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3 Tips for Implementing Psychological Safety During the Hiring Process

You’ve gone through the exhausting hiring process as an employer – the screening step, the team interviews, the technical rounds, and the final round. Your first pick is a phenomenal candidate who would be a fantastic addition to any team. Is there anything else you can do to coax them into picking your organization? Unfortunately, it may be too late if you wonder about this after the interview circuit.

Feeling supported, engaging in high-performing behavior, being comfortable taking risks, and having clear expectations are pillars of strong workplace culture. These are also pillars of psychological safety. It is critical to promote psychological safety early on – as early as the hiring process. Here are three research-backed tips for establishing psychological safety in the hiring process.

1. Ask powerful questions

The hiring process is filled with questions, but are you asking the right ones? Asking the wrong questions, or worse, not asking questions at all, stunts professional growth and alienates employees. However, not all questions are built equally. Surface-level questions, such as Yes/No or “check-in” questions, will not foster psychological safety in the same way powerful questions will. To empower candidates, practice asking powerful questions. Research suggests that powerful questions can broaden understanding of a situation, spark creativity, and evoke more inquiry. A thoughtful inquiry may empower potential employees and foster innovation, promoting psychological safety during the hiring process.

2. Destigmatize failure

Failure is inevitable – this is difficult to accept, especially due to its association with poor performance. While striving for success is always the goal, research has shown that too much success breeds complacency. While it seems counter-intuitive, failure may even cultivate success. High-performing teams embrace failure because they see it as growth potential and choose to learn from it. We suggest destigmatizing failure in the interview process. Engaging in this practice may make candidates more comfortable and give them the opportunity to showcase instances when they have thrived in times of failure. Relatedly, destigmatizing failure also allows employers to demonstrate the innovation their teams pursue, which means everyone wins, even in the face of failure.

3. Practice situational humility

Every company and its mission is important. However, in an interview, candidates must understand they are even more important. A way to demonstrate appreciation for candidates’ strengths and professional contributions is to practice situational humility. Situational humility refers to leadership that views itself modestly and as teachable. Research on humility in the workplace is strongly associated with team confidence and effectiveness. Given that the interview process can be anxiety-inducing and may even enable stereotype threat, situational humility can help facilitate the interview process. Lastly, practicing humility builds trust and rapport, making it a critical hiring process component.

The hiring process is time-consuming for every party involved and it does not end when you find the right person. Further, it can perpetuate inequities in the workplace by favoring traditionally advantaged employees. A way to make the hiring process more efficient and equitable is to promote psychological safety by asking thoughtful questions, destigmatizing failure, and practicing humility. These strategies can help people of all backgrounds shine and ultimately contribute to a more inclusive workplace.


This post was originally published on the Cangrade blog.

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