Occam’s razor is a problem-solving principle attributed to William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), who was an English Franciscan friar, scholastic philosopher, and theologian. His principle states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. More and more people need to apply this principle to their job search.

The reason this metaphor applies so well is that on both sides of the desk, both candidates and hiring authorities make an inordinate amount of fallacious assumptions and then act on those assumptions in almost uncountable, unnatural ways. If people applied the principle of Occam’s razor their interviewing and hiring process would not only be easier but ten times as effective.

A number of examples are in order. Candidates will write lengthy tomes and dissertations about themselves (a resume) with three fallacious assumptions. First, that they will get read and, secondly that the people reading it know what they’re looking for and, third, that people will understand the “resume speak” stuff they put in their resume. The ONE assumption that a resume writer needs to operate with is to make the simple assumption that their resume needs to communicate the simplistic idea of, “I am a good employee. I will make a good employee for you, because this is what I have done for other people.” If a resume writer keeps this one simple assumption in mind, their resume would be clearer and it would probably get them more interviews.

Another application of Occam’s principal would be for candidates to remember that in the interviewing process, their job is to “sell themselves” to the hiring authority. The simple assumption is “Here is what I’ve done for others and here is what I can do for you.” If a candidate gives the hiring authority good enough reasons of why they ought to be hired they will receive good enough reasons as to why they are to go to work at the company. It’s that simple. Most candidates operate on the convoluted assumption that interviewing is a “two-way street.” This leads to the assumption that, “I have to interview them as well as they have to interview me.” This assumption spawns all kinds of other assumptions that complicate the interviewing process. The simplest assumption is that, “If I give them good enough reasons of why they are to hire me, they’ll give me plenty of good reasons of why I ought to go to work there.”

On the employer side of the desk, Occam’s principle would make their process of hiring, and therefore their life, a lot easier. There are four simple assumptions that a hiring organization needs to answer: can the candidate to the job…do I like him or her…what are the candidate’s risks…can we work the money out. It is that simple! I’m not saying that this is easy, but it is simple. Most interviewing authorities have so many assumptions that they make about what they have to find in a candidate that when the assumptions and realities meet doubt, uncertainty and fear take over the process. It becomes a mess. The process that should have taken two weeks, takes six months. Fear leads to indecisiveness which leads to no decision at all.

If Occum’s razor was applied to the interview process itself, better decisions would be made in a shorter period of time and management would look decisive as well. There are two assumptions when it comes to the interview process that hiring organizations should make. The first one is, only have the people whose livelihood is affected by the position being filled involved in the hiring process and, two, ask every candidate exactly the same questions, document those answers, i.e. write them down, and then compare the answers and feelings about each candidate in a very timely manner. Really simple! Again, not necessarily easy, but simple.

Most organizations involve way too many people in the interviewing process making the assumption that the more people involved in the process. the best candidate will be hired. They often involve people who could really care less about who gets hired and who are not personally affected by the hire. The assumption that, “We don’t want to make a mistake” leads to the fallacy that the more people involved in the interviewing process, the less of a mistake we might make. An errant assumption, at best.

A second errant assumption begins with any interviewing authority starting the interviewing process with the question, “Tell me about yourself.” Every interviewing authority involved in the process should ask every candidate exactly the same questions that are structured before the interview. The idea that an interviewing authority can get a good “feel” about a candidate by simply asking random, seat-of-the-pants questions and then produce an opinion about the candidate’s potential is a terrible assumption.

As with many things in business and life, people make things more complicated than they need to be. Friar Occum is a great teacher.