Your friend comes to you with a dilemma….


She’s considering two different sales roles. One is a commission based role, with high, lucrative potential and the other is a guaranteed salaried position.  After crunching the numbers carefully (hey that’s what you do) it’s clear that the commission-based option is the winner, with the greatest chance of making your friend some serious money.

What happens next perplexes you.

Your friend says that she’s going to take the guaranteed salary role, over what she calls the ‘up in the air’ commission based position. She’s never really shown signs of being risk adverse before, so what’s happened?

What is the Ambiguity Effect?

In short, your friend has shown our very real, human tendency to try and mitigate risk by avoiding situations where we can’t predict the outcome. It’s why people choose bonds over stocks, or a fixed mortgage over a variable rate. It’s called the ambiguity effect and knowing about it can change how we structure our resumes and how we hire.

Candidates:  The Ambiguity Effect and Your Resume

Since we know that people avoid choices where an outcome is not predictable, a noticeable gap in your resume is the proverbial red flag.  This can particularly sink your job search ship if your competition, in the form of other hungry candidates, have resumes that are complete.  Consider the following:

  • Gaps in resumes can be perceived as inconsistencies.
  • Even if the item you’re contemplating leaving out isn’t impressive, it’s better to leave it on your resume than to have a gap IF other candidates’ resumes will have the information.
  • If you’ve travelled, or taken time off to study, include that information – one line and a date can be sufficient.
  • Keep your language outcome focused and active – this will help to position you as someone with a career plan.
  • Consider sourcing outside feedback if you’re transitioning to a new industry.
  • A new industry may value certain skills, or systems experience – so learn what to emphasize and what not to leave out.
  • Always be prepared to discuss everything on your resume – consider in advance how best to position information.

Employers: The Ambiguity Effect and Hiring

As a psychological bias, the ambiguity effect can create challenges in the hiring process.  Consider the following:

  • Is it worth dismissing an otherwise quality candidate because of a perceived gap in his/her resume?
  • Don’t overvalue sections of a resume that don’t impact the quality of a hire such as hobbies or interests.
  • Consider bringing a candidate to the interview stage so you can ask them about missing resume content – there may be a simple explanation.
  • When a candidate answers a question and you feel you need more information, don’t hesitate to ask a follow-up question.

We are naturally risk adverse. We don’t like ambiguity. What we do like is to feel that we have the information we need to predict the outcome of a situation. For candidates, this means including content on your resume rather than leaving a gap, so that employers don’t see it as an inconsistency. For employers, it means not dismissing a candidate out of hand because we perceive that something is missing on their resume.  Ambiguity can sound your internal alarms but by controlling your natural bias against it, you can ensure that you hire the best candidates for your roles.

Want to read more about the ambiguity effect? Check out what Wikipedia has to say about it.

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment.  Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.

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