How to Avoid Pigeonholing Potential Employees

  • By Mike M
  • August 2022

PigeonholingPigeonholing is the product of making judgments about someone based on limited information. It is something that we all do in many areas of our lives, including selecting employees. Potentially excellent employees are regularly turned away by random acts of pigeonholing on the part of managers and human resources personnel, especially if they are acting on limited information such as a resume and references.

Pigeonholing can also lead companies to hire bad employees. The candidate may have glowing references and a perfect resume, but lack the actual required competencies to do their job. Experience does not always equal competence, especially when personality traits don’t support the behaviors required for their role. And the traits which drive those behaviors, you really can’t gauge in the standard hiring process.

Employment assessments eliminate pigeonholing.

An employment assessment isn’t like a Buzzfeed quiz. A properly designed and implemented assessment will identify a number of specific traits. Our TRAITS survey identifies 7 specific traits — 3 more than the 4 used in DISC assessments and more reliably than the popular Myers Briggs profile. This allows us to build a complete and accurate picture of the candidate which is completely unbiased.

Here’s an example of what pigeonholing can do: a man gains an interview at a large technology company. He has experience in all the necessary checkboxes for the position. But there is one thing that the interviewer doesn’t like: the interviewee has never applied their skills and experience for a large corporation. The second candidate has less experience than the first with the actual skills needed, but has worked for a large corporation for the past 6 months implementing those skills.

In a hiring environment where personality assessments aren’t employed, the hiring manager is more likely to hire the second employee due to pigeonholing; the first candidate’s skills were only applicable at smaller companies. But if a personality assessment were carried out, the company may have found that the first candidate had the right traits (including adaptability) necessary to apply his earned skills at a larger organization, while the second candidate actually didn’t do well at his last position due to lack of interest and ability in those skill areas, which would have been evident through a TRAITS assessment.

The bias leading to pigeonholing here is the belief that only people who have worked at large corporations are appropriate for large corporations. While this may sound ludicrous, hiring managers have these kinds of thoughts all the time, and they usually arise from fear that their new hire won’t do well in their new position, making them look bad. A properly carried out assessment eliminates this fear by giving them a full psychometric profile of the person they are considering, allowing them to hire based on fact and not on instinct.

Pigeonholing can be about limiting candidates and employees.

Someone may walk into your office for a particular job, but is actually better suited for another. This is also true of current employees. Psychometric testing can help you avoid the trap of: her experience is in web design, so she’s a web designer. It can tell you that the web designer has very strong natural abilities in people and project management, and with time may actually be the perfect person to head the marketing department.

In the end, there are facts about a person that you just won’t get from a resume or an interview. Both methods give the hiring manager very limited information, which leads to pigeonholing. Once you have more information about a person, pigeonholing – or its more serious cousin, discrimination – won’t be a problem.

Employee assessments can help your business avoid pigeonholing, eliminate fears which lead to bad hiring decisions, and potentially save money in retraining costs by keeping you from hiring the wrong candidate. Contact us today to find out more.

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