Why you should be vaccinated against your job

I spent a couple of hours with a life-insurance agent that left me convinced that he had been vaccinated. I didn’t check his certificate. In fact, I don’t even think such certificates exist, though they should.

For those who haven’t been through the process, applying for term insurance is notoriously painful. Agent S helped me complete the application for two term-insurance policies. He answered a hundred questions, accommodated my rising frustration, and was polite throughout.

How did he do that? My best guess is he had been vaccinated by his employer.

While hiring, employers and recruits love to sugarcoat. The result is mutual optimism arising from unrealistic expectations.

Some companies take active steps to break this illusion. They give candidates a taste of the job they’re applying for by exposing them to simulations of actual job scenarios. This practice is called a 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐜 𝐣𝐨𝐛 𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰. It started with nurses, army and navy recruits, and life-insurance agents.

Job previews work because of a kind of 𝘷𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘦𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘤𝘵.

💡Much like vaccines work by exposing us to a microdose of the virus, job previews succeed by exposing candidates to a small dose of on-the-job reality.

A microdose of reality gets us to start thinking about how we’ll react when the situation arises. (Or makes it clear to us that it’s better to not be in the situation altogether).

The book 𝘋𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘷𝘦 reports the case of the company Evolv that had been hiring around 5400 people a year. After vaccinating candidates through realistic job previews, turnover dropped by more than 10% in just 12 months–a savings of $1.6m.

Realistic job previews are not easy to pull off for all manner of positions. But the idea behind them has legs, in hiring and elsewhere.

✔Changed roles recently? Ask someone who has handled the position before to show you both sides of the coin.
✔Been entrusted with a campaign launch? Ask someone who’s been there to run you through a simulation of what to expect.

Who knows in the future companies may put candidates through situational tests via some in-game experience, to test their judgment and appetite. Until then, you got to do your bit to test waters before going all in.

Misalignment in expectations is a big reason for turnover and, more recently, moonlighting. So, neither sugarcoat nor accept a sugarcoated pill. Try realistic job previews. They vaccinate you against future unhappiness.



I write about decision-making, mental models, and better thinking and things in between

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Satyajit Rout

I write about decision-making, mental models, and better thinking and things in between