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2 Things Black Friday Can Teach Us About Hiring

December 1, 2015

black-friday.jpgI am a person who loves a good deal. 20% off a product I want? I’m sold! Especially around this time of year, there are advertisements galore for sales on products. Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer some great deals. What kind of Thanksgiving would it be if we didn’t hear about someone camped out at a Best Buy all week to get a ridiculous deal on a TV? While I do not have the dedication to camp out Thursday night or battle the crowds on Black Friday, I am a bit envious of some deals they are getting. However, when there is so much hype around, it’s also important to take a step back and determine whether the deal is all that it’s made out to be.

The errors that we are susceptible of committing during these blowout sales parallel mistakes that we can make when hiring.

Fear of scarcity

First, most blowout sales have one element in common: they are for a limited time only. The sale will only be valid for one day or for the weekend. If we don’t buy it then, we’ll miss out. In psychology, we call this the scarcity effect. Essentially, companies are drawing us in by instilling fear in us, such that, if we don’t act now, we will miss out. This is usually not the situation at all. Black Friday is followed by Cyber Monday, which is followed by other Christmas or holiday sales events. However, it still creates a haze on us to respond more emotionally to the sales.

How does this relate to hiring, you ask? Well, in a tight market where we don’t have a large candidate pool, we can experience a similar fear of scarcity. In this case, the fear of scarcity may actually be warranted, but we may not always be acting rationally when considering candidates. When there are few candidates to choose from or when we feel an urgency to backfill a position today (or in reality, 3 weeks ago), we oftentimes are susceptible to “settling.” This sense of scarcity that we need to take any candidate that is living and breathing can really create havoc down the road. If we settle for candidates who do not meet standards across all skills and abilities necessary for the job, then we are left with a subpar performer who isn’t helping the bottom line. They may be filling the position in a physical sense, but they probably aren’t measuring up to a more qualified candidate you would have choose if you didn’t feel this pressure. It’s important to not settle for a candidate even if you are feeling pressure to fill the position.

Only focusing on one aspect

Now, back to the sales situation. During sales, we naturally focus on one feature: the discount. Is it 40% off? 50%? Sounds like a good deal, right? Again, in these situations, we can get so hung up on the good deal, that we can lose sight on the actual product. We may be more inclined to be happy with the product just because the cost is so much lower. However, is that the actual model we wanted? Is it last year’s model? Does it come with all the features we wanted? In these situations, we can let one element (i.e., the price) drive our overall impression of the product, rather than focusing on all elements in combination. In the end, we might convince ourselves that it’s the best product we could have bought, but would it meet our standards if we considered all features that were important to us?

In hiring situations, we can experience something very similar. In an interview, we could determine that a job candidate has exceptional customer service skills. Since he blew it out of the park on this one skill, we are susceptible to assuming that he would be good in influencing or adapting to change. Ultimately, we may even assume that he is a great candidate overall. This type of mistake is called halo error. This occurs when we globalize a positive impression of one trait to all others. However, this may not be the case. For example, someone who has exceptional customer service skills could struggle when adapting to new environments or procedures. It’s important to gather information on all relevant skills and abilities and consider them to be independent of one another.

So, in a season of sales and hiring (of course!), keep these mistakes in mind so you don’t end up with a bad hire or a product that you’ll regret down the road.

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Alissa Parr, Ph.D. Alissa Parr, Ph.D. is a Senior Consultant at PSI. Her areas of expertise include the development, implementation, and evaluation of assessment processes. Alissa has experience managing entry-level through executive level assessment and selection efforts across a number of different industries including government, financial, military, education, healthcare, and manufacturing.