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Interviews: Gut, Heart or Brain? Where Do You Decide?
February 18, 2020

ARTICLE BY Sarah Gornall

Many years ago, someone told me that an interview panel make up their minds about candidates within 3 seconds of their walking into the room. Then everything that candidate says is filtered through the original Yes or No decision. Confirmation bias at work.

The timing of that nugget of information may have been crucial for me. Shortly afterwards, I went for interview for a senior role. Opened the door. Saw a vast expanse of polished wooden floor to cross to take my seat facing a panel of six. Immediately thought “I’ve lost this one”, became ultra-conscious of the way I was walking and fixed my smile.

What did the panel see?

With the benefit of hindsight, maybe a rabbit in the headlights. While I moved towards them, the fleeting look of startle, the fixed smile and the very conscious way I was holding my body probably undermined their confidence in me. Who wants a rabbit in a leadership role?

Their negative filter kicked in almost instantaneously as they watched me walk towards them. And the negative filter in my brain was fired up just as quickly by my bodily reaction to the situation, leading me to discount real achievements and to rush to ill-considered answers to their questions.

Are brain-based decisions transparent and fair?
We all want selection processes to be fair and not to discriminate. So, what’s happened in many organisations, is that detailed success criteria are used to benchmark scoring of candidates in a rational, evidence-based way. We try to train the brain to be the dominant decision maker, because somewhere along the line our culture and belief system tell us that this is better, fairer and more transparent.

However, there’s a question mark about just how transparent we are, if we ignore the evidence that our guts and heart give us. How generously or severely we judge the candidate against the criteria may well be influenced by the feeling we get as we look at that person.

What space is there in interviews, in scoring, in recording evidence or in a decision-making conversation, to discuss the affective and intuitive responses to the candidate? And why should we care?

Changing knowledge about where in the body decisions are taken
Over the past 3 decades there’s been robust research into types of thinking and the role of different parts of the body in decision making.[i] Responses to external stimuli from the cardiac network (heart, affective, feelings, values, relationships) and the enteric network (gut, identity, self-preservation, mobilisation) are faster than those from the brain (head, cognitive, reasoning, meaning making). Our complex and wonderful neural pathways convey messages from gut and heart to the brain at incredible speed, feeding valuable information to the rational mind. The brain then helps us shape and articulate our decisions, conveying further messages about bodily response to other parts of the body.

It’s a dance of reciprocal communication.

Decisions are wiser and more effective when we pay proper attention to heart, gut and brain.

Developing awareness
What can we do to develop awareness, the first step to changes in the way we behave?

As you might expect, I’d advocate some coaching! – though coaching with someone who is competent to work with body and heart as well as rational thinking.[ii]Someone who can support you, give you feedback, challenge you, be alongside you as you explore.

> What’s going on in my body at the moment?
> What am I feeling?
> What’s that telling me?
> What happens if I sit with the feeling for longer?
> What happens if I speak from that awareness?
> What happens if I sit/breathe/walk differently?
> Where’s my energy now?
> How is that influencing my behaviour/decision making?
> What do I now know?
> What will I do with that insight?

Seek neutral feedback on what happens to your body, voice, face, pace and tone of speaking, language as you explore and reflect.

Allow time for the feedback to land and be absorbed into your knowledge about yourself.

Practical Action
Preparing for interview, try visualising a positive outcome, with everyone smiling at the end of the interview and thanking you for your commitment. As you allow this positive picture to fill your mind’s eye, your body will relax and in a positive loop to the rational brain, help you to be in flow as you talk. Your relaxation will be visible to the panel, influencing the filter through which they perceive you, and thus their decision-making process.

On a panel, be as aware as you can be of the messages you are getting from your heart and gut. Talk about them to others, declaring them as you might a conflict of interest, which might help to identify prejudice or bias. Explore what might be going on and how much weight to give this bodily response. A key aspect of most people’s roles is the ability to fit in with the team. How your body responds may be an indicator of how your team may react too and what the quality of team relationships might be.  

Bring all of yourself to the party!

Sarah Gornall, President UK ICF Chapter – International Coach Federation

[i] Sosulu G, Henwood S, Deo A. “Head, Heart and Gut in Decision Making: Development of a Multiple Brain Preference Questionnaire” January-March 2019 Sage Open Publishing.

[ii] ICF coaches work with the whole person. PCC coaches are expected to explore energy, language, emotion, tone of voice; to give feedback; to develop awareness and explore learning.

February 18, 2020

The following articles are published by Pearson.

Ofsted in the News

Feedback from Ofsted Inspections

The Careers Week Guide To 2020
February 18, 2020

Have a look at the brand new NCW 2020 pre-mag.

Advance warning, it is about 8 MB so might take a minute to download.

Download Here

Careers England: Newsletter 148
February 18, 2020
Cabinet reshuffle
Gavin Williamson will continue in his role as education secretary following a cabinet reshuffle, alongside Schools Minister Nick Gibb. Michele Donelan joins the department as Universities Minister, taking over from Chris Skidmore who was dismissed. Other new additions to the education team include Vicky Ford, Gillian Keegan and Baroness Elizabeth Berridge. Lord Agnew, who was responsible for delivery of the careers strategy, has moved to the Cabinet Office, while Baroness Alison Wolf – famous for the Wolf report – has been appointed skills adviser at Number 10.  Elsewhere, Chancellor Sajid David has resigned after a ‘power-struggle’ with Boris Johnson. He has been replaced by former chief secretary to the Treasury, Rishi Sunak. Robert Halfon has been re-elected as Education Select Committee Chair; the new members of which can be found here. 

Commitment to ESF replacement fund
The government has announced its intention to introduce the UK Shared Prosperity fund by April 2021, to replace the European Social Fund. The article on the Conservative party website states that the fund will be designed to support the most vulnerable. But London Councils warns the move may disadvantage Londoners, and calls for devolution of budgets. 

Save the date – Careers Summit 2020
This year’s Careers Summit will take place on 5th November – please hold the date in your diary and watch this space for further information.  
Task group information.
Our position paper developed by the personal guidance task group is now available online on our website. Please share the paper with your networks.
Look out for our next position paper on employer and community engagement which is currently in development. 
News from across the sector
Leave apprenticeship levy alone, urge employers – TES

Universities still fail to give three quarters of places to state school pupils, despite demands of ministers and regulator – Independent

UCAS boosts advice with information from Which? University – UCAS

Over 500 lecturers to come from industry as part of £24m package boost – FE Week

Education Secretary calls on sector to support UK WorldSkills bid – FE Week

T Levels – what are they and who is going to study them? – BBC
Information, consultations and resources
Financial Times resources
The Financial Times has a range of free resources and are looking to add to the collection. To give you a flavour of what’s on offer, there’s a free schools access programme here and a regular careers ‘agony aunt‘. They have requested ideas for the sorts of specific articles that would be relevant for careers leads – please send any suggestions to steve.stewart@careersengland.org.uk 

The think tank EDSK has published a highly critical report on the apprenticeship levy claiming that it is mainly be used to fund existing courses that are repackaged, particularly at management level. It proposes level 3 apprenticeships only that are solely regulated by Ofsted.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has published the findings of the annual Apprenticeship Pay Survey. The survey covers England, Scotland and Wales and findings are reported both by nation and combined as Great Britain. The reports include comparisons of pay and conditions for apprenticeships between 2016 and 2018, which is particularly interesting for England because of the significant reforms since 2017.

Overall, basic hourly pay for level 2 and level 3 apprenticeships has increased from 2016 (median basic pay is now £7.10 an hour). The median basic pay in England is lower than the Great Britain average at £6.95 but does still show an increase from the 2016 level. The basic hourly pay for apprentices at level 4 and above has also risen in Great Britain (median of £10.94) and England (median of £11.07).

The findings reveal large differences in basic hourly pay by framework/standards across Great Britain with the basic hourly pay figure for level 2 and level 3 apprentices lowest for Hairdressing (£3.70 median). Basic hourly pay rates increased for nearly all level 2 and 3 apprenticeships. The is the Customer Service framework/standard, where basic hourly pay has decreased.

The report suggests some change to the routes for entry to apprenticeships. In England, 53% of level 2 and 3 apprentices surveyed had already been working for their employer, compared to 64% in 2016. In contrast, the proportion of apprentices surveyed in Wales that were already working for their employer increased slightly from 71 per cent to 74 per cent. The figures for Scotland were similar for 2016 and 2018.

Local Skills Deficit – Learning and Work Institute
A new report commissioned by the Local Government Association and conducted by the Learning and Work Institute provides some fascinating insights into what skills gaps might exist in England over the next ten years. The report takes an innovative approach, modelling potential skills gaps in eight different areas (Essex, Southend and Thurrock; Nottingham City; Staffordshire; Gloucestershire; Greater Lincolnshire; Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark; North of Tyne; Southampton and Portsmouth) to provide data both on these localities and on England as a whole.

The picture at the national level is bleak, with six million people projected to be out of work or in a job that they are overqualified for by 2030. The findings estimate a potential national deficit of 2.5 million highly skilled people by 2030, which could lead to a £120 billion loss in economic output.

The findings illustrated here indicate that urgent action is required to address the skills gap. The differences in skills shortages across the eight areas studied suggest the need for some local devolution as part of a broader programme of reform and investment to enhance overall skill and productivity levels.
Conferences, events and training

IEP Summit – 5th March, London 
The Institute of Employability Professionals Summit 2020 is based on the future of work and covers the emerging labour market and associated delivery challenges. More info and book here.

Free Quality in Careers Standard events
Interested in achieving the Quality in Careers Standard? Find out more via three free events in March. Hear from schools and colleges who have achieved the standard – events taking place in Newcastle, Birmingham and Bristol

National career guidance shows 2020
The National Career Guidance Shows are the only free to attend series of conventions for people passionate about careers and will arm visitors with the resources necessary to support and prepare young people and other job seekers, so that they can make a smooth transition from education, training or unemployment into working life. Visit for free – book your place now.