Exploiting Behavioral Economics in Recruitment: The Power of Anchoring Bias

Exploiting Behavioral Economics in Recruitment: The Power of Anchoring Bias

By Vidal Graupera on 9/3/2023


Understanding behavioral economics can offer recruiters and job seekers a significant edge in the complex talent acquisition landscape. One psychological principle that has profound implications is the "anchoring bias." I've seen firsthand how anchoring bias impacts negotiations, evaluations, and job descriptions. This article aims to dissect anchoring in recruitment and provide data-backed insights.

What is Anchoring Bias?

Anchoring bias refers to relying too heavily on initial information encountered when making decisions (Kahneman & Tversky, 1974). In recruitment, this could be the first salary figure, achievement on a resume, or initial interview impression.

Anchoring Bias in Salary Negotiations

For Recruiters

When extending an offer, the initial salary figure serves as an anchor. If you start lower, even with negotiation, the final salary tends to be closer to your offer than the candidate's expectation. For example, in a study by Galinsky & Mussweiler (2001), candidates provided a lower counter-offer when the initial anchor was $35,000 versus $55,000, quantifying the significant impact anchors can have. This approach can be useful when budgets are tight, but the ethical implications of intentional anchoring should be considered. At what point does strategic anchoring become unethical manipulation?

For Job Seekers

As a candidate, you can anchor high by subtly highlighting previous robust compensation with bonuses and stock options. In a simulated market, Kristensen & Gärling (2000) found that buyer price estimates were higher when sellers provided a high initial anchor price. However, unreasonable anchors may be dismissed, so keep your anchor within a believable range based on objective data. Additionally, experienced negotiators may be less susceptible to anchoring effects (Northcraft & Neale, 1987).

Anchoring in Candidate Evaluations

Importance of the Resume's Opening

Your resume's first lines serve as an anchor, shaping perceptions throughout. Front-load with achievements and skills to create a "halo effect" (Nisbett & Wilson, 1977). However, be aware this positive halo may also cause interviewers to overlook weaknesses, so ensure you can back up your anchor.

Anchoring in Interviews

Your first interview answer sets the tone. A strong initial response anchors the discussion positively, leading to favorable evaluations (Asch, 1946). However, negotiation experience may reduce anchoring effects. So for experienced candidates, an early misstep may not doom the interview.

Actionable Takeaways

For Recruiters

  • Awareness of anchoring can help counteract its influence.

  • To counter a high anchor, provide detailed non-monetary benefits. Priming with lower numeric ranges may also reset anchors (Mussweiler & Strack, 2000).

For Job Seekers

  • Strategically anchor high, especially with leverage like multiple offers. But ensure your anchor is reasonable and backed by data.

  • Counter a poor anchor by re-anchoring positively with a compelling answer later.


Anchoring can strategically influence recruitment negotiations and evaluations. Both recruiters and seekers can leverage this, within ethical bounds, to maximize their advantage. But over-reliance on anchoring or unrealistic anchors may backfire. Anchoring alongside other biases like confirmation bias and halo effect allows for more holistic strategies. With insight into human behavior and data-driven decision making, organizations and talent can better navigate today's complex recruitment landscape.


Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185(4157), 1124-1131.

Galinsky, A. D., & Mussweiler, T. (2001). First offers as anchors: the role of perspective-taking and negotiator focus. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(4), 657.

Kristensen, H., & Gärling, T. (2000). Anchoring and adjustment in a simulated competitive market. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 81(2), 281-294.

Nisbett, R. E., & Wilson, T. D. (1977). The halo effect: Evidence for unconscious alteration of judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35(4), 250.

Asch, S. E. (1946). Forming impressions of personality. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 41(3), 258.

Northcraft, G. B., & Neale, M. A. (1987). Experts, amateurs, and real estate: An anchoring-and-adjustment perspective on property pricing decisions. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 39(1), 84-97.

Mussweiler, T., & Strack, F. (2000). Numeric judgments under uncertainty: The role of knowledge in anchoring. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 36(5), 495-518.

Ariely, D. (2008). Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. HarperCollins.

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