mind tricksInfluence: Science and Practice was the title of a highly popular book written in 1984 by Robert Cialdini, Regents’ Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University. Now in its 5th edition, the book has gained massive popularity and is referenced as a source in almost every book written on influence and persuasion.

The book covers the Six Principles of Influence:

  • reciprocity
  • commitment/consistency
  • social proof
  • liking
  • authority
  • scarcity

We have taken these 6 principles and made them relevant to the job interview, to help you persuade and convince your next interviewer you’re the one for the job. These 6 principles of influence can give you the power to influence and manipulate the outcome of any job interview.


1. Reciprocity

One of our basic instincts is the impulse to reciprocate when someone does something for us. We have an automatic feeling of indebtedness, a need to repay in kind something that another person has provided. This principle can be introduced in the interview, so the interviewer feels obliged to return your favor and offer you the position.

Example: On his way to work, Andy purchased 2 breakfast buns as part of a two-for-one deal. As he arrived at work, Mary was at her desk typing away. “Moody Mary” — as she was known — was the type of worker who kept to herself; she did her job and went home. When she made a cup of tea, she made it just for herself, even though the unwritten office rule is to offer everyone a cuppa.

Andy happily gives the second free breakfast bun to the shocked Mary before sitting down at his own desk to eat his breakfast. In the afternoon, Mary gets up to make her routine afternoon cup of tea. On her way to the kitchen, the normally selfish Mary diverts to Andy’s desk and asks if he would like a hot drink.


Reciprocity in the Job Interview

In the job interview, you can gain compliance by doing an unselfish gesture such as sharing excellent cost-saving advice. For instance, the employer may be discussing a new piece of expensive software they will be investing in. Here, you can give away your knowledge for free:

That piece of software is really good but is very expensive to run. A new product used in the U.S. is being released in the UK next month; it’s an improvement on the software you’re discussing and has a couple of additional advantages for half the price. After the interview, I can email you a link to the product website so you can decide for yourself.

The reciprocity rule can also be used in the salary negotiation section of the job interview. (Click here to tweet this thought.) If you first ask for a high salary that is turned down, you can then ask for a lower salary (the salary you wanted all along) with additional benefits, like an extra week’s paid leave. Because you’ve accepted a lower wage, maybe on the premise that you’ll take a drop in wage because “I like the values of the company,” the interviewer through the rule of reciprocation will consent to your additional request.


2. Commitment and Consistency

We have a deep desire to be consistent with ourselves. When we’ve committed to something verbally or in writing, or due to our beliefs and attitudes, we are more inclined to go through with it. By being consistent, we find coming to decisions an easier task (e.g. a friend of mine who’s particular about food said to me at a restaurant, “I only eat locally grown products, so I will have to order the locally sourced lamb casserole.”)

Example:Louise, a recently recruited manager, was warned by her predecessor that the team didn’t like change. To gain commitment to the inevitable changes she’d have to make, Louise first spoke to individual team members and discussed some of her ideas, asking them for their opinions and creating interest in the proposals. When the new change was announced, the whole team showed support.


Commitment and Consistency in the Job Interview

To gain the employer’s commitment to you during the interview, frame your interview answers as questions to generate interest in you:

In the last three companies I’ve been employed at, I have been able to increase profits by saving on overhead cost by doing X, Y and Z. Would this strategy be a benefit to your organization?

By giving examples of successful strategies and then asking if the company would benefit from them, you start to create commitment and consistency, as the employer throughout the interview has constantly said they would benefit from you and your ideas.

You can also finish the interview by asking the interviewer, “If you recruited me, what would you want me to start working toward in the first 6 months of employment?” This question allows the employer to put your skills in order of relevance. To do this, they will have to re-examine your answers to reply to your question.

The end game is to get the employer commit to himself that he wants to offer you the position; it will be hard for him to change his mind due to our desire for commitment and consistency.


3. Social Proof

To help make quicker decisions, we look for social proof. When choosing a restaurant, you’re more likely to choose the restaurant that looks busy, thinking it must be good if 10 people are eating there.We make choices more easily through other people’s opinions as we take proof from the actions of others.

Example:Terry had overheard two members of the senior management team discussing how the director decided to enter into a new market, saying they would test out this field by first completing a small number of projects with an internal team. Terry thought with excitement that this could be his big break. If he could get on the initial project team and the organization decided to invest in this new niche, he could in all possibility gain a promotion.

Terry spent the next few days slipping into conversations snippets of information relating to this market. Sometimes he was asked questions by colleagues, which he enthusiastically answered. Even in team meetings (but only when appropriate), Terry would bring up this topic, highlighting his knowledge.

A couple of weeks later, one of the senior management team comes to meet Terry’s line manager to discuss putting together a team for a new specialist project. When the subject matter comes up, the manager asks his team members if anyone has any expertise around it. Several people give Terry’s name, and Terry is quickly recruited for the project team.


Social Proof in the Job Interview

Help employers to be influenced by social proof by creating a buzz around your expertise. Throughout your interview, quote past employers praising you for past successes. Hand over copies of emails flattering your work from stakeholders, partners and managers. Repeat statistics that senior management team said were achieved by you. Don’t tell them yourself how wonderful you are; quote and reference past colleagues, managers and partners so the new employer believes, If everyone else thought he was so successful, then I will believe this premise myself.

We view behaviors and actions as correct when we see others performing them. A successful way to use social proof in the job interview is to let slip the fact the 2-3 competitive and well-established companies have already offered you a similar position.


4. Liking

We are easily influenced by people we like. We like people who are similar to us. (We are even more likely to like someone with the same first name.) We like people who complement us and we like people who smile. We are more likely to buy from people we like, which is one reason sales companies use respected celebrities to advertise their products.

Example: Sharon was a great asset to her company. She was highly successful and had great relationships with all her colleagues, especially with her management team. Through her recent successes in winning new contracts, the business was expanding and recruiting new staff members.

After a round of interviews, Andrew the HR manager wasn’t convinced any of the applicants met the strict criteria. They all had the experience, but Andrew was looking for the right fit for the company.

While making a cup of tea, Sharon approaches Andrew, asking him how the interviews are going. After he explains the situation, Sharon asks him if he has interviewed Paul. She goes on to explain how she had worked with Paul before in a previous role and how at first he always came across at little shy, but once established he was a great worker and would be a perfect fit for the company. Later that day, Andrew offers Paul a contract.


Liking in the Job Interview

To be offered the job, you need the interviewer to like you. Many interviewers are influenced by their gut feeling. Once an interviewer likes you, they will use this “liking” as a filter. A positive filter makes even your bad interview answers sound good. We all use filters daily — you may laugh at a joke told by someone you like but think the same joke is offensive when told by someone you dislike.

During the job interview, you can increase liking by finding common ground. Do you both enjoy the same sport, did you attend the same university, have you attended the same church in the past? Ideally find commonality with your values, beliefs and work ethic. Interviewers will let slip their hobbies, employment background, values and beliefs throughout the interview; it’s your job to make it known that you have a similar life, interest or conviction.


5. Authority

People in authority are listened to. Every toothpaste ad on TV has a dentist explaining why they would recommend this brand. This is because we trust people in authority and take their comments on board without questioning their expertise.

Example: On his first day at work in the DIY shop, Bill’s manager asked him to sweep the aisles clean. In aisle three, a customer was examining two different decking products.

“Excuse me,” he asked the new employee, “which one do you think is best? I want some decking that will last, while looking modern. Which one do you think is the best fit?” Taken aback and without thinking, Bill answered, “I like the one in your right hand. It’s a nicer color and seems pretty sturdy to me.”

Persuaded by what he thinks is an expert, the customer walks away with 50 pieces of expensive decking.


Authority in the Job Interview

Share your expertise and sector knowledge with the employer, explaining how this knowledge will benefit the organization, how you can increase productivity, how you will win new contracts and save on overhead. This will create authority in your knowledge base.

Prior to the job interview, write blog posts for industry magazines and refer to them during the interview to build on your reputation. Once you’re seen as an expert by the interviewer, all your proceeding answers will rarely be challenged. When it comes down to the decision of deciding who to offer the position to, who would you choose: an experienced candidate or an expert in the sector?


6. Scarcity

People always want what they can’t have. We love the rare, the unique and the uncommon. A jewelry maker can triple the price of the cost of their jewelry if they make it as a unique piece never to be created again.

Example: Browsing on eBay, Danny spotted an expensive leather bag that he wanted for work. The bag was worth around $120 but, always looking for a deal, Danny was happy to spend up to $60 on the product. Due to the bag’s brand, many people had bid on the item and, with only 2 hours left to bid, the bag was already at $75.

Danny decides he will up his bid to $80 as the bag is in perfect condition. Within minutes, he is outbid. Danny had already searched on Google and learned this particular bag was no longer being produced; this was his only chance to get this bag in such good condition. With only 5 minutes to go, the bid was now at $130. Danny wins the bag 5 minutes later, paying $150 for the purchase.


Scarcity in the Job Interview

Make yourself scarce, unique or valuable. You need to think about the value you can bring to the organization: what do you possess that others don’t? How will you increase the company profits? How will employing you add value to their organization? And, more importantly, if they don’t employ you, what will they miss out on, especially if you’re recruited at a competing company?

Once the employer knows the expertise you can bring to the organization, and how this expertise will increase profits — in other words, once the employer is captivated — take away the idea that you want to work for them. Start to discuss other offers of employment and question the company’s future plans and reputation. Be careful not to overdo it here, and also ask how you will develop, grow and fit in with the company.

If the employer is over-enthusiastic with the thought of hiring you and you hint that you won’t accept the job offer, the employer will want to recruit you even more. Note: A sign that this principle is working is when the employer starts to increase the salary offer.


You Don’t Get Recruited on Experience Alone

Only the career fool believes they’ll be recruited on the basis of their experience. The interviewer is influenced by a number of elements: your appearance, your confidence, your handshake, how you structure your answers, if you use stories and antidotes, the tone of your voice, the duration of your answers, your personality, the reputation of companies you’ve worked for… even your name and how well the previous interviewee performed all have an effect on the interview outcome.

With most interviewers, the psychology of these elements is unknown to them; they just get a gut feeling if you’re the right fit for their company. It’s the same psychology when you meet someone you fancy at a party — you don’t know why, but you have a good feeling about them.

By using the Six Principles of Influence — reciprocity, commitment/consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity — you can increase your chances of securing more offers of employment by consciously affecting the employer’s gut feeling about you.

Which of the Six Principles of Influence do you need to work on most? Share in the comments!

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