want to utilize, and the reason for using them. If you are unsure about the utility of your methods, allow me to outline a well-known paper in organizational psychology that gives insight into that. 

Hunter and Schmidt (1998; recreated in 2016 but not published yet) conducted a meta-analysis and examined over 85 years of research findings in the field of personnel selection, with regards to the methods used in recruitment. They concluded that out of the 19 different methods they examined, all were not equally effective at predicting job performance. In fact, some traditionally used methods were quite poor at predicting job performance. The picture below outlines the results, on a scale of 0 to 1 (with 0 being not predictive of job performance at all and 1 being completely predictive, as it is a correlation scale). 

Alva-labs-selection-methods-job-success-validityThe numbers in the chart shows the predictive validity of different selection methods, where 0 would mean that there is no relationship at all between the method and future performance, and 1 would mean a perfect correlation (which is only possible in theory).


What is really interesting to look at is education and past experience (the two things you normally see in a resume). Resumes are, to date, the most commonly used method to screen applicants, even though science tells us that they actually aren't that good at predicting job success. 

The highest predictability was from work sample tests, where the candidate actually does the job for a certain period of time (and thus it is fairly difficult to let candidates do them). Second best is General Mental Ability tests (usually measured by conducting logic tests), and structured interviews. It was also found that combining logic tests with personality tests increased predictability of job performance to up to 0.65 on the scale shown above (an up to 27% increase).

Now that you have this information, consider how your selection methods fare in relation to these findings and what your reasoning is for using them. It is important that you can motivate your selection methods, whatever they may be, instead of using what is just the “norm”.

Decide on Potential vs. Readiness 

Secondly, you need to decide upon what skills are required for the role you are recruiting for. What are the “need to haves”, and what are the “nice to haves”? Do you need someone who has to be up and running in that role NOW? Or can you spend a bit more time in onboarding the new hire, with the primary focus to perform more long term? Those are necessary questions to answer in order to decide what ratio of potential versus readiness you need to look for in your candidate. 

alva hire potential

Potential is the ability of an individual to be successful in many different ways in the future. It is how they handle complex information, learn new things, and what they do when they do not know what to do, for example. It can be measured through logical ability tests and personality tests. 

Readiness reflects the knowledge an individual currently has and their past experience. Basically if an individual can do a certain thing right now. This is captured through work samples, CVs and work history to different degrees. 

An example of this could be if you are recruiting for a software engineer role and the role requires knowledge of how to code in Python. Do you need to hire someone who can code in Python today (meaning their readiness is high)? Or are you willing to hire someone who does not know Python specifically (but perhaps other languages), but with a high ability to learn Python? In the second scenario, you can prioritize potential over readiness.

It is of course generally recommended to think long term for most positions, and give higher weight to potential since that is more predictive of future job performance. Candidates with high potential can learn new skills faster, and with the accelerating pace of change in working life nowadays, that ability is more central than ever before. 

A rough division we encourage using is 40% Readiness and 60% Potential, allowing you to have the best of both aspects. However, some roles require urgency and hence higher Readiness, and that is perfectly fine too. You just need to decide upon these factors beforehand.

Use automations to get more time with candidates

Third is the importance of automating processes wherever possible. This applies to the entire process- from the beginning till the end. That means having an ATS or having automated evaluation through psychometric testing, for example. This will allow you to save precious time on administrative tasks and instead invest it in interviewing candidates. You will also be setting up a more objective process free from human biases and errors.

Find out more about how to do this and the importance of it in this webinar we did with Teamtailor and Daniel Wellington.

The Ideal Recruitment Process

“If you conduct an interview unprepared and ask questions according to the flow of the conversation, you will be assessing the candidate’s ability based on your subjective gut feeling. “

So now that we have touched a bit on the theory behind recruitment, let’s start shaping the ideal recruitment process for your organization. Here are five steps you can take to ensure your recruitment process has the best chance for success:


1. Have intent in every activity

We built this recruitment process based on the Alva coined term “intent in every activity”. That means you want to pin down exactly what you are trying to evaluate in each step of the process. If you do not know the reasoning and science behind why you have a certain step in the process you should not have it. Shift from focusing on just the methods to the process as a whole. If you want fair and predictive hiring, it is not enough to use structured methods, you also need to integrate them in a process that is well thought-through.

Alva-labs-recruitment-process-outlineThis is what the recruitment process looks like if you were to apply for a job at Alva. It works great - feel free to copy it!


2. Ensure that you attract a wide variety of candidates

Attracting and sourcing a wide pool of candidates is the essential first step. We aren’t the experts at that, but thankfully Teamtailor is.  Here is a great article from them that outlines How to market your company to attract top talent.

Having an ATS like Teamtailor to keep track of all your applicants and making the process seamless is crucial to ensure a great candidate experience for the applicant. If you are a Teamtailor customer, you can watch how easy it is to integrate Alva with Teamtailor here.


3. Do assessments as early as possible

The most efficient way to screen candidates, especially if you receive a large amount of applications, is by using psychometric tests. Here is why:

  • Tests are 100% scalable, as they can be automated and require much fewer resources to administer. Especially if you integrate it seamlessly with your ATS.
  • Psychometric tests are much better at predicting future job performance compared to CVs and cover letters.
  • They are objective and don’t allow for human bias. If you have an ambition to create an unbiased and fair recruitment process, screening on tests scores rather than CVs is a great way to start.

The recommended type of psychometric tests are logical ability tests and personality tests. The reasoning is simple: we want to measure predictors of future job performance, and we don’t want to waste time measuring the same thing in different ways. 

Logic tests do that through measuring General Mental Ability, and personality tests do that through measuring the personality traits associated with high performance. More is not better when it comes to psychometric testing as numerous tests can overlap and really be measuring the same thing. So make sure you choose test vendors that offer tests that are deeply rooted in research.


4. Conduct structured interviews

The amount of interviews that need to be conducted vary according to the role. We would suggest doing at least two interviews,  with an option to conduct more if needed.

Keep in mind (and be careful of): If you conduct an interview unprepared and ask questions according to the flow of the conversation, you will be assessing the candidate’s ability based on your subjective gut feeling. 

By being more structured and asking all candidates fixed questions, you will have a more comparable basis to assess them objectively. This way, you will save time as it will be easier to rate candidates and there will be less dispute over who to move forward with. All the interviews conducted should be as structured as possible. 

The first interview will normally be with the recruiter or the talent acquisition specialist to assess the soft skills relevant for the position. This should ideally be conducted after the assessment phase, for those candidates who met the requirements of the psychometric tests. 

The second interview is more to check for readiness such as the candidate’s knowledge and experience. The ideal person to conduct this interview is the hiring manager, because they will be best equipped to judge that. 

Sometimes you also want a third interview, which can be conducted with a diverse panel of employees to further ensure unbiased decision making. Another option for this interview is for it to be with the person in the role who will interact most with the hire (apart from the hiring manager). A final and fourth optional interview could be with the head of the organization, or someone else in a leadership position to assess the culture fit of the individual with the organization.


5. Give work sample tests (scalable versions of them)

Work sample tests in their ideal form involve a hands on test of the job the candidates must perform and are for those who already have the skills required for the job. For example, a work sample test for a bus driver’s position would involve the candidate driving the bus through what would be their work routes with all the traffic and distracting passengers. So it is no surprise that work sample tests score highest when it comes to predicting future job performance since they involve the candidate literally doing the job. But as you can imagine, they are extremely difficult to scale, and cannot be used for entry level jobs.

An alternative is to use more simulation based, easier to administer versions of work sample tests. Those involve giving the candidate a case or a task and examining how they complete it. It is recommended that these are used towards the end of the process, as they often will take significant time from the candidate to do.

After this stage you may also want to call up the references provided by candidates. Reference checks are not something we have as a regular practice at Alva because of the low effectiveness of references in predicting job performance. However, It can still be a great way for you as a manager to learn more about your final candidates, and get insights on how to motivate them.

Final thoughts

The steps and principles I have outlined here can hopefully help you to create an automated, objective and structured recruitment process. I also want to urge you to always try to be mindful of your own biases. It’s impossible to remove all of them, but as a recruiter it’s important you do what you can to build processes to keep the biases from affecting your decision making. 

And as always, make sure to keep evaluating your current procedures and find a way to continuously improve your hiring process. Good luck with recruiting your next superstar colleague!


By Hira Wasif, People Science Associate at Alva Labs. 

hira wasif







About Alva Labs

Alva Labs is an HR tech company and one of Teamtailor’s assessment partners. By combining established research & science with machine learning and AI, they have created one of the most accurate and reliable psychometric tests in the market. The Alva platform is very easy to use and integrates perfectly with your Teamtailor account - everything you need to create an automated, unbiased and fair recruitment process.

You can learn more about our approach to hiring here.



Hunter & Schmidt (1998)


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