The Power of Potential

How to make a good impression – one that is good enough to get you that new job you’ve been seeking.  This is a hot topic among the thousands of articles and blogs about job searching – in fact, there is no shortage when it comes to advice on how to make a good impression.  We’ve all heard the top five: make eye contact – practice your “elevator” pitch – speak with confidence – don’t speak too fast – don’t be bashful when it comes to your accomplishments.  Your accomplishments or lack of are the single most important factor when it comes to getting hired – or are they?

According to an article in Psychology Today, they aren’t!

It seems that when employers are making a decision to hire there is a bias that leans toward a preference for “potential greatness” over a candidate who has already accomplished a lot in his career.

In the article, they mention a set of studies conducted by Stanford’s Zakary Tormala and Jayson Jia, and Harvard Business School’s Michael Norton where they compared perceptions of someone with two years of relevant experience who scored highly on a test of leadership achievement, versus someone with no relevant experience who scored highly on a test of leadership potential. (Both candidates had equally impressive backgrounds in every other way). Evaluators believed the candidate with leadership potential would be more successful at the new company than the candidate with a proven record of leadership ability.

So why do employers do this?  It’s more interesting and less certain.  High-potential job candidates make employers think harder than those with proven accomplishments.  Human brains are intrigued with uncertainty – we pay closer attention because we want to “figure it all out.” This leads to more in-depth processing and a more favorable view of the job seeker – as long as the information about the potential job seeker is a positive one

All of this suggests that employers are more impressed by future potential rather than past accomplishments.  What does that mean for you as a job seeker?  According to the article, you would be wise to start focusing your pitch on your future, as an individual, rather than on your past — even if that past is very impressive.  Your potential is what makes employers take notice so take advantage of that and learn to use the power of potential in a job interview.

Source: Psychology Today

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