Two ways of thinking and how we bypass cognitive bias.

We all know someone who claims to be an excellent judge of character, who can figure out anyone merely by looking at the color of their shirt. Isn’t it ludicrous to assume you can understand a person instantly - especially if we consider that nobody likes to be judged in 5 seconds? Still, there is some truth to what they’re saying, in that it takes very little time for people to make a judgement about someone.

It’s a recruiter's job to search, judge and suggest people to their clients. With technology and data everywhere, this process becomes alarmingly impersonal.

The theory below showed me that people often think they are good judges, but are more often than not biased. It inspired me to look at recruitment from a more human(e) perspective, and set a cornerstone for what Referment would become.

We use two systems to think.

In 2002, the Nobel Prize in Economics was, surprisingly, handed to someone outside of the domain, to a Psychologist called Daniel Kahneman. He is famous for publishing the theory that humans use two different systems to think, and powerfully demonstrates how both systems are prone to error.

These two systems help us understand why people make shortcuts wherever they can and why we perceive situations so differently.

The first system is quick and intuitive and rarely takes longer than 800 milliseconds to produce a thought. It mostly works by association, meaning we have certain thoughts that are automatically triggered by other things. For example, please don’t think of a pink elephant. Sounds like an easy task, right? I bet you did think of a pink elephant though, and that’s because memory is associative by nature, and the word pink automatically triggers a picture in our head. It’s helpful in many situations, but isn’t it awkward when it goes wrong? If I tell you again “Please don’t think of a pink elephant”, you probably did, again. This system is so quick that we cannot use more sophisticated inhibition processes in the brain to avoid wrong associations.

The second system is slow and rational. Compare “how much is 2x2?”, which is intuitive and easy to solve, to “how much is 765x273?”, which is not intuitive and takes time to calculate. This system is typically not quick and associative, and uses more resources to make an assessment, and more brain areas are involved in the process. The good news is, biases in the slow, rational system can be avoided because more sophisticated brain processes are involved, and these can override existing habits.

Our candidates fly right past the first system that cannot be trained.

The quick and associative nature of the first system means that many recruiters make wrong calls on people. LinkedIn and other job boards often present them with hundreds of profiles to look at, and they have no other choice than to sift through them based on very superficial criteria. Or, they don’t receive any CVs and have to search through the platforms based on their own intuition, which is likely biased as well. Either way, many candidates get treated impersonally and rejected for unfair reasons, or they don’t get contacted at all because they fall under the radar.

The recruiter is not to blame though. Cognitive resources are limited, and sifting through hundreds of profiles with a personal touch is not realistic.

At Referment, we don’t have this problem. Our recruiters don’t spend all day looking at CVs. They can take a qualitative look at the candidates you put us in touch with. And with an endorsement from you, hiring managers will want to have a personal look at CVs and take more time to understand them. Your contact will have a prime spot and be more likely to get the job than others without an endorsement.

Drop us an email or give us a call if you like to find out more, and don’t forget to check our latest openings and give your friend a head start into their interview.



Founder @ Referment