How to recruit without psychological projection

How to recruit without psychological projection

Have you been a manager or entrepreneur for a while? If the answer is YES, then you surely know that the art of recruitment is becoming more and more important to the success of your company.

However, there is a dangerous tendency among managers and entrepreneurs to fall into the subtle but pervasive trap of psychological projection. Driven by their own mental processes, some of them end up unconsciously projecting their fears, aspirations and unresolved needs onto their candidates, subjectively influencing the recruitment process.

What does it mean to psychologically project?

Projection, an early psychological defense mechanism, is the subtle shadow that distorts our perception of reality. Because of psychological projection, when we are in the recruiting process, we tend to attribute to others qualities or flaws that, consciously or not, we reject in ourselves. It is a subtle psychological game where managers can misinterpret certain traits or behaviors in candidates based on their own subjective filters.

How can screening work in the recruitment context?

In recruiting, projection frequently becomes evident in decision-making. A manager experiencing personal insecurity may project that insecurity onto a candidate, mistaking the candidate's confidence for arrogance. Equally dangerous is when personal fears of failure can lead to rejection of innovative candidates who can bring positive change to the organization.

What are the projection mechanisms?

There are three generally accepted types of screening, all of which can significantly influence the recruiting process:

  1. Neurotic projection: This type of projection is the most common in recruitment and clearly reflects the definition of the defense mechanism. Managers may attribute to others feelings, motives, or attitudes that they find unacceptable in themselves. For example, an insecure leader may misperceive a confident candidate as threatening.
  2. Complementary projection: This form occurs when individuals assume that others feel and think as they do. A results-oriented manager may assume that all candidates share the same passion for performance.
  3. Gratuitous projection: It is the assumption that other people can do the same things as us. For example, an experienced leader in a certain field may assume that all candidates have the same knowledge and skills.

True story about complementary projection

As a business consultant, I work with many entrepreneurs. At one point, I am talking to one of them about his intention to hire an operations manager. Later he tells me that he made the hire and that the one chosen for this role thinks the same as him, namely objective, open, and brave. Only three weeks later, the "magic" of the complementary projection had broken, and our entrepreneur was completely stunned by how different the reality looked. The newly hired operational manager was competent, but he did not think like the entrepreneur at all, but quite the opposite. What followed, I think is easy to imagine.

What are the implications of projection in recruiting?

This phenomenon of projection can be the source of serious problems in the recruitment process. One of the main consequences is the distortion of the objective assessment of candidates. Managers, under the influence of their subjective projection, can miss or minimize the real qualities and abilities of the candidates. This bias can lead to incorrect selections and undermine the team's potential.

In addition, projection can create a tense and unproductive work environment because team members recognize or feel unfair treatment. Choosing candidates based on personal projections may also generate interpersonal conflict in the future, as these projections may turn out to be incorrect or incomplete.

Thus, it is essential that managers are aware of their own projection during the recruitment process to avoid negative consequences and ensure the formation of a solid and coherent team.

How to avoid the projection trap in recruitment?

Recruitment is not just about identifying candidates with the right skills and experience. It is also about being aware of our own psychology and avoiding the subtle pitfalls of projection. Here are some examples of actions to avoid the projection trap in recruitment:

  1. Constant self-reflection: Managers and entrepreneurs should regularly examine their own fears, insecurities and biases. By being aware of these aspects, they can avoid projecting them into the recruitment process.
  2. Structured and objective interviews: Creating well-structured and objective interviews can reduce the impact of subjective projections. Managers should rely on facts and skills, not just subjective impressions.
  3. Transparent feedback: Open and transparent communication between members of the recruiting team can help identify and correct potential screenings. It is essential to have a space for team members to share their concerns and provide constructive feedback.

Managers and entrepreneurs who consciously manage their projection defense mechanisms will build strong and diverse teams capable of adapting and thriving in an ever-changing business environment.

In conclusion

It is time to look beyond projections and recruit with open minds and hearts free of prejudice. Building a strong team is not only about identifying the right skills, but also about understanding and addressing the psychological subtleties that can influence the recruitment process.

Projection can be a serious obstacle in the recruitment process, but through self-reflection, learning and feedback, managers and entrepreneurs can become the conscious architects of their teams, building solid foundations for long-term organizational success.


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About Valoria

Valoria is a consulting, training, and executive coaching company. Through our services, we help entrepreneurs to grow their business and make success concrete and predictable. Companies turn to us for marketing, human resources and sales consulting. We often respond to requests for training or coaching of management teams. Competence, trust, innovation and passion are the values we uphold in everything we do. We build long-term partnerships and collaborations, because we offer guaranteed results and the best quality, at the right price. In 2022, the Daily Finance publication nominated Valoria in the Top 20 management consulting companies in Bucharest. Find out more at: www.valoria.ro