Arguably, a large proportion of business communication involves persuasion. Much business communication is dedicated to attaining buy-in for initiatives or programs, and/or convincing workers to do what the business needs in order to succeed. Of course, persuasion abounds in other areas of our lives, with marketers often bombarding us with benefits and features of items they are selling, or making claims about how we should live our lives. (Keto chocolate bar, anyone?)
Persuasion is a well-researched science that job-seekers, too, can harness to get what they want.
Here are five persuasion techniques to apply to your next search:
Providing clear reasons for the employer to hire you sounds like a no-brainer, but many job-seekers miss opportunities to do so. Ellen Langer’s well-known Harvard persuasion experiment found, that adding “because” to a statement increased agreement by 34 percent. A 2016 study by Weaver, Hock, and Garcia suggests it’s far more effective to present a few strong arguments than it is to present a longer list in which some of the reasons are not as strong. And, there’s no better way to prove you can do what you say you can do than by proving that you’ve already done it (with an accomplishment story)! A great way to do this is craft a few of your strongest selling points – customized for your targeted employer – as bulleted accomplishments in your career summary (AKA: profile), which sits at the top 1/3 of your resume. Go for quality over quantity. First create a nice long list by asking yourself, “what did I do that I’m proud of, am good at, and that I enjoyed?” Then, narrow that down to the ones that are most relevant to your prospective employer.
In the run-up to the US 2020 presidential election, George Goehl described in The Atlantic a technique that proved to have a persuasion rate “102 times more effective than traditional electioneering efforts aimed at persuading people to change their vote.” The technique involved talking with prospects to build rapport and trust instead of diving right in with facts. In this strategy, they learned that relatability is far more important than they had originally thought. The beginning of an interview, during that brief period of small talk leading up to the hardcore questions, can be a good time to create such rapport. While this is arguably easier when you are invited into the office and can get a glimpse into the interviewer’s life (through desk photos or wall art), small talk can still happen over Zoom. Caveat: let the interviewer start the small talk and then graciously (and, perhaps, with prepared answers) follow along!
The opinions of your work by key players in your career (peers, clients, supervisors) can go a long way toward persuading an employer to hire you. A few well-chosen testimonial quotes in your resume or cover letter will strengthen your documents’ persuasive power. And, expect the prospective employer to Google you. As a result, your social presence (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook use), thought leadership (blogs, articles, etc.), and testimonials and endorsements, can all go a long way toward providing proof that you can do what you say you can do.
One of the best ways to persuade an employer to hire you is to show that you truly understand the organization’s pain points and can provide a solution. It’s called “thinking like a consultant,” and it’s an excellent and compelling persuasion strategy. Instead of going into an interview with a “job-seeker mindset,” pretend you own your own company and wish to understand the challenges facing said company. Inquire about how they’ve addressed these challenges in the past, what worked and what didn’t, and how they see themselves moving forward. This helps them see you as a problem solver, and it helps you, by enabling you to shift your mindset from taking to giving, and more confidently approach the interview as peers.
Timing can be important in the art of persuasion, with research suggesting that the last persuasive message delivered is the one best remembered. Thus, be sure that when you are closing the sale in your interview, your final persuasive message packs a punch.