Why you missed out on the job offer
Don't assume that the interviewer will read between the lines.
By Markham Heid
Numbers don't always tell the truth. Employers tend to put too much emphasis on stats and achievements while ignoring context, finds a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.
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Researchers recruited more than 100 longtime HR professionals with experience hiring and promoting corporate job candidates. Despite their training, the real-world hirers tended to (incorrectly) favor applicants who performed well in easy roles, while punishing those candidates who held their own in more challenging work environments. The researchers repeated the experiment with college admissions pros, and found an unfair bias toward high-GPA students -- even if the applicant attended a school known for grade inflation.
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Interviewers have to sift through a ton of information, and so their brains default to a simple rule: "People with impressive scores must be impressive," explains study co-author Samuel Swift, Ph.D. This type of mental shortcut evolved to help our brains manage all the information life throws our way, but it can lead us away from the ideal decision (or job candidate), Swift adds.To avoid losing out to an inferior applicant, you have to present your accomplishments in the simplest, most flattering light, Swift says. For example: If you grew your team's profits by 10 percent in an industry that averages just 2 to 3 percent growth, don't assume the interviewer will figure that out. Instead, point out that you tripled the average growth rate, the research suggests. On the other hand, if you achieved 30 percent growth in an industry that averages 50 to 60 percent improvement, leave out the context, Swift advises. "Play up the interpretation that shows you in the most favorable terms."
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