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18 October, 2016 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management, Military Career Transition, Recruiting
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Candidate Update:  Multitasking Is A Myth

Posted October 18th, 2016 | Author: John G. Self

Quote of the Day:

“I can multitask — and do, of course; it’s kind of essential — but I prefer to do one thing at a time,” Hayley Phelan, a 28-year-old writer, wrote in an email. “If I keep looking at my phone or my inbox or various websites, working feels a lot more tortuous. When I’m focused and making progress, work is actually pleasurable.”


Stop saying what you think recruiters want to hear.  Be authentic.  Be prepared, be well prepared, but stop dropping  all the latest catch phrases and consultant-speak that seems to be so popular these days on business channel television.

One of my favorites — that is to say if you use this I will usually zero in with several multitasking-exec-shutterstock_118544662follow-up questions — is when the candidate tries to tell me that he or she is a multitasker.  So many candidates say this because they think it makes them sound smarter, better and that want to impress the recruiter.  That’s great.  The only problem is that there is no such thing as multitasking.  Technically, the brain can process one action at a time.   It may be at the speed of light, but it is one thing at a time.  Moreover, research shows that people who try to multitask — to do two or three things at a time — tend to make more work product mistakes than those who focus on one task.

The problem is that mono-tasking, also known as single-tasking or unitasking, seems so boring, so unhip that it drives people to fall into the multi-tasking trap. In her essay “Read This Story Without Distraction (Can You?)” Verna von Pfetten, an editor, writer and digital consultant in New York City, quotes Manoush Zomorodi, host and managing editor of  the WNYC Studios “Note to Self” podcast, mono-tasking “seemed boring to me.  It sounded like monotonous.”

Ms. von Pfetten also cites a 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that interruptions as brief as two or three seconds were sufficient to double the number of errors participants made in an assigned task.  She wrote that a Stanford study revealed that self-identified “high-media multitaskers” were more easily distracted than those who limited their distractions.

“So, in layman’s terms, by doing more you’re getting less done.”

That is a solid reason to avoid cool terms, especially multi-tasking.  Another is that if the recruiter is knowledgable about such stuff, you might invite a whole slew of questions that you would just as soon have avoid, like:  Why do you think that is so?  How do you get your brain to do something so unusual? How would you rate the quality of your work? Do you find you make more mistakes in your work product, as the studies indicate?  Besides, people who focus on one thing at a time seem to be happier, more satisfied with work, studies reveal.

And of course this question:  Why would you even go there in the first place?

You may think recruiters want you to say stupid stuff, but not really. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

© 2022 John Gregory Self

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