We all have them. Whether it’s throwing salt over your shoulder, knocking on wood, or wearing your lucky pair of socks, everyone has a superstition or two.
Job seekers, frustrated by the seemingly arbitrary and endless job search, often turn to superstitions and pre-interview rituals as a way to cope with the stress of the job search. Common job seeker superstitions include lucky ties, socks, and jewelry, but some people take things a step further. For example, this Seattle-based editor tried washing her floors with “Do As I Say” Bath and Floor Wash, a cleaning product that claims to imbue the user with powers of persuasion. Other job seekers have turned to voodoo dolls, astrology, and other supernatural sources of help.
Usually these superstitions are harmless—unless you’re the teammate of a player who refuses to wash his socks during the season—but a problem can arise when you begin to focus too much on the superstitions themselves. If you botch an interview that happened to fall on Friday the 13th, it’s all too easy to blame your lack of success on the superstition, and you may fail to see the underlying cause that prevented you from landing the job.
Of Margarine and Marriage
With a series of graphs comparing, for example, the eerily similar rates of margarine consumption and divorce in Maine, statistician Tyler Vigen highlights why it’s important not to confuse correlation with causation. “Statistical data can show correlations,” says Vigen, “and then it’s up to us, as rational thinkers, to establish whether there’s actually a connection between the variables or if it’s merely a coincidence.”
Let’s say you were a pro tennis player at Wimbledon. You win your first match while wearing your favorite hat, so naturally you wear the hat again for your next match and so on throughout the tournament. It might start to seem like your hat is the secret to your winning streak, so naturally you wear it at the U.S. Open, just in case. Why mess with a good thing, right?
According to superstar athlete, Venus Williams, focusing too much on superstitions might actually hurt your performance in the long run. In a 2005 interview, Williams admitted that she used to have a lot of superstitions including wearing the same style of dress and accessories and bouncing the ball a specific number of times before each serve. She began to feel that these superstitious routines were actually holding her style back, and she eventually let them go because they weren’t helping her game. “After a while I realized it was probably the 20-odd years of practice and probably not the dress.”
Athletes are notoriously superstitious, and we tend to view their rituals, no matter how odd, with tolerant eyes. Job seekers, however, would do well to keep their superstitions to themselves lest they come off as crazy. Telling a prospective employer that you made a voodoo doll in her image is probably not the best way to get hired. As Stevie Wonder said,
“When you believe in things that you don’t understand/
Then you suffer/ Superstition ain’t the way.”
We’re not saying that you need to ditch the lucky socks altogether; a little bit of superstition can be a good thing if it helps increase your confidence and buoy your optimism. But take care that your superstitions don’t overshadow your hard work. There’s a big difference between carrying a talisman for good luck and believing that you’re doomed to failure if you lose your good luck charm.
Ultimately, a well-written, error-free resume and cover letter, effective networking, and a professional appearance are the factors that will land you the job.
Did you know that fear of the number 13 is called “triskaidekaphobia”? Share your weirdest workplace superstitions and phobias in the comments!