Daniel J. Simons is a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois. He studies human’s attention, perception and memory. In most every study he has ever conducted, he has discovered that most all of our skills regarding attention, perception and memory are nowhere as good as we think. His most famous study was conducted in 1999. He asked subjects to view a video of six people passing two baskeballs back and fourth. The subjects were asked to count how many times three players wearing white shirts passed the basketball while ignoring the players wearing black who passed their own ball.After a few passes a person wearing a gorilla suit expectantly walks through the scene. 50% of subjects failed to notice the person in the gorilla suit. ( You can find this video on YouTube.)
Simons’ proves the theory that there is a big mismatch between what we see and what we think we see. This condition is called “inattentional blindness.” He has even tested the effects of this in real world conditions. Subjects were asked to follow an experimenter on the backof a truck while they were jogging. While jogging, they were to monitoring how many times the experimenter touched his hat. As they were jogging along a predefined route, they ran past a simulated flight scene in which two other experimenters were “beating” a victim. They found that even in broad daylight, only 56% of the subjects noticed the fight.
So, the lesson is that people see about what they want to see and forget to look at the rest. This applies to the interviewing and hiring process more than most people will ever admit. Employers especially will get hung up on one or two issues in a candidate’s background… sometimes for better or for worse… and disregard or don’t pay attention to other aspects of it. One prime example of this is the candidate who is had three jobs in the last two years. The vast majority of employers are going to get hung up on that fact and hardly go beyond it to delve into a candidate’s experience or performance. They simply stop and move on to another candidate. Candidates often do the same thing when they consider looking at a company and get hung up on what other people might say about the company, its size, the kind of business they are in and literally hundreds of other things that distract them from really investigating the company.
What this simply means is that, if you’re a candidate, you need to be aware of the things in your background or experience that may distract a potential employer from interviewing you or realizing all of your abilities and potential once they do interview you. There may even be some positive issues that will distract a potential employer from your negative ones.
Just be aware that inattentional blindness is a reality and it has a phenomenal impact on your job search.