After watching couples for only 15 minutes, a seasoned marriage counsellor accurately predicts 90% of the time whether they’ll still be together in 5 years. An ancient sculpture is acquired by a museum. It appears authentic, but art experts experience a ‘gut feeling’ that something is wrong. Its authenticity is later thrown into question. This ‘gut feeling’ is Thin Slicing, the ability to see patterns in events based on only ‘thin slices’ of experience or observation.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink he explores intuition and its origins. His thesis, in part, is that intuition actually comes from a wealth of experiences stored in the subconscious brain. When greeted with a scenario that is similar to these experiences, a hunch is produced that helps guide decision making. Some of us ‘trust our gut’ and others don’t. The question is – should we, especially if we only hire two or three times a year?
Employers and Thin Slicing
Do we dismiss a candidate’s resume, or mentally place them in the unsuitable pile during an interview if our gut tells us to? It depends. Consider that most of our judgements are based on the first few seconds of meeting someone (or reading their resume). It follows then that we need to have a wealth of experience to draw on to ensure that our thin slicing isn’t simply rooted in bias or mistaken assumptions. Knowing this, we might ask ourselves:
- Which thin slices am I an expert in? For example, I have done this role before and I know which technical skills are needed to be successful.
- Are there thin slices that might be grounded in bias? For example, a financial analyst with this skill set is only worth (add dollar amount).
- Could I tap into outside sources of knowledge to flesh out areas where I’m not an expert? For example, market expectations, educational requirements, or the potential to hire someone with transferrable skills
- If I only do this once or twice a year should I work collaboratively with a recruiting agency who specializes in hiring finance and accounting people and therefore know which thin slices matter most?
Candidates and Thin Slicing
You’re creating your LinkedIn profile, trying to build a great resume and pondering how to answer the infamous “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” You’re feeling overwhelmed. How do you order your most sellable points for full effect? Heck, what is most marketable about you in the first place? When considering thin slicing, here’s how to make sure employers get the right message about you:
- Consider that employers react most positively to feelings of Warmth and Competence.
- Ensure that you list your accomplishments under each of your roles.
- Keep your language outcome focused to convey strength.
- Keep your body language open and professional during the interview.
- Practice active listening (/blog/the-art-of-listening-in-an-accounting-interview/) .
- Think carefully about how you dress for your interview. Shake hands firmly.
The expression ‘trust your gut’ is part of our everyday experience. The question is, how can we use it to our advantage during the hiring process, or to help us land the job we want? How deeply does our expertise go and when do we need to call in outside reinforcements to make sure our bias isn’t guiding our decision making? Thin slicing exists. It has an impact. Make sure you know how to use it to accomplish your end goal – a great hire or securing the role you want.
Want to read more about thin slicing? Check out what Wikipedia has to say.
Your Next Step
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