Recruiting Brainwave

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An individual’s behavioural preferences are strongly predictive of future performance, according to Dr Viki

How developments in neuroscience can help recruitment.

The past year has been a tough time for most businesses and with continued economic uncertainty across all sectors, there is little hope of a sudden end to the situation. Cost saving, downsizing and consolidation have meant that companies are under increasing pressure to recruit motivated, enthusiastic people who are capable of working together and delivering excellent results in a very demanding marketplace. Recruitment budgets are tight and managers must ensure they place the right person in the right role

Successful recruitment involves answering two key questions:

Is the candidate eligible for the role in terms of education, skill, knowledge and experience?

Is the candidate suitable for the role in terms of behavioural preference?

Experience shows that the traditional HR approach tends to deal with the first question effectively, but little if any thought is given to the second question. This is a serious weakness. A candidate can be highly eligible for a role, but also totally unsuitable. It is said that most people get a job on the basis of their skill, knowledge or experience, but most people leave their job, willingly or unwillingly, for behavioural reasons.

A Harvard Business Review study has shown that the level of staff turnover almost doubles when no “job suitability match” has been undertaken. The study also concluded that 80% of staff turnover can be attributed to mistakes made during the employee selection and recruitment process.

Now breakthroughs in neuroscience are coming to the aid of organisational leaders and their HR specialists. Using brain imaging technology, Professor Richard Haier Professor of Psychology, at the University of California School of Medicine, has demonstrated that the brain may need to work as much as 100 times harder when an individual is not using his or her natural behavioural preferences.


Such a demand on the brain requires huge amounts of energy and oxygen. This not only forces the brain to work much harder, but could also over time throw off the person’s homeostatic balance in the area of oxygen usage and distribution. Normally the brain uses approximately 20% of the oxygen taken in through the lungs. This leaves about 80% for the rest of the body where it is utilized in the process of metabolism and in providing energy at the cellular level. As more and more oxygen is demanded by the brain that is not working in its preferred way, less and less is available to keep the rest of the body up to speed. A variety of symptoms can result (e.g., fatigue, digestive problems, listlessness). Indeed, over time, the oxygen imbalance can contribute to the person’s body shifting from anabolic to catabolic functioning.

Even the most impressive résumé and job interview cannot tell you if a candidate is a good match for a specific position. It is important to use a good profiling tool that can help you identify and evaluate a candidate’s natural behavioural preferences to ensure the best fit possible.

We all have natural preferences and we tend to do the things that bring us pleasure and avoid the things that make us feel uncomfortable. If a task matches your behavioural preference you will tend to do well at it; if you dislike a task you will try to avoid it. If you dislike a task that is important to success in your job, you will almost certainly not be highly motivated to perform that task and at some point this will have a negative impact on your job performance.

Traditional recruitment methods place great emphasis on interviews with the candidate. The interview is however, an exceptionally false situation. Everyone acts to some extent out of their normal character – including the interviewer. This is behavioural adaptability in action. Each person involved is modifying their base behaviour to suit an unusual set of circumstances. Only when those circumstances are removed, will they revert to a more normal behavioural pattern.

More and more businesses are now using behaviour profiling tools which peel away as much as possible of this unnatural overlay. Interviewers need to know the true behaviour patterns of the person underneath. There are no good or bad behaviours, but there can be certain behaviour preferences that are important – positively or negatively – in a particular job. If a candidate needs stability and predictability, he or she may well be able to operate in a high-risk business environment, but at what personal cost?

Research has also confirmed that the more time a person spends on areas of non preferred behaviours, the more likely that person is to become stuck in mediocrity. Excellent performers in all jobs think, talk and act differently to average and poor performers. Identifying the behavioural preferences that contribute to outstanding performance is critical to developing a highly effective talent-acquisition strategy. The key to successful recruiting is, therefore, to identify and hire people who are not only eligible to do the tasks that are critical for excellence in the job, but who also really enjoy doing those tasks.

So how do companies identify suitable, talented individuals? Within the recruitment context, successful companies have clearly identified what a ‘successful’ candidate looks like and they go to the market knowing exactly what they are looking for. These companies also use sophisticated talent-based selection tools such as the neuroscience-based PRISM Personal Performance Mapping (, backed up by a comprehensive study of those employees who have a proven track record of success in the relevant roles. The goal is to benchmark and replicate ‘best-in-class’ performers. Studying and understanding the behavioural preferences that contribute to outstanding performance is critical to developing a highly effective recruitment strategy.

Placing behavioural preference at the heart of the recruitment process is based on the principle that an individual’s behavioural preferences are strongly predictive of future performance. More and more companies now recognise that hiring people who possess the natural qualities to deliver consistent high-level performance is critical to their business success. To put it simply, behavioural preference has a huge impact on performance.

By Dr G T Viki, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology, Stanford University

Source material

Haier, Richard. Cortical Glucose Metabolic Rate Correlates of Abstract Reasoning and Intelligence, Studied with Positron Emission.

Haier, Richard. The Study of Personality With Positron Emission Tomography in Personality Dimensions & Arousal,

Harvard Business Review, Vol 59 No 9


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4 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. Interesting article and very much DISC under a different name. Behaviours are important but so are values for a comapny and individual. Most staff turnover is down to a different or mis- matching value set, so for example in a sales enviroment why do “top billers” not always take their success with them when they move company.

    I see behaviours being important, values more so and choosen thinking styles (attributes) to be vital in the success of anyone at managerial level or above. Axiology is a new tool that sheds light into areas that most people will never ever find out until it’s too late. That said these are all in addition to a good structured interview process and procedures, so business need to work closely with HR.

    The bottom line really is most intellegent people would not but a house without having it surveyed but the very same people will invest in people without any external validation.

    Anyone who actually sits down and works out the cost of getting it wrong soon sees that a proper validation tool can save thousands in time, money and energy.

    Howard D’Silva
    Results UK
    01908 488 260
    0780 879 25 20

  2. This a really interesting article, as I have implemented behavioural event interviewing and profiling into both my current company, Harrods and previously at Yell. It has provided a more tangible method to measuring what good looks like. Chemistry Consulting specialise in this area and are an excellent company to work with.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with Dr Viki’s thought-provoking article, ‘Recruitment Brainwaves’. Having spent almost 30 years in the HR consultancy business, I believe he has highlighted an increasingly important recruitment issue which has also been highlighted in a major study by the Gallup Organisation which revealed that only 12% of people in the workplace play to their natural strengths “most of the time.” This is a profoundly disturbing fact for anyone involved in HR work

    Human beings are generally healthiest, happiest, and most successful when they can use and be rewarded for using their own natural, preferred behaviour, or what Dr. Carl Gustav Jung called their “natural lead function”. Indeed, it can be said that when a person develops and uses his or her natural lead function in an environment which both supports and rewards that function, the person is more productive and finds the experience more satisfying and enjoyable.

    From a neurological point of view, the repetition of any action can produce increased efficiency. The increased efficiency, however, even with total mastery, is not more than ten per cent. Thus practice and mastery are important, in that they save energy and guarantee a higher rate of success. Competencies developed in a person’s areas of non preferred behaviour, however, are not nearly as helpful or effective for that person as competencies developed in their natural lead function.

    People can be taught to acquire skills, such as doing mathematics, using spreadsheets, or even performing well during interviews, but all the training courses and seminars in the world cannot teach a person how to be naturally enthusiastic, empathetic, conscientious or optimistic. Despite this, many organisations continue to recruit people based almost entirely on the basis of their skills, knowledge and experience, and then spend considerable sums of money trying to fix their ‘weaknesses’ when it is recognised that they do not fit with the behavioural needs of the job. Moreover, many people believe that the more they diversify their knowledge or skills the more secure their future will become.

    A growing number of research projects have confirmed that the opposite is much more likely to be true. The more a person spends time on work involving areas of his or her non preferred behaviour, the less opportunity that person has to exploit their natural, innate talents and the more likely that person is to deliver a mediocre performance and achieve little job satisfaction.

    I could not quite follow the comments made by your correspondent, Howard D’Silva. I use both DiSC and PRISM Personal Performance Mapping frequently because the two instruments produce quite different information. DiSC is four dimensional, PRISM is eight dimensional. PRISM includes Emotional Intelligence and Five Factor Model scores, plus a 360 degree facility which includes options for both generic and in-house competencies, DiSC does not. It is important to remember that the ‘best’ profiling instrument is the one that really works for you.

    Harry Newquist PhD
    Strategic Resourcing and Recruitment Consultant

  4. A very informative article that, as a trained practitioner with PRISM Personal Performance Mapping® has sparked a train of thoughts and observations…

    This ‘new’ Neuro-behavioural Preference Mapping – N-bPM© approach has a distinctive advantage, like stepping back so that we can see the activity in the whole forest, rather than finding ourselves being stuck in the roots of the trees. It then perhaps becomes easier to see the smoke of the fire and possibly do something about it?

    Like most new and innovative products on the market, it requires a degree of confidence and courage combined with intrigue and inspirational behaviour to take on board what N-bPM© offers, as used in PRISM. I am finding that it is the Operational Directors (CEO, FD, MD Sales & Marketing Directors) who seem to move positively on this. Perhaps HR Directors would like to explain why, or, is it down to many in HR needing a greater awareness?

    A confusing aspect, possibly that is more cultural, is the fact that most people associate “Profiling” with the distinguished set of psychometric tests that are currently offered. These are still leaving a trail of mixed pleasures and feelings about ‘typing’ and labelling as a result of their use. Also in a time of cost savings, they do appear to be on the higher cost side, which is why PRISM is attracting more attention, because of its much lower cost and overall outlay for users and trained practitioners.

    Hence, I have coined the phrase N-bPM©, to avoid close association with any of the psychometric testing instruments. PRISM is neither a psychometric, nor is it a test. It looks at and measures the strengths of behavioural preferences, which are mapped out with, apparently, currently over 1.6 million possible variables identified, rather than the 4, 16, 32 or 74 types and sub-types indicated by various psychometric tests. The value of psychometrics tests should not be understated, yet, it seems to me that an assessment instrument that can explain “Why we are who we are?”©, and not just “Who we are?”, without labelling or stereotyping people into pigeon holes’, must have value and merit greater attention. My own work as an Executive Coach, helping people and businesses through change has more than demonstrated this to me.

    All of this, as eluded to by Dr Viki’s article, is being based around the applied neuroscientific research, being direct observation of the human brain, its architecture, physical constructs and workings through the use of emerging scanning technology and neurosurgery. From this fantastic array of research seems to have also developed the ‘new’ strands, neuro-psychology and cognitive behavioural therapy to which, although independent, N-bPM© is inextricably linked.

    Unsurprisingly, the factor structure and internal strength studies for PRISM, as part of comparative studies with psychometric tests also undertaken by Dr. Viki, show PRISM to have very high Cronbach Alpha scores indicating that PRISM is a very reliable measurement instrument.

    Another of PRISM’s distinct advantages is that it does not need to replace an existing psychometric system that might be in place, yet, it does enhance the process for improving performance in Recruitment & Selection, Career and Personal Development and Talent Management. It includes a performance appraisal that has a brilliantly simple and time saving 360 degree feedback with generic and in-house competencies.

    It can also be stand alone, strengthening an organisation’s ability to see its people perform in line with the individuals’ and teams’ behavioural preferences and, so, set about improving overall performance to achieve excellence.

    As a result, we can now map out Team and Group behavioural preferences, which illustrate in a visual way their Culture. This has enormous implications and ramifications for organisations wishing to bring about change and improve their talent. There is only one reason that I have ever heard given for bringing about change and this is to improve performance and results or else its the equivalent of the “We die!” message. Yet, how many have tried to bring about change, internally led or through mergers and acquisitions, without having a good understanding of the behavioural preference culture that can promote, stall or just kill change? N-bPM©, using PRISM allows Leaders to have a clarity of their own Leadership, Followship and Service culture that lends itself to a greater and more effective people change process.

    Dr. Viki’s article begins to set out the value of N-bPM©, as seen through using PRISM. Now the question is how many HR people would like to learn more, directly from PRISM or any of the trained practitioners listed on the website

    James Leeper
    Executive Coach and PRISM Practitioner
    Adsum Auxilium (Help is Here)

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