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Enhancing Objectivity of Hiring Decisions with Objective Psychological Insights

While job interviews are the most common means of evaluating candidates, relying on subjective judgments during interviews can undermine the quality of hiring decisions. When assessing candidates, people often use their knowledge, past experiences, and mental frameworks as a basis for comparison. Because judgments can be biased by personal experiences and expectations, it can be challenging for interviewers to remain objective when evaluating a candidate’s skills, abilities, and overall fit within the company culture.

Receptiviti is increasingly being used to help mitigate interviewers' unconscious biases and augment their decision-making by providing a more objective assessment of candidates. This article demonstrates how Receptiviti is used to uncover insights into candidates’ psychology, personality, and culture fit by analyzing language from their interviews. The Receptiviti UI, our easy-to-use visual interface, makes it easy to analyze candidate language, understand results, and compare candidates without any programming experience needed.

Our Approach: Data Source and Psychological Measures

To demonstrate, we assessed three candidates who applied for the same executive position by analyzing their language from their Zoom interviews. To prepare the language data to be processed by Receptiviti, the language of each interviewee was aggregated separately, and all interviewer language was excluded from the analysis.

To generate a comprehensive overview on the psychology of each interviewee, we assessed each interviewee’s language on a range of dimensions relevant to hiring and the specifics of the role, including facets of Big Five personality, attentional focus, behavioral drives, analytical thinking and cognitive load, and leadership styles.

Comparing Candidate Personality

Gaining an objective understanding of a candidate’s personality can help predict how they may act in various workplace scenarios and can also help determine whether they’re likely to succeed within a collaborative culture or a high-stress work environment.

When assessing the candidates’ personalities, we found that they showed marked differences in extraversion and neuroticism. Whereas Interviewee 2 scored highest in extraversion, Interviewee 3 scored highest in neuroticism compared to the other candidates.

Extraversion vs. Neuroticism
Levels of Big 5 Personality: Extraversion vs. Neuroticism

For a more nuanced sense of how the candidates differed in their personalities, we also assessed the underlying facets of extraversion and neuroticism. As the figures below illustrate, we found that Interviewee 2 scored higher on nearly every facet of extraversion than Interviewees 1 and 3. More specifically, Interviewee 2 came across as more friendly, sociable, cheerful, energetic, and active than the other candidates. This is likely a reflection of their ability to cultivate strong relationships, facilitate adaptive team dynamics, and inspire or influence others as a leader. 

Interestingly, Interviewee 3 scored higher on most facets of neuroticism than the other interviewees. Specifically, Interviewee 3 came across as more stress-prone, self-conscious, impulsive, and aggressive during their interview than the others, suggesting that Interviewee 3 may be more likely to engage in risky decision-making, conflict, or struggle under pressure.

Extraversion and Neuroticism Facets
Levels of Extraversion and Neuroticism Facets

Determining Candidates' Attentional Focus: Individualizing vs. Collectivizing 

Each candidate’s rate of individualizing and collectivizing language was assessed to determine the degree to which they prioritize their own goals vs. the goals of other people. Higher rates of individualizing language (I, me, my) represent a greater focus on the self or personal goals, while higher rates of collectivizing language (we, us, our) represent a greater focus on the group they are part of. In the context of leadership and workplace settings, greater individualizing language tends to reflect lower clout, whereas collectivizing language reflects higher clout and is the typical language style of executive leaders. 

The results show that Interviewee 3 had the highest rates of individualizing language relative to the other interviewees, suggesting that Interviewee 3 demonstrated a greater emphasis on their own achievements and perspectives than the other interviewees. Interviewee 2, on the other hand, had the highest rate of collectivizing language, suggesting that they are likely to have a more collaborative mindset and embrace company goals as an extension of their own personal goals. 

Individualizing vs. Collectivizing
Levels of Self (Individualizing) vs. Group (Collectivizing) Focus

Assessing Behavioral Drives to Understand Candidate Motivations

Next, we determined the motivations of each candidate by assessing the degree to which each was motivated by their need for achievement, affiliation, reward, and power. Results showed that Interviewee 1 scored highest in their need for achievement and affiliation relative to Interviewees 2 and 3 (and a bit higher in their need for power than Interviewee 2). Interviewee 1’s strong achievement and affiliation drives suggest that they are likely motivated by accomplishment, recognition, personal and professional growth, and a desire to connect with other people. 

Interviewee 2 scored highest in their need for reward compared to the other candidates and slightly higher in their need for affiliation than Interviewee 3. These results indicate that, in addition to their communal orientation, Interviewee 2 is motivated to pursue their objectives with the expectation of receiving something in return. Interviewee 3 scored highest in their need for power, suggesting that they are particularly motivated by influencing others or taking charge. 

Need for Affiliation, Achievement, Power, and Reward
Levels of Need for Affiliation, Achievement, Power, and Reward

Comparison of Candidates' Analytical Thinking and Cognitive Load

Each candidate’s level of analytical thinking and cognitive load was assessed to predict how each is likely to approach problem-solving and how difficult of an experience they found the interview to be.

Interviewee 1 scored highest in analytical thinking relative to Interviewees 2 and 3, suggesting that Interviewee 1 is logical and strategic in their thinking and came across as more formal and impersonal. In contrast, Interviewees 2 and 3 appear to be more narrative (experiential or “here-and-now”) thinkers and came across as more informal and personal.

Interviewees 2 and 3 scored higher on cognitive load than Interviewee 1, suggesting that Interviewee 1 used less mental effort and cognitive resources while navigating the interview than the others. This suggests that Interviewee 1 may have been better prepared, that the questions may have been less challenging for them, or that they were simply more easily able to answer the interview questions than their peers. 

Analytical Thinking and Cognitive Processes
Levels of Analytical Thinking and Cognitive Processes

Each Candidate Has a Unique Leadership Style

Finally, it's important to include an assessment of candidates' leadership styles, especially when analyzing individuals applying for an executive position. Receptiviti’s Interpersonal Circumplex framework predicts one’s leadership style based on their differential levels of the Big Two personality traits: agency and communion. Individuals who score high in agency tend to come across as assertive and competent and typically prioritize accomplishing personal goals. Those high in communion tend to come across as cooperative and people-focused and prioritize forming and establishing bonds with others.

Our analyses demonstrated that Interviewee 1 scored high in both agency and communion, suggesting that they came across as having an inspirational leadership style during their interview. Interviewee 3 scored high in agency (similar to Interviewee 1) but lower in communion compared to the other candidates, coming across as an authoritative leader. Interviewee 2 scored high in communion (similar to Interviewee 1) but a bit lower on agency than the other candidates. This suggests that Interviewee 2 likely embraced more of a coaching leadership style.

Agency and communion
The Interpersonal Circumplex: Agency vs. Communion

The Final Step: Making a Decision

Following is a summary of each candidate and the Receptiviti-generated insights that can be used to assist with candidate selection. 

Interviewee 1: The Balanced Strategist

Interviewee 1 came across as highly strategic in their thinking and communication styles. Their high analytical thinking, coupled with their low cognitive load throughout the interview, likely reflects the ease with which they navigate interviews and other cognitively demanding situations. They also scored highest in achievement and affiliation, demonstrating that they are motivated by self-improvement and by fostering meaningful relationships. Interviewee 1’s level of achievement and affiliation fit nicely with their inspirational leadership style that balances their agentic need to accomplish personal goals with their communal need to connect with and help those around them. 

Interviewee 2: The Gregarious Team Player

Scoring highest in extraversion, Interviewee 2 was the most sociable and positive candidate. During their interview, they came across as more friendly and cheerful than their peers. They also demonstrated the highest rates of collectivizing language, suggesting that they are communally oriented and likely prioritize enabling their team members to achieve their own successes. This communal focus also comes into play in their coaching leadership style, showcasing their preference for nurturing relationships with other people over their agentic, results-driven aims. 

Interviewee 3: The Emotionally Charged Achiever

Interviewee 3 scored highest in neuroticism and individualizing language, coming across as more impulsive, aggressive, stress-prone, and self-focused than the other candidates. With the highest score related to need for power, Interviewee 3 also appeared more motivated by the desire to influence others than their peers. Interviewee 3’s power- and self-focused orientation coincides with their highly agentic and authoritative leadership style, indicating that they are likely to prioritize personal goals rather than helping others achieve their own.

Our approach and analysis aimed to quantify candidates’ lived experience during job interviews to aid hiring managers in selecting the best-fitting candidates based on their skills and abilities, the demands of the job, and the culture of the organization.

Navigating the complexities of hiring decisions can be daunting, particularly when relying solely on subjective assessments. Evaluating candidates based on one’s personal experiences and preconceived notions can introduce biases that hinder objective judgment. To address this challenge, Receptiviti can help minimize implicit biases, enhance decision-making, and offer a more objective approach to evaluating candidates’ suitability for a role. 

Contact us for more information on using Receptiviti in candidate assessment processes.

Please note: We kindly request attribution if you reference the research described in this blog post, as acknowledgment fosters collaboration and integrity in the scientific community.


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