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Thoughts on the science of hiring from Bonsai Hiring’s Nicole Rufuku

According to Nicole Rufuku, the most broken part of the hiring process is the interview, but the most important process of the hiring process is also the interview.

Rufuku is the CEO and cofounder of New York-based Bonsai Hiring, a company that specializes in hiring-processes, and author of the upcoming book, Hiring for the Innovation Economy: Three Steps to Improve Performance and Diversity.

Rufuku was also a speaker at this year’s Inside/Outside Innovation Summit in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she shared with the audience her expertise on where organizations go wrong in their hiring processes, and what they can do to fix them.

One mistake Rufuku frequently sees is when companies put money into their recruiting process but not in a way that adequately addresses it.

She said the cycle is like a leaky funnel and it happens everywhere, even at New York startups that have amazing businesses but broken hiring processes that don’t effectively represent the company.

“You can’t create an innovative culture without including those values in your hiring process,” said Rufuku.

She added that employees are the people who make a brand work on a daily basis, and job candidates should be treated like customers experiencing a company’s brand during hiring.

If someone has a bad experience during an interview, it could cause them to no longer want to interact with the company and its brand. That negative ripple can be especially damaging to small ecosystems.

“Your job candidates are your most important customer,” said Rufuku. “What I challenge teams and hiring managers with is asking yourself, how can you make every single candidate a brand promoter whether or not they get the job.”

Another common mistake Rufuku encounters is when companies view hiring as an art, not a science. For example, a hiring manager might have a favorite interview question that she asks. By asking a question that she’s deemed a favorite of her own, she isn’t treating the process as a scientific and unbiased process.

“People do that because if they haven’t had any formal training, they create the process on their own,” said Rufuku.

Bonsai Hiring specializes in The Bonsai Method, a one-hour interview structure designed to optimize interviews for future job performance while reducing bias and legal risk.

They currently provide one-day training sessions on the Bonsai Method for hiring managers and their teams, but Rufuku said that there are a few things every company can do right now to create a more structured, scientific interview that reduces  bias:

  • Decide what the hiring team priorities for success, whether that’s hard skills or soft skills
  • Ask questions that can be used to measure variables essential to the candidate’s skills
  • Ask all candidates the same questions in the same order
  • Use an anchored scale to evaluate a candidate’s answers after every question