Is following gut instinct – right or wrong?

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Most of us will have had a feeling or presentiment about another person and have, if we are honest, allowed it to influence our judgement. There is a legend that says most people either get a job / second interview based on the first 30 seconds of the meeting – perhaps this is an exaggeration of the “first impressions count” rule, but is it so far from the truth? Whether we admit it or not the fact remains that, consciously or sub-consciously, natural or gut instincts are very much in play, and the workplace is no exception.

What's your instinct? Would you hire this man in a creative role?

What's your instinct? Would you hire this man in a creative role?

A recent news item in a UK HR Magazine reported Managers make decisions about people based on gut instinct rather than objective data. The article begins “According to the results of a study by workplace psychologists OPP, 71% of all line managers would change the people decisions they’ve made if given a second chance. It’s an indictment on the ‘gut instinct’ culture that costs UK businesses millions of pounds in performance issues each year.” Reading and re-reading the article I’m not sure that gut instinct is the heart of the problem. but that’s another matter for another time. The clear implication is that gut instincts are bad, but are they? I have come across a few people who seem to think a little differently.

First up is Steve Jobs the Chairman and Co-Founder of Apple.
“Recruiting is hard. It’s just finding the needles in the haystack. We do it ourselves and we spend a lot of time at it. I’ve participated in the hiring of maybe 5,000-plus people in my life. So I take it very seriously. You can’t know enough in a one-hour interview. So, in the end, it’s ultimately based on your gut. How do I feel about this person? What are they like when they’re challenged? Why are they here? I ask everybody that: ‘Why are you here?’ The answers themselves are not what you’re looking for. It’s the meta-data.” From Fortune – Steve Jobs speaks out.

Luke Johnson writing in the Financial Times recently stated that as he has become older he has “… become steadily more convinced that you simply should not get involved with individuals you dislike at first meeting. Allow your inner prejudice to take effect. I’m not talking about illegal discrimination, but old-fashioned sense. I suspect we all receive many almost subconscious warning signals that we cannot readily explain. Dishonest characters are invariably adept at manufacturing CVs and obtaining bogus references, while fraudsters are usually excellent liars, yet polite society suggests we should believe well-presented people and give them the benefit of the doubt. But if someone feels wrong to you, do not hire them, do not go into partnership with them, do not extend them credit and do not invest in them. Our sixth sense has evolved to protect us from potential enemies, so do not ignore it.

It would be interesting to hear readers views on this subject. Also, would your instinct let you hire the man in the picture for a job as a graphic designer?

About Peter Russell

Peter is co-founder and Director of the Pan Europe HR Network. He is responsible primarily for member networking, production, and research and development.

One thought on “Is following gut instinct – right or wrong?

  1. Bewildered

    My instinct says “Of course!” – he looks exactly like a very charismatic design leader I used to know…

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