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Cognitive biases, uncoded

This article was written by Emouna Lilti, work psychologist and career coach

In a recruitment situation, what we call "judgmental biases" are particularly active. We will help you better understand the psychological mechanisms at play during an interview.

Every day we have to process a great deal of information and make many decisions. If we had to analyze everything objectively, exhaustively and rationally, we would be unable to act on a daily basis.

The brain has therefore developed automatisms to reduce its efforts: these are cognitive biases. They simplify our reasoning, reduce our uncertainty and speed up our decision-making. Acting without our knowledge, biases are supposed to make our lives easier.

Unfortunately, they also make our judgment much less qualitative, more predictable and easier to manipulate. Marketers have understood this and use this weakness to influence us to buy their products.

If we often settle for sloppy reasoning, it is not always due to a logical error. Our motivations or beliefs may cause us to favor certain options in evaluating a situation.

Certain biases also affect the way we perceive other human beings. Indeed, cognitive, emotional or social mechanisms come into play when we have to form an opinion about a person.

In a recruitment situation, what we call "judgmental biases" are particularly active. We would like to introduce you to them in order to help you better understand the psychological mechanisms at play during an interview.

What is the point of knowing the bias for a candidate?

Numerous studies in psychology have shown that biases are more pronounced when the decision to be made is stressful, complex or urgent.

This is precisely the case when a recruiter chooses a candidate for a position. Based on relatively little information, he or she must make a large number of analyses and judgments to make the right prediction.

In a situation like this, the level of uncertainty is so high that the brain reaches its limits and calls upon these ultra simple scripts to make the task easier.
Recruiters are well aware of this and try to create more objective evaluation processes that are supposed to be able to counteract their weakness in reasoning (test, anonymous CV, etc.).

There are many resources to help them avoid the main biases that affect their judgment. However, like all of us, they are still quite fragile and subject to the risk of error.

This is where it gets interesting.

Since biases are largely predictable, knowing which ones are likely to affect recruiters gives you power. The more you know about them, the more you'll be able to sway the judgment in your favor.

For example, knowing that first impressions greatly influence how you are evaluated will push you to be more careful in your interview entry.

Or, knowing that a recruiter judges more favorably people who are similar to him or her will push you to make your common points with him or her more salient.

In short, you will be able to develop a set of influence techniques that will strengthen your power of persuasion and your chances of being hired.

Is the purpose of this resource to teach you how to manipulate recruiters?

Absolutely not!

While it is possible to misuse knowledge about cognitive or judgmental biases, this is not how we advise you to use them.

Furthermore, bias analysis is not an exact science, and fortunately there are times when logic prevails.

Knowing the biases should simply help you put yourself in the recruiter's shoes by understanding the cognitive process his or her brain goes through according to his or her issues and fears. This will allow you to feed the exchange intelligently.

Sometimes, some candidates have trouble understanding the implicit criteria on which they are evaluated. This resource will help them discover the often unknown evaluation reflexes that impact their judgment and will allow them to work on their communication style.

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