Monday, 24 December 2012

Eighth day of Christmas digested: Hunting Holly

Our final day digested is dedicated to Hunting Holly, on the lookout for a job but finding stiff competition in the market.

Help Holly out with her CV. When paid employment is scarce, many people take up voluntary activities to fill their time, but may wonder how much attention to devote to this in job submissions. Research suggests that recruiters don't overly care about whether work came with wages: what matters is the relevance of the skills and experiences accrued. In fact, a mix of voluntary and paid work is preferred to all-waged, demonstrating a more rounded candidate.

Also, Holly might want to include references to her potential as well as to proven track record. Contrary to intuition, indicators of what a person could achieve can be more attractive than simply focusing back on actual achievements. 'Potential-framing' may be a more effective approach to punching up that covering letter.


If Holly is looking for work abroad, she may be interested in whether national personality differences are real or imagined. Recent evidence makes us more confident that these are genuine. This can also have implications for strategies within assessment interviews, as we reported on last year.

When putting yourself forward for a job, there is a pressure to self-promote, even go beyond the truth, especially if you think everyone is doing it. A neat piece of research on job applicants uncovered honest admissions about their use of self-presentation tactics; it turns out that we tend to stick to the ones that recruiters consider ethical, bend the rules less frequently and break them even more rarely. So we could advise Holly to use her conscience as a guide as to how much to pitch herself.

Many job applications involve tests, and test providers commonly provide feedback on how well you did. The principle is laudable, to provide something of worth back to the candidate in the form of insights into their own capability. But for some, being forced to face a personal shortcoming, rather than being able to chalk up a job rejection to bad luck, ends up eroding wellbeing. It's possible that this could end up undermining motivation to make applications, so Holly may want to think about whether it's worthwhile picking through this feedback or pushing on regardless.

Given the ubiquity of testing, one gift you might want to give Holly is preparation for it, such as a book, article or even coaching. Recent research suggests that this can have a moderate effect for taking situational judgment tests.

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