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Chapter 2: Perceptual Errors

The hiring process for the position of research director at Barton Labs seemed to be going well. This was the first time employees from various work groups were allowed to participate in the interview process, and Sam Charlton, the group coordinator and a veteran of several hiring committees, thought things had gone well. With little training, the employees managed to appear professional and ask relevant questions of the three candidates. Sam found it easy to determine the most suitable person for the position.

Rick Burgess was young, handsome. and charismatic. While he made a good first impression with firm handshakes and quick smiles, Sam felt his lack of managerial experience and inadequate research background were severe shortcomings.

Doug Jarvis was older, more serious, and had several years of experience working in research labs. Sam was worried, however, about his interpersonal skills. Jarvis lacked a sense of humour and tended to be abrupt. He had lasted less than a year in his last management position.

Rebecca Scott was the obvious choice for Sam. Although she was the oldest of the candidates, about five years from retirement, she had years of laboratory and managerial experience and provided excellent references. It wasn't usually the case that one candidate was so clearly superior. Sam was pleased.

That was, until he decided to take a look at the written recommendations his fellow committee members had submitted. He couldn't believe his eyes. These people had all attended the same interviews, had seen and heard the same candidates. How could their perceptions vary so widely?

Some committee members stated that Rebecca Scott was too old for the job and that she would lack the physical energy and mental focus required for the position. They felt a younger manager like Rick Burgess would be better. One member stated that he didn't even have to attend the interview. Once he had figured out Rebecca's age through résumé information, he knew she was simply too old to handle the job.

Other committee members candidly revealed that they were taken by the handsome looks and charm of Rick Burgess. They reasoned that he must have other positive attributes as well, such as intelligence, technical skills, and managerial ability. Some stated that Burgess appeared even more desirable since his interview had been last and he had followed two older, more reserved candidates.

Robert Vader was a no-nonsense manager and strict disciplinarian who was supporting candidate Doug Jarvis. Vader saw Jarvis as his personal clone, and, since Vader considered himself a competent manager, Jarvis would be the same.

Somehow, the best candidate in the group was being overlooked and Sam knew why. The interview committee members had not been trained to avoid perceptual errors.

Source: Tyndall, Greg. (2009). Perceptual errors. College of New Caledonia, Prince George, B.C. Based on text pages 40–45.

This activity contains 5 questions.

Question 1.
Several members of the interview committee used __________ or shortcuts in decision making as a means of simplifying a complex hiring process. This resulted in poor decision making.

End of Question 1

Question 2.
Some committee members were swayed by the charm of Rick Burgess. Based on this one trait, they evaluated him positively in other areas and felt he would be a good manager. To which perceptual error did they succumb?

End of Question 2

Question 3.
The charming and youthful Rick Burgess was interviewed after two older, more reserved candidates had their turns. Some committee members compared Burgess to the other candidates and found him more desirable as a result. What likely caused this?

End of Question 3

Question 4.
Robert Vader liked candidate Doug Jarvis because he perceived Jarvis was, like him, a no-nonsense manager. Since Vader considered himself a good manager, Jarvis, he reasoned, should be good as well. What perceptual error affected Robert Vader's judgment?

End of Question 4

Question 5.
Rebecca Scott was considered too old for the position. In fact, one person stated he didn't even need to interview her. Once he determined Rebecca's age, he decided she couldn't do the job. What did this committee member use to make a decision about Rebecca?

End of Question 5

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