Can we 'Bandersnatch' the recruitment process?
Like most Netflix addicts I’d be surprised if the announcement made in the autumn of last year that the platform was working on an interactive episode of ‘Black Mirror’ named ‘Bandersnatch’ where viewers would be given the opportunity to choose how the story progressed, didn’t intrigue most of us. For me, it took me back over 20 years to the hours I used to spend with my head buried in the many choice adventure books which became popular in the early 90s, where the reader could rewrite the story with every roll of a die. This itself was nothing groundbreaking, the decision trees behind the multiple layers of storytelling simply mimicked quizzes, often used to help readers resolve a problem or concern (such as whether your boyfriend might be cheating on you…) which had been a common feature of many teenage magazines for many decades. What I found especially interesting about the Netflix announcement was that it signalled a new era where a platform well-known for serving personalised content unique to each of its members, appeared to be attempting to further personalise what was already a personalised experience.
In all honesty for me ‘Bandersnatch’ lost it’s excitement after I’ve chosen my breakfast cereal (Frosties) and decided what to listen to on the bus (Now That’s What I Call Music! 2). Both of these choices were nostalgic, and personal - the nickname Tony (The Tiger) given to me at primary school based purely on what I ate each morning, and Now, That’s What I Call Music! a compilation series which I heavily invested my pocket money into over the course of 12 years of my childhood. Beyond these the choices posed to me weren’t of interest to me. I’m not a gamer. I can’t write code. I’ve not (thankfully) tragically lost a parent. I found myself getting easily distracted and just 15 minutes in I put my iPad down and ironically picked up a book instead., only this time there was no rolling of the die involved at the end of each page.
Why do we keep defaulting
In the circles of behavioural science, designing user-friendly environments such as these has a name - Choice Architecture, defined as ‘the organisation of the context within which people make decisions’ - all 35,000 of them made on average by humans each day. Reflecting now I realise that I’ve maybe expected too much from ‘Bandersnatch’ and not taken the time to appreciate the need for a simple series of choices routed in reality in order to cater for a mass audience. Choices are emotional, and often incredibly complex. The code working hard to re-route the journey each time one of two choices is made, is not. The choices that we make each day without even realising we’ve made them are often the result of years of habits we’ve formed. We’ve consciously chosen not to challenge some of the choices that we make in order to save energy, following the path of least resistance in order to help us focus elsewhere. Default is easier, it keeps us safe. And that’s where I started to see the parallels with the challenge we still face in when supporting our young people on their career choices and the best pathway for them to follow in order to make a successful start in their chosen career - the assumption that whilst apprenticeships are often seen as a ‘good thing’ that university is still the better choice.
'“Defaults are ubiquitous and powerful”
If apprenticeships really are considered to be a ‘good thing’ then more of us would be making the effort to find out more about them, asking more questions, challenging ourselves to think harder. Even with the average student debt now in excess of £40,000, it’s still easier to to avoid engaging our brains, and a cost many young people now just see as another tax.
Choices can be nudged in a different direction, and changed. Any aspect of choice architecture that alters people’s behaviours in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic status can often be overlooked, however small and apparently insignificant details can have major impacts on people’s behaviours - as a result everything really does matter. The power of the nudge is its ability to focus us on a particular direction of travel - in this case the alternatives to university.
“Offer nudges that are most likely to help and least likely to inflict harm”
A ‘good architect’ can’t build ‘perfect’ (it doesn’t exist), but they can create ‘design choices’ with beneficial effects, such as a new piece of reliable information that could start to tip the balance even. But the chooser has to be ready to receive the message, and as humans we do not possess unlimited cognitive abilities and exercise complete self-control, which leads to a lack of attention when we become overwhelmed, just like the young people I’ve already written about here being asked to decide what they want to do with the rest of their life. The art of the nudge lies in its subtle nature and ability to get you to do something you hadn’t intended, like picking up that packet of biscuits on the end of the supermarket aisle despite knowing we are currently dieting to shift the festive podge. We know it’s not good for us, but we do it anyway, and perhaps next time we learn from our mistake and make time to shop online, avoiding the choice altogether.
Recruit like ‘Bandersnatch’
The applications to early careers are endless, which is part of the challenge. And probably why most of us never take the time to explore them. There has been a recent surge of gamification efforts to educate young people on where their strengths best fit their chosen career. Situational questioning is just another variant on the ‘Bandersnatch’ theme, through posing options of how you might react in a given situation, you can re-educate someone on which career they think is best for them, and which one is actually better suited to them. A nudge that could completely change the career pathway someone might follow for the rest of their life. Immersive, experiential marketing is also a great way to build an emotional connection with candidates, which over time enhances brand affinity and will help influence why someone chooses your brand over another. And just the simple act of involving your apprentices in your recruitment events, taps into the power that brand advocacy can have in simply informing people about what other people are doing.
We all have the power to become better architects when it comes to supporting informed career choices for our young people.
It just takes a little effort, and that’s where the biggest battle lies.