Given the millions that we spend trying to connect with top talent each year, this is a tantalizing prospect!
In 2008, a team of scientists in Germany published a study showing how the brain unconsciously prepares our decisions.
Several seconds before we consciously choose what we’re going to do, our decision can be predicted by looking at unconscious activity in our grey matter.
The human brain is hardwired to react in certain ways to specific impulses. A basic knowledge of these impulses can give recruiters a major advantage when they try and influence candidates.
There are three sections to the brain: The new, the middle, and the reptilian.
The youngest part of the brain is the ‘new’ layer. It’s responsible for things like processing written language, complex thinking, calculating, and rationalizing decisions.
The middle section of the brain processes emotional responses. It’s where your ‘gut’ feel comes from.
The oldest part of the brain is the reptilian area. It’s been around since humans first walked the earth and it’s responsible for instinct and survival. Its principal focus is to avoid pain.
The reptilian brain controls our attention and our decisions. If you can grab the attention of a candidate’s reptilian brain with your website, job ad, social post or content, you’ve got a much better chance of guiding them to an application.
How do you appeal to the reptilian brain?
The reptilian brain might control our basic ‘fight or flight’ impulse, but you don’t have to threaten candidates’ lives to grab their attention!
Fortunately, there are a set of specific techniques you can use to reach the decision making section of the brain…
1. Target the self centred nature of the brain
Most of us have one topic that we never get tired of – ourselves!
Strictly responsible for survival, the reptilian brain is innately selfish. Historically, it’s first concern was how to avoid sabre tooth tigers, so general considerations about the welfare of others don’t tend to reach it!
How do you use this to your advantage?
Use your website and careers page to speak directly to the candidate. Focus on information that you know the selfish reptilian brain will relate to.
Example: Career progression
People ultimately want to know how they can benefit from your company, in most case there in it for themselves.
Try giving candidates a clear picture of the development opportunities that you have available. This should help you boost applications.
Here are a few things you should make sure your cover on your careers page:
2. Use images and videos to your advantage
The optic nerve, (in charge of transmitting visual impulses), connects directly to the reptilian brain.
Historically, this is was to help us escape from danger. The reptilian brain could register a bear in the distance before other areas of the brain began to breakdown the information.
We use it today to make split-second reactions. Ever acted before you realised what was going on? You owe it to our caveman ancestors!
All of this makes images and videos particularly powerful tools to influence the candidate decision making process. You might be surprised how much more effective they are though…
Giving candidates visual representations of your company helps them understand your message without involving other sections of the brain.
Forward thinking companies are already using these tactics to showcase their company culture, something that’s fast evolving into a major factor in every candidate’s application decision (particularly with the millennials).
Case study: Zappos
Zappos can definitely be classified as an innovative hirer, they clearly understand the importance of emphasising culture.
Granted, they have a slightly strange environment at the Las Vegas based retailer, they refer to their executives as ‘monkeys’, ring cowbells to greet guests and offers new employees cash to quit as a loyalty test, but they make it clear to potential applicants using videos like this:
Remember: the reptilian brain controls human attention. If you can engage it with pictures and videos like Zappos do, your website you’ll have a better chance of encouraging top candidates to hit that ‘apply’ button.
3. Influence candidates with instant gratification
The reptilian brain is hardwired to favour tasks that give us quick wins. In fact, we actually get a direct hit of dopamine, (the pleasure hormone), every time we finish something. It’s the brains way of giving us a pat on the back.
Our new ‘on-demand society’, where everything is just the click of a smartphone button away, is perfectly suited to this quick win mentality. Job applications on the other hand are not!
These ‘quitters’ are all people that are excited by what your company has to offer, all potential game-changing hires that have been lost! The cost of finding similarly motivated candidates to replace this cohort is pretty significant.
How do you change this? How do you appeal to the candidate brain and encourage applications?
i) Keep your application simple
Have you ever applied to one of your own jobs?
Creating an anonymous profile and tackling your own application process is the best way to understand things from the candidate’s perspective (I firmly recommend everyone tries this!)
Reducing the complexity of your form and making it easier for candidates to jump through the required hoops should lead to a big uptick in applications.
You could even try giving people an application ‘time to complete’ estimate on your website – it’s one of the tricks that marketers use to boost survey response rates and taps into our brain’s need for a quick win.
ii) Keep peoples’ eyes on the prize
The human brain is far better at focusing on tasks if there is a reward involved, (we’re all selfish remember!)
It’s easy to leverage this to your advantage.
Keep candidates focused on the ultimate goal (or reward) of your application process – an awesome job! If you can focus the brain on this, your application completion rate should increase dramatically.
iii) Reciprocity. Give a little to get a lot
If I gave you a present how would your feelings towards me change? I imagine I’d be in your good books…
The problem with the way that we deal with candidates online, is that we ask a lot of them before they can hope for any kind of reward (e.g. a job)
Try a little reciprocity. Offer candidates something for free before you ask them to do anything. Give them a little instant gratification.
Not sure what to give? Try simple (but valuable) content like an ebook or video.
People who are rewarded in advance like this tend to be twice as likely to complete website forms and applications, something that Susan Weinschenk explores in her book Neuro Web Design.
4. Candidates want to join your tribe
At a basic level, the human brain seeks safety and security in other people. We’ve seen this trend throughout history – even cavemen gathered together and formed tribes.
This tribal idea is something that has a powerful effect on the modern candidate psyche. It’s a far more powerful than your corporate entity.
This is a key reason for the rising importance of company culture – people see culture as the structure and ideas that make up your own company tribe.
This is something that Seth Godin explores in his great book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us:
When people apply to your company, they’re applying to join your tribe.
Want a simple way to make your ‘tribe’ attractive? Try:
The candidate brain is ultimately interested in people. Use employee testimonials to show how engaged and happy your staff are. This encourages candidates to think about how happy they could be at your company, and how great it might be to join your tribe.
Want an example?
Take a look at the Rackspace Talent Blog. It’s stuffed full of awesome interviews, videos and content that paints a clear picture of what it’s like to work at the company. Below is a great one that appeals to technical talent:
5. How to using neuro-recruiting to win the interview
These kind of psychological triggers aren’t just for online interactions, there are a number of ways to appeal to the candidate brain in person.
This can be particularly useful when it gets to the interview stage of your application process. When it comes to game changing talent, it’s your job to sell them on your company and give them reasons to accept your offer.
Here are a few things you can do to influence top prospects at the on-site interview stage:
i) Right-ear interviewing
If you want to influence someone, studies show that you should speak into their right ear!
Research from Dr Luca Tommasi and Daniele Marzoli from the University Gabriele d’Annunzio in Chieti, Italy shows that the human brain has a preference for processing spoken information and requests made via the right ear.
Want a quick practical application?
Experiment with interview layout. Typically, interviews are conducted more or less face-to-face and binaural. Try and position your interviewer towards the right side of your candidate and see if it helps you when you’re trying to close top talent.
ii) Ask for a small favour
Making a small request of your interviewee won’t turn them off.
In fact, if it’s small enough to be granted by anyone (e.g. asking the time), it will make them more likely to respond positively for the rest of the interaction, and they’ll be more likely to leave with a positive impression.
iii) Soften up your prospects
If you want your organisation (or yourself) to be perceived as more flexible by interview prospects, you can try the following tactics:
The combined effect of any of these tactics could help you relate better on an emotional level to your prospects. Establishing this simple psychological connection should get any interview off to a great start.
They’re not replacements for your current interviewing tactics, but if you’re willing to experiment they could help you get an edge.
An important disclaimer
Used correctly, these tactics can help you attract and convert better talent on a consistent basis.
They are not a replacement to your current recruiting tactics though, they’re supplemental. You still need to work on creating relationships, nurturing talent and hiring effectively.
If you want to learn more about turning yourself into a world class recruiter, these three resources will make you stand out: