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When recruiting gets you down, get out of your head!

By Linnea N. Meyer '14  |  november, 2013, Issue 1
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Linnea acknowledges that recruiting can be enough to creep anyone out this season.


In the spirit of Halloween, what is the scariest scenario you can imagine? Running from a creepy clown? Fighting a human-eating tarantula? Discovering monsters under your bed?

As scary as these sound, chances are your fears these days come less from the world of the undead and more from the world of recruiting. Making an awful impression while networking, forgetting to update the firm name in a cover letter or bombing a case interview are just a sample of the specters that send chills down every Boothie's spine.

While these fears are entirely normal and certainly shared, they may often be unfounded. Findings from behavioral science suggest that the disastrous outcomes you've imagined may be just that – imagined – and that the only fearful force at work may be in your own head.

If recruiting is haunting you this Halloween season, consider taking a tip or two from the behavioral science studies below; they may be just the trick you need to get out of your head and back in the game!

Rally your spirits...because things may not be going as badly as you think. Research by our very own Professor Nicholas Epley in 2011 highlights how we tend to hold exaggerated fears about our failures, expecting others will judge us far harsher than they actually do. We become so focused on the failure itself that we forget the broader situational factors at play, factors that others are likely to take into account.

Say you're in a case interview and fumble all over the math. Chances still have a chance! The interviewer is taking everything into consideration – math, frameworks, creativity, and attitude. And this last piece – attitude – will stay stronger if you stay positive; thinking disastrous thoughts will likely lead to further fumbles. So give yourself a break (the interviewer likely is)!

Re-calibrate...because you may be under-estimating your abilities. If you've taken an MOB class, you've likely learned that we tend to see ourselves as above-average. (What? We can't all score above the mean?) Well, that's only half the story. A 1999 study by social psychologist Justin Kruger demonstrates that, for more difficult skills (like sales...or networking!), we tend to believe we are actually below-average. Why? In both cases, we focus on our absolute (in)abilities and insufficiently factor in those of everyone else.

Say you're standing in a crop circle with no clue what to say; you feel awkward and just plain inept at this whole networking thing. Guess what? Everyone else probably is as well. Statistics dictate that, in this random sample of your recruiting peers, you're probably about average. Plus, if you practice, you might quickly become above-average!

Reach out...because others are more willing to help than you realize. Several studies by Professors Francis Flynn and Vanessa Lake in 2008 demonstrate that we largely underestimate the likelihood that others will agree to our direct requests for help. Why? We focus on how saying "yes" to us will cost others time, money or energy, and overlook how saying "no" will cost them social discomfort. Say you're finishing a corporate conversation or coffee chat. Most likely, you feel a bit hesitant and awkward about asking for a business card or other connections with the firm. Try switching perspectives: Think about how awkward the recruiter would feel to say "no"...Then buck up and ask!

Recruiting is stressful, no doubt, but it doesn't have to be scary. Sometimes all you need to do when resumes, networking events, or interviews get you get out of your head!

Last Updated 11/2/13
Last Updated 11/2/13