July 14, 2021 | Job Interview Preparation: How Can Cognitive Science Help You in Your Career Management?

Job Interview Preparation How Can Cognitive Science Help You in Your Career Management

Career Management 1.0.1.: How Will Your Brain Trick You in the Process, and How To Brace Yourself?

While applying for jobs, we typically focus on our objectives: how do we determine which position is suitable for us and suits our long-term career plans, and how do we land the job? One important aspect of your job interview preparation is to become aware of the cognitive biases that might appear in the process – both on your side and on the side of the hiring manager. We are only humans after all! The job interview tricks listed below will help you avoid the common mistakes that job applicants typically make in the process. This knowledge will help you prepare for your first job interview as well as improve your general career management strategies.

1. Anchoring

Anchoring means staying under an influence of a particular reference point or “anchor.” Once the value of the anchor is set, the perception of an individual may change from what they would have otherwise been without the anchor. For example, you might be more likely to purchase a car if it is placed alongside a more expensive model of a car. In this example, the expensive car serves as an anchor. In a way, placing an anchor might persuade you to buy a car over its market value this way.

When can this bias happen in the job application process?

At salary negotiations. Many job applicants search for information about the standard salary range on websites such as Glassdoor. And, this information tends to be highly imprecise. Positions sharing the same position title can relate to a variety of responsibilities in various companies. It means that while going to the job interview, you might have inadequate expectations, and expect a higher salary than what the hiring manager is prepared to offer.

Career-management / job interview tips

Glassdoor is only the first zoom into the salary range you might potentially expect. The final offer will also depend on the specific responsibilities at the position that you are applying for. And, on how much this work is worth in the eyes of the management of the company. Valuing work at positions within the company is hard, especially when the position is not in sales (is in that case, it would be easy to estimate how much value you bring to the company).

If you have any experience that might give the hiring manager the picture of how much your work is worth, bring it to the table! For instance, let’s say you previously managed a pivotal project for the company. The project ended up launching a product that brought the employer revenue of $20 million. Or, you brought a new client on board, and your employer cut the deal for $4 million with the client. It will highly leverage your perceived worth to the hiring manager.

In general, however, it is important to remember that the Glassdoor information be can be misleading. Try to avoid anchoring! It will save you from lots of disappointment in the job application process.

2. Framing

The definition of framing is “using a too-narrow approach and description of the situation or issue.” 

When can this bias happen in the job application process?

At the job interviews, when the applicants explain their expertise to the recruiter using jargon and specialistic terms.

Career-management / job interview tips:

You need to assume that the hiring manager doesn’t have a specialistic background. When explaining your expertise, it is good to look from the perspective of your employer. You should concentrate on the types of problems you can solve, and the potential applications of your solutions rather than the nitty-gritty details of the methodology that you use.

It is also good to give examples of the problems that you solved before using, e.g., the popular STAR method. “STAR” stands for Situation, Task, Approach, Results. It is a technique for framing your competencies in a way understandable to the recruiter by giving examples of situations that you solved using your skills, expertise, and out-of-the-box thinking.

3. Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE)

This bias means a tendency to overestimate other people’s personalities in their decision-making process and underestimate the external factors that influence them.

When can this bias happen in the job application process?

At the job interview, when you are given a lower salary proposal than you would expect. Or, after the interview, when you are rejected from the position on behalf of someone else. In many cases, job candidates get the feeling that they got rejected as the best candidates only because the hiring manager was mean and incompetent. Or, scared of their experience and competitive expertise.

Career-management / job interview tips:

In most cases, hiring managers need to meet the expectations of their own superiors. They get a so-called approved salary range for the position, and they need to find a candidate who will be truly motivated to work for the salary they are offered. Therefore, if they see you reluctantly accept the number they give you with signs of disappointment on your face, they might simply come to the conclusion that taking this job is only a short-term solution for you.

The hiring manager also needs to make sure that you will work well with other team members. There are multiple ways of determining whether you fit “the DNA of the company.” But at the end of the day, the recruiter also needs to use their common sense and intuition. Some hiring managers use their gut more often than others and rate likability in candidates high in their books. Others pay almost no attention. However, if you get rejected, don’t take it personally. The hiring manager is not there to judge you as a person and hire you based on their private taste for people. They only consider the fit between you and other team members.

Remember that recruitment is a probabilistic game. You might always get eliminated for reasons independent of the hiring manager. Therefore, the best career management advice here is: diversify. Give yourself multiple chances to succeed, not just one. Apply for multiple positions and through multiple channels. Don’t rely on any single interview to land you the job. 

4. Status Quo Bias

Status quo means a preference for the current state of affairs, and reluctance to make any change from this baseline.

When can this bias happen in the job application process?

In salary negotiations. Many job applicants are just reluctant to negotiate salaries when they get a proposal that is merely acceptable – especially if the proposed salary is higher than their previous remuneration. There is a chance to lose something in the process, so why to even risk?

Career-management / job interview tips:

When it comes to talking to the hiring manager, you are already considered a serious contender for the job. Especially if the hiring manager makes an offer after you have already met with the team, it means that they see you as a member of their tribe. It is the right time to negotiate!

As mentioned before, it is often the case that the hiring manager needs to stick to a particular salary range—for instance, because it’s a corporation and there are fixed salary levels within the company. It is good to at least try to leverage your base salary, arguing that your expertise will bring extra value to the company. 

If this is not possible, remember that it doesn’t matter how much cash you get per month. It matters how much stays in your wallet after you pay all your bills. Therefore, instead of your salary, you also negotiate other benefits that can reduce your fixed monthly costs. It might be a company car, a reimbursement of the commuting costs, covering health insurance costs for your family members, covering the kindergarten costs, covering relocation costs, etc. Sometimes, it is enough to smile and ask. 

Remember that if, say, $100 more stays in your wallet every year, then over the next 30 years, this difference will accumulate to over $30,000 (and much more if you invest this amount every month; if you can gain 4-5% interest per year, this amount will grow to $100,000 and more).

5. Temporal Discounting

Temporal discounting refers to the difference in the relative valuation placed on rewards (usually money or goods) at different points in time. For instance, if you have a chance of getting $100 now or $150 in a year from now, you might enjoy getting the first option more—even if effectively, it means receiving less cash.

When can this bias happen in the job application process?

In salary negotiations. For instance, you might get an entry-level offer with a possible promotion and a significant rise in 12 months, yet still, feel that the offer is below your qualifications and feel compelled to reject it.

The hiring manager might also experience temporal discounting while negotiating a salary. For instance, even if they are unwilling to, or cannot lift the base salary for the position, they might be still willing to give you a yearly bonus at the end of the year. If the expenditure is not instant, it doesn’t hurt as much!

Career-management / job interview tips:

Ask yourself what you really want in long term. If you take this job with a plan to stay around for 12-18 months and then switch, then perhaps taking a temporary hit in salary is not the best idea. However, if you are planning to develop in this place, accepting a temporally delayed reward might be the best strategic decision in the long run. Remember that time flies!

Similarly, if it is hard to negotiate a higher salary, you might use temporal discounting to persuade the hiring manager to offer you an end-of-the-year bonus. It is likely that the hiring manager will agree because it is a one-time commitmentand, it is time-delayed!

Conclusions: How Can Cognitive Science Help You In Career Management and in Job Interview Preparation?

Job interview preparation is crucial in the recruitment process, not only on the factual level but also on the mental levelfunctional career management strategies are what will bring you far in the long run! The job interview tips listed above will help you avoid the common mistakes in the job interviews and help you better negotiate your remuneration. 

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Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2021, July 14th). Job Interview Preparation: How Can Cognitive Science Help You in Your Career Management? Retrieved from http://ontologyofvalue.com/all-posts/job-interview-preparation-how-can-cognitive-science-help-you-in-your-career-management/

Lastly, it is natural that we feel insecure about our future in the job market today. From corporations, through consultancy companies and startups, to launching your own freelancing business – there are so many options out there! And on the good side of things, if you choose for the working environment that you naturally resonate with, passing job interviews and landing contracts becomes much easier straight away. 

Are you not unsure about working environment you should choose to go with? We have build a self-navigation tool, The Ontology of Value Test, that helps professionals and students in choosing the right career path. The test will show you where you fit in the job market given your natural working style, personality, and values. It will give you a great overview of the potential and the opportunities that you have in the job market of today!


Interested in more strategies on how to prepare for the job interviews and how to manage job interviews? 

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