How to Find Jobs in Behavioural Science

Not too long ago the Warwick Behavioural Insights Team hosted a talk by Nathan Maddix. Nathan was kind enough to talk about BEHiring, a tool he created that accumulates jobs in behavioural science onto one accessible platform. The tool is currently mainly US focused, but expansion is in the cards. Now I'm not writing this article to talk about either Nathan (he can do that himself) or BEHiring, but I'm writing it because I do think that the information that was shared and discussed during this talk is valuable for quite a few people. So here goes!

Lesson 1: Is it Behavioural Science you're looking for?! Not all jobs are advertised as behavioural science jobs, yet that is most definitely what they are! Behavioural science is a relatively new term, and not everyone has caught on (or wants to catch on) to its meaning. A lot of theoretical behavioural science is still referred to as psychology and sometimes even philosophy. If you’re looking for something more applied, make sure to look into marketing or anything with the word “consumer” in it. When looking into modelling behaviour, keywords can be “computational”, “mathematical” or “computer science.” None of this is a fool proof method, but it might expand your horizon into what you actually want to be doing. Another field that just popped into my mind is User Experience, often just referred to as UX. That is a field that has been booming for behavioural scientists. Again, needs some figuring out before you get there… The best example Nathan gave was a company was looking to hire “Technical Officer #3”. As ravishing as this job title sounds, the job description was actually quite appealing and was heavily behavioural science based. But who would ever know that? Academia isn’t any better than corporate I’m afraid. I know Behavioural Science PhDs and post-docs in the following departments: Psychology (fair), economics (ok), business schools (sure, sure), philosophy (well…), medical school (uhuh) and the manufacturing group (wtf…). So yeah, you can be anywhere. As AI and machine learning become increasingly popular, don’t be surprised to end up in a computer science department. This doesn’t mean you have to code per se, there’s just different research to be done. Now if you are looking for a job, make sure to look slightly more outside the box than you’re used to. If you are the one advertising the job, make sure the description and the title at least somewhat match. We are trying to find you!

Lesson 2: Not all Behavioural Science is equal. In lesson one we addressed the issue of most jobs not having behavioural science in the title. But some jobs might actually have behavioural science in the title! Does that make them automatically a better fit? Hardly. Just because a job has behavioural science in the title, doesn't mean you are actually going to do behavioural science. Find yourself a job (with a job description please) that has behavioural science in the title. Now find another. And another. Now compare. Unsurprisingly, what you are going to find is that these jobs are widely different. Their titles might have been quite similar, but the job description is once again where it's at. So when diving into the job description what you might find is that they aren’t looking for someone who just finished their education, but they are looking for someone who is currently in their PhD. Interesting… Moreover, if they provide it, very carefully read the task list. What are you actually going to be doing in this job? In some jobs you’ll be running projects from start to finish (great!), in other jobs you’ll have more of a supporting role (maybe not so great). Some jobs put a lot of emphasis on the analysis side of things, meaning you’ll be a data cruncher. If that’s what you want, great! If that’s not what you want, not so great. A tip from Nathan: a lot of jobs seem to have the word “intern” in the title. Now, when reading the job description, are you actually running around fetching coffee and printing things, or is this just a way for the company to hire you and give you a trial period? Don’t let words like that scare you away, read the description!

Lesson 3: Not every country is the same either... The earlier mentioned intern tip is very US-based. The US apparently loves its interns. Good for them. Within the UK, you’re not so likely to find that term flying around, because it is so associated with fetching coffee, or very short-term positions over the summer. This leads to lesson 3: you need to know the differences between how jobs are described depending on which country you are looking to get hired into. If you have lived in the country you want to work in for all your life (or a large chunk of time) you should be alright. If that isn’t the case, ask around. If you don’t know who to ask, ask Google. If there are specific people you admire very much, look into them. Most people have their cv’s online, so they are public knowledge. See what types of jobs they have held in the country (or countries) that you are interested in. This might give you at least some handy keywords to look for. Watch out for going to far back on someone’s cv. Job titles from over 15 years ago are likely to have changed massively, so their value nowadays is debatable. If you find job titles within the past five years that sound good to you, within the country you are actually aiming for, you should be on the right track!

Lesson 4: Let’s get hot! I have written about hot vs. cold-calling before, although I wrote about it when it comes to getting into a PhD. It almost seems like academia might not be that different from the “real world” after all. If you really want to know more about a job, a person, a team or an overall company, you can just ask. Send someone at that company an e-mail, LinkedIn message, tweet, what have you and see what it does. They might have time for some e-mails, maybe even a Skype call. Or maybe, if you’re in physical proximity from each other, they can do coffee or a lunch. I’m not saying this always happens, you could just get blatantly ignored. But every so often there will be success, and someone will try to help you out a bit! This can be a massive help: they can provide you with information on what the job they are advertising is like, what the team is like and what the overall company is like. This is great information to have. But what it also does is make you more than just a CV. They now have a face and voice to match your application, and that can make a lot of difference!

Well, I think this article is long enough as is. If you are looking for a job in behavioural science, try out the BEHiring platform and reach out to me or to Nathan directly for useful comments. If you are actually looking to post a job, email