5 Helpful Psychological Theories for Recruitment5 min read

Ali Neill / August 6, 2023
Category : Human Resources, Recruitment advice
Caption: 5 Helpful Psychological Theories for Recruitment5 min read

Recruiters are constantly around people. They deal with clients, job board workers, candidates and colleagues. Furthermore, a big part of their job is actually sizing people up and figuring out what to believe and what to dismiss. This helps fill positions quickly and move on to the next vacancy. That’s why understandinging human psychology and psychological theories are essential for this profession. Here are 5 which can help improve recruitment skills.

Pavlov’s Dog: Conditioning

Many people have heard of Pavlov’s dog (or dogs) because it is an incredibly famous case from the 1890s. Pavlov, a Russian physician, noticed that the dogs would salivate when they saw his assistant who usually brought them food. He suspected that the reaction came from an unconscious connection between the food and the assistant. He tested this theory by playing a metronome when serving food over several weeks. Then, he stopped providing food and just played the metronome. He was right: the dogs would salivate in anticipation of the food (even if it didn’t come) because they associated it with the sound.

Takeaway: So, what does this have to do with recruitment? Much like the dogs, we are all conditioned by past experiences. In situations which feel familar, we repeat behaviour. By understanding this, you can look out for this in your candidates. Some might become tense and nervous, others might become boastful and overconfident and it could just be a reaction to the setting of an interview. Next time you have an interview, spice it up! Change the usual setting to something less typical (like an outdoor location) or start with questions and activities you wouldn’t normally use.

Losada Ratio

Barbara Fredrickson and Marcial Losada are responsible for the Losada ratio, or the critical positivity ratio. Over time, it has come under some scrutiny but the premise of the idea is still worth considering. Just before the millenium, these two psychologists explained that the weight of negative emotions was not the same as the weight for positive emotions. The ratio has varied over time but essentially one piece of negative feedback needs to be matched with 3 to 5 pieces of positive feedback for it to feel balanced. People are far more sensitive to the bad stuff you say than to the good stuff.

Takeaway: Why is this important? As a recruiter, you’ll have to give people negative feedback (when they aren’t selected for a job), negative reviews (if they aren’t doing their job well) or negative information (about the job they are potentially going to do). When presenting the bad, you’ll now know that you need to lay it on thick with the positive remarks and aim for a 3 to 1 ratio. Keep in mind that it’s not a good idea to provide ONLY good points with nothing negative because that might sound fake or untrue.

False Memory Theory

One of the most controversial and groundbreaking psychological theories of our time is this one. Elizabeth Loftus actually received hate mail and death threats for bringing the inconsistencies of our memories to light. In her TedTalk, she explains some of her work and how she was able to change the legal system thanks to these findings. Before DNA testing, witness statements put mant innocent men behind bars because the witnesses really believed they had seen the accused at the crime scene. In reality, seeing a separate photo or just being questioned about the incident led to these witnesses confusing reality with fiction. In her studies, Elizabeth also discovered that memories could be put into people’s minds just by telling them they experienced something they momentarily cannot remember.

Takeaways: Knowing that the mind is flawed means we cannot rely on it as a trustworthy source of information. In interviews, take notes! You can also record the conversation or film the exchange. After you’ve seen many candidates, you might just mix them up or remember the ways things were said different.

Hindsight Bias

We actually looked at this one in a previous article. You might remember that hindsight bias refers to a belief that an outcome is more predictable that it actually is. In fact, if you know what happened then everything leading up to the result seems like it’s pointing to that result more than anything else. Daniel Kahneman is the genius behind this one but elements of it were already present in other works of psychology and literature.

Takeaways: When something goes wrong during the trial period, try to double-check your candidate choices with others. It’s important not to double guess yourself before reassuring yourself that another recruiter could’ve made the same choice.

The Conformity Theory

Solomon Asch established a clear experiment to check this theory. He wanted to see how people would react to strong peer pressure in the form of everyone thinking one way even though it is obviously wrong. The findings point to a high number of people caving. When everyone gives the wrong answer, a person is more likely to just accept the wrong answer and give the same wrong answer.

Takeaways: If you’re hiring with a team, try not to discuss your candidate choices before you’ve given it some thought on your own. In order to ensure your choice is really your own, you don’t want to be influenced by someone else’s overconfidence.

There you have it: you can use your new-found knowledge of psychology to select the best candidates and impress your colleagues!

source: https://ananda.ai/blog/general-psychology-vs-social-psychology/

Author: Ali Neill

As the job board tester and blog editor for the Jobboard Finder, Ali works on job boards from all around the world and keeps a close eye on the recruitment trends thanks to a number of sources, including the website’s social media pages.

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