The Paradox of Choice

Browsing through Netflix, I was faced with this classic dilemma.

I would focus on a movie, within 5 minutes, I would feel that the other movie is better and after 10 minutes, the same pattern was repeated. I thought I should be watching something even better.

I have spent 2 hours of my life on the Netflix home page, scrolling dutifully through the endless options and then simply got frustrated and logged off

And I wondered that the good old days of Doordarshan, when we had NO options.

There was a Chitrahaar, a Rangoli, specific serials at fixed timing and we watched them with great delight.

Though we humans have a very advanced brain, we are still susceptive to the likes of “choice paradox“ when too many options are given to choose from.

The Paradox of Choice

“One effect (of choice), paradoxically, is that it produces paralysis, rather than liberation. With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all.” Barry Schwartz

Here is a study demonstrated in the Columbia University known as “jam study”.

In this study supermarket, shoppers were given the option of choosing from a table offering six samples of jam or one displaying 24 varieties.

While more people stopped at the table with 24 choices, only 3 per cent went on to purchase a jar, compared to a third of all shoppers who stopped at the table with just six varieties.

When we are given too many options, it becomes tough for our brain to choose from it, also might end up choosing nothing at all.

In his book — Future Shock — Alvin Toffler states that too many good options will make it very hard for someone to make a choice. We expect a certain amount of good options for every specific need and, when it is over the expectations, it stops getting better and the satisfaction declines.


Google, for instance, understands this logic and only presents 10 links for each search, instead of the endless answers they could very well provide.

Applying this to recruitment

And I wonder how we should apply this learning in recruitment.

Often when clients are inundated with CVs, say for a prestigious Strategy role at their Mumbai Corporate office with a salary of 25 lacs p.a.; they get so many applicants, so many wonderful candidates, that they get into the loop of infinite interviews and inability to take a decision.

In comparison, for a remote location, when they want a CA Inter within a salary of 7 lacs p.a., they know that choices are limited and thus probability of conversion for increases.

Same for even candidates – there are some hi-fliers who are inundated with choices and cannot decide. The one who gets just a single offer happily accepts it and moved ahead with life

What do you think?