How to Use the Science of Persuasion to Land Your Dream Job?

It’s a day like no other when you’re sitting at the waiting area, with your credentials and paperwork clutched firmly between your hands just outside the Human Resource office of a company you’ve dreamed to represent and work for.

You dream of filling that vacancy while you’re observing the facial expressions and body language of that other candidate being interviewed by the HR officer through the clear glass door.

You try to read the Human Resource associate’s lips, trying to figure out what to say, what to show, how to persuade this hiring manager that you have something in you, whether it be a diploma, a certificate, a certain work related-life changing experience, that nobody else in this waiting room can hand over.

Beside you, there’s a candidate browsing through his envelope, boasting medals, certificates and diplomas, even pictures of himself with celebrities and key figures in your current industry. If we count all the achievements in his resume, it would have more words and paragraphs than this article.

Moments later, the candidate you’ve been observing has exited the Human Resource office, with a stern look in his eyes, you felt gravity shifting its forces with every footstep he takes as he leaves the building. You ask yourself, did he get the job?

The candidate beside you put on a smug grin, and confidently said “Poor guy, he must’ve been rejected. I saw the look of disappointment in his eyes. You know, you have something in common with that guy. Both of you have slim and lean resumes. Well, buddy, I’m wishing you the best.” Then he gets called in. He approaches the HR associate with the confidence of an ancient conqueror about to invade and pillage a nation.

He looked back and told you, “I’m gonna leave the door open so you can hear and learn a thing or two.”

You observed that the second candidate had an interesting way of responding towards the Hiring Manager. He was listening to respond, rather than listening to understand. For every question the hiring manager asks, this guy finds an opportunity to show something good about himself.

Then there’s this question from the hiring manager that shook the second candidate down to his very core.

The Hiring Manager asked “What was your biggest failure? And how did you deal with it?”

The 2nd candidate responded: “I have nothing bad on my record. I made good things happen, I’m a genius. Look at my GPA. Sure, there were some mistakes and screw ups with my past companies, under my watch, under the department I’m handling, but I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I claim no accountability because it’s some idiot’s fault. Not mine.”

The Hiring Manager smiled and dismissed the 2nd candidate. Visibly flustered, the 2nd candidate hurriedly packs his papers, photos, and that resume which is longer than this article. He walks away quickly, not bothering to look at you.

From the Hiring Manager’s open door, which the second candidate left open for you to learn a thing or two, the manager looks at you and signals you to come in.

The subtle skill of persuasion can make or break the job you are competing for against fellow candidates. You examine yourself, and examine situations you’ve been in, including the encounter with two other candidates earlier, and make the best out of these observations.

You take a deep breath. This is it. After the hiring manager asks you to sit down, this would be the point of no return. Make or break. Before you open your lips to greet the Hiring Manager, this article takes over and stops time.

There are 6 main facets on the science of persuasion by Cialdini.
  • Relatability
  • Reciprocity
  • Scarcity
  • Authority
  • Consistency
  • Concensus or Social Proof.

Here, we’ll analyze and connect examples from companies, employees and the story above between rivaling candidates. We would aim to improve our standards of emotional intelligence and mix it with a good sense of scientific persuasion to win over the trust of the hiring manager.

Nowadays, hiring managers tend to engage more with people with higher emotional intelligence and relatability, hence let’s talk about Relatability.

1. Relatability

There is a tremendous power that comes along with being likeable and being liked. When people see you as somebody they want to be, you have the power to influence them. Same as your heroes, mentors and idols.

You engage with them because their likeness delivers a special significance to you. You see a better version of yourself through them. You aspire to be close to the example your mentors bring you.

As long as your have heroes, your sense of humility would be on solid ground, because for as long as your heroes do amazing things, you won’t dwell on the delusion that you are the best that ever happened on earth, or in this article.

This is positive relatability.

On the other hand, take the example of the second candidate, his ambition precedes his emotional intelligence. He credits himself for accomplishments yet takes no accountability for failures. He blames others. Here lies negative relatability.

When somebody reminds you of something or someone you don’t like, you still identify with them, however unlike positive relatability, you aspire to be as far away from their example as possible.

You can be better than the second candidate and develop rapport with the hiring manager as long as you maintain harmony with your similarities and opposites.

Dressing similarly as the Hiring Manager is a good start. Because it sends a signal that the both of you can represent the company you want to work for in a collective sense. Being overdressed or ironically underdressed sends a signal that you’re treating the hiring manager as someone who isn’t on equal ground as you.

How the hiring manager speaks the language, whether soft spoken or loud and boisterous should also set the tone on how you can respond. Being complementary to the Hiring Manager’s volume and speed of speech, can also develop trust and liking.

If the Hiring Associate is soft spoken, please do tone down. If the Hiring Manager is loud and has humor, level with his sense of charm and body language. Relatability is based on what is immediately seen,heard and felt from you. Because it’s human nature to find similarities and differences on first impressions. Make this one good for you.

2. Reciprocity

The principle of reciprocity revolves around the feeling of indebtedness of one person to another which started from an unselfish act. The concept of paying it forward encourages the feeling of belonging between two people, which in turn also increases confidence and trust.

Paying it forward as a business has many forms. Some businesses would let its customers choose a charity to support, some businesses give away a free month to its regularly monthly charged customers. Now how do we pay it forward on a job hunt setting? Is it possible?

Of course it is. During an interview, when there is an opportunity for small talk, share your hobbies and interests with the interviewer. If you have the same interests, feed the interviewer with knowledge about your mutual interest he hasn’t heard about. It truly helps to gear up on trivial knowledge.

Another way to pay it forward is to offer your expertise on a subject when the Hiring Manager invites a manager from the department you’re applying for.

This is your chance to express your interest and understanding of the job to the Department Manager by asking the right questions and sharing your opinion from expertise. Also, pay it forward by volunteering yourself to work on a few tasked assignments by the department manager after the interview.

This way, you’ve shown that you’re acting in good faith by initiating a collaboration, and this gesture shows genuine intentions because, even though there’s no current way of knowing whether you’ve landed the job or not, you have brought something on the table.

3. Scarcity

The principle of Scarcity capitalizes on the rare and limited. Take jewellers for instance. They limit the production of a certain ring or wristwatch to commandeer a high price. Maximizing profit with the least amount of raw materials.

Launch any product and label it as “Limited”, people would flock and will be willing to pay a higher price just to get a taste of that elusive exclusivity. Giant sports car makers also capitalizes on exclusivity and scarcity by limiting the number of produced vehicles for a particular year.

If you read car magazines, or car shows on TV, you would’ve heard of “Only 25 made” or “Only less than a hundred made” cars.

Now, back to the HR manager’s office. How does an interviewee use the principle of scarcity in order to persuade the Hiring Manager’s favorable opinion?

By telling them that you have been offered the same job by the company’s competitors, you make yourself scarce because you have other options to pour all your commitments to. A sign that your interviewer favors you is when the negotiated salary increases.

4.  Authority

Let’s say you’re trying to discover new music. You ask your friends one by one, and realize that it’s not the best idea to ask a friend who exclusively listens to hiphop to give you a list of recommendations on rock. You won’t ask a basketball athlete how to serve a ball on a tennis lawn. To each their own authority.

With every field, there’s a trusted figure. That’s why sport shoe manufacturers enlist influential, telegenic and photogenic athletes to endorse their products. This is why print ads and online presence of corporations will always include a man in a suit.

This demonstrates authority. A face you could trust to be amazing and skillful within their given field. A nutritionist has authority over a friend who’s imposing that you go on a diet.

In the interview room, demonstrate your knowledge and expertise to the point that you’re seen as an expert by the hiring manager. Show him the results and numbers of your expertise. Like “I’ve cut the cost for operation expenses by half, by adjusting one tiny little thing” “I have influenced the workforce to stop smoking without prohibiting smoking. I simply compensated those workers who don’t consume smoke breaks.”

By demonstrating, your interview will no longer feel like you’re up against a thesis panel, questioning and challenging you, grading you on how well you defended your claims. By proving your expertise, you increase your strategic leverage over the 2nd candidate at the beginning of this article. He may be experienced, but you’re an expert. You get the job done more efficiently because you understand your job on an atomic level.

5. Consistency

Consistency is composed of inertia and momentum. Take the food industry for example, there are restaurants and food joints that have already lasted for more than a decade. Some dishes have been proven to be truly great ever since its inception, til the current date, the taste delightfully remains the same.

However, there are some dishes that, as time goes on, the quality gradually decreases. On a business level, consistency is synonymous to reliability. Like a car that consistently starts its engines no matter the season, whether it’s cold or hot outside.

Consistency is a display of strength in such a way that no matter the odds, the place where benefits come from seems infinite.

Consistency can be found in hardwired routines. Such as cooking daily breakfast for yourself, or your family, or doing laundry weekly. Now how do we bring these hard-wired habits to benefit your interview?

By showing your capabilities from your past companies and offering to start right away, you demonstrate consistency and inertia. “I’m used to writing 5 articles a week for my past company. After the interview, would you like me to write and edit 20 articles over the month?” “I’m wired to get to work 10 minutes early every day, otherwise, I find myself in a rather unpleasant mood.”

By listing things you are reliable at and proving that you’re consistent with them, you get plus points from your interviewer.

6. Social Proof

Social proof is a seek and you shall find scenario. Let’s say you’re at a band tour event and there are many bands playing, you get an idea who is the next big thing by seeing which band attracts and engages the most people in the said event. Same with movies, you perceive that a certain movie is better than others because there’s been a consistently long line of willing cinema patrons, going for reruns again and again. Social proof lies on the principle that the crowd, or the scene speaks for you.

Social proof requires that you have done amazing things for people, communities, scenes or your past companies. This is where you make use of your references well. Please avoid writing “available upon request” on your references, because your references can make or break the deal of you landing the job!

Examine your conscience and list the people and communities that you’ve helped and gained trust and confidence with, because their favorable opinion of you may land you that job you’ve always wanted!

A job interview can just be as short as 10 minutes or as long as over an hour, it takes a few hours to get ready, from dressing up to getting to the building. But surely, being prepared and knowledgeable about the science of persuasion can land you on a long lasting career.

Wishing you all the best, happy job hunting!

Written By
Mark Dela Cruz is a Co-founder of Grit. On a normal day at work, he sips a cup of coffee with 3 sugars and 2 packs of cream while reading articles on business development, career, productivity. During his free time, he and his cat listen to Led Zeppelin and Wolfmother, arguing which band has the best riffs.

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