Costly Signal Theory Applied to Job Applications

If a particular job is your top choice, you should be willing to do more than is necessary to get it. In evolutionary psychology, this is called a Costly Signal.

A costly signal is something we evolved to show genuine fitness in a world where there has been an arms race between deception and deception detection. You prove your fitness to a skeptical evaluator by doing something that is relatively easy for you, but would be too hard for someone less fit. It has to be something that is hard to fake.

Because it can’t be fake, the first step is genuine two-way fitness between you and the job. In a normal job search, it’s likely that you will know this before the employer. So, if you feel like a job would be an excellent choice for you and that you would be the top candidate for it, your behavior should reflect this belief.

The extra work you do should be relatively easy, but not necessarily easy. If it feels like too much work, then that might be an indication that the fit isn’t good. I would caution that some people undervalue themselves. If you have this tendency, then I’d get an opinion from a colleague or mentor of what they think your chances are.

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