Is Your Job Application Haunted?

A few years ago, something spooky happened.

Complete strangers in my neighborhood began to approach me on the street.

They would ask rather personal questions, about how I was doing or if I had plans later.

One time, a person even congratulated me for something—apparently I had done a great job yesterday!

 

It turns out they thought I was someone else.

Someone else in my neighborhood (apparently) looks almost exactly like me.

A doppelganger.

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Do you have a doppelganger, too?

Is there someone out there that looks exactly like you?

With more than 7 billion people on the planet, the chances are actually very high.

Although it’s less likely that you will ever meet, much less that you will also live in the same neighborhood.

 

But this is also a question of degree.

After all, most people have been mistaken for a different person at some point in their lives.

 

The experience can be a bit unsettling.

It might raise complex philosophical questions about your sense of uniqueness and identity.

 

And research has found that we tend to compare ourselves very competitively to similar people. Could they somehow actually replace you? Would they be better than you?

 

More generally, it’s disturbing to think that you might be treated differently by other people….simply because of another person who isn’t even you.

 

Your job application is haunted

If these ideas disturb you, here are some recent research findings that will keep you up at night.

 

How do we determine if someone is qualified for a job?

It seems pretty obvious that we should look at their resume to learn about previous work experience, education, and skills.

 

But what happens if we also know what the person looks like?

It turns out that our evaluations are significantly influenced by other people who just happen to look like them.

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If you happen to look similar to a previous highly-qualified applicant, it’s likely that you will also be judged as more qualified for the job (regardless of the actual experience and skills listed on your resume).

And if you happen to look like a less-qualified applicant, you will probably be judged as less qualified.

 

Of course, this effect is stronger if the person looks a lot like you, but it still happens even if their appearance is just somewhat similar.

That’s right—if you happen to look even just a bit like a previous employee, you might still be judged on the basis of their skills and experience.

 

How many opportunities in life have you been offered or denied, because someone just happens to look like you?

The creepy thing is that you will probably never know…

 

 

Image credit: piccadillywilson, Dan Foy

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