Yesterday, I attended a sales meeting for one of my advertising clients and we saw a video of Dr. Robert Cialdini’sThe Power of Persuasion”. The video is primarily intended for sales people, but I thought a couple of Dr. Cialdini’s concepts applied very well to job search and interviewing.

One of his six principles of persuasion is the power of Reciprocity.

Reciprocity means doing something in exchange for someone doing something for you - returning a favour. He suggests offering to help someone before asking them for help to create an obligation for the other person to help you in return.

Think of this in the context of networking. Who do you feel most motivated to help – the person who regularly offers his or her assistance or the person who constantly asks for help? (Hint: it’s not the latter) Seems to me that this is very much the core idea behind Tim Cork’s concept of netgiving.

Something else Dr. Cialdini talked about was how to accept thanks for helping someone else. In his presentation, he mentions a very common response is something like, “Don’t think anything of it. I was glad to help”. Many of us have probably said words to this effect in our careers. Dr. Cialdini suggests adding one powerful phrase to the end of this to really invoke the concept of reciprocity – “… and I’m sure you would have done the same for me under similar circumstances”. This reminds the person assisted of the help given and suggests quite strongly there is an expectation the favour will be returned.

Another principal of persuasion is Authority, and Dr. Cialdini has some suggestions here that can be powerful in an interview situation.

We’ve heard Brian Bassett talk about “hand grenade” questions, such as “Tell me about yourself” and “What is your biggest weakness?” They don’t always come up in interviews. But we know we need to be ready for them.

Dr. Cialdini suggests we will create a stronger impression by using a discussion of a weakness as a setup to talking about one of our greatest strengths. First, it’s proactive and gets the weakness issue on the table under our terms, not the prospective employer’s. Secondly, it demonstrates we are human (i.e., not perfect) and demonstrates self-awareness, which is healthy. Sharing our weaknesses openly and willingly gives us more credibility with the other person, making them more likely to respond favorably to your discussion of your strengths.

By using a weakness to describe how we overcame it and turned it into a strength can not only create a very positive impression but also amplifies the magnitude of the strength.

Click here for Dr. Cialdini’s official website.

Best regards,
Ron Jamieson, B.Sc (Eng.) MBA, P.Eng.
Senior Marketing and Sales Leader