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Are YOU Asking the Right Questions in the Right Way to Influence Decisions?

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

Don't discount the persuasive power of linguistic and rhetorical language in conversations!

All too often, so many candidates walk into job/contract/promotion interviews wearing fear on their faces and displaying anxiety in their body language. Hiring managers and other decision makers pick up on these unintentional signals and are already marking their scorecards just based on those first visual impressions. Influence wears a suit of confidence into such meetings.

Does this sound like you? You can change that by assuming control of and even influencing the interview process by (1) Being confident in your professional experience and expertise and by (2) realizing that you are interviewing THEM to determine whether their organization is a good fit for you and your career.

Most candidates when asked at job interviews if they have any questions, they typically respond with “Uh, no.” There’s one other strategy you can use to boost your chances of getting a job offer and that’s with three critical questions you ask the hiring manager. No, they aren’t “When do my options vest?”, “When do I get three weeks vacation?” or “Do you have a work from home policy?” The questions you ask must be structured to plant the seed of you already being hired and working at that company.

You must have a strategy for the types of questions that “pre-suade” hiring managers and other decision makers to extend offers to you as THE short-list candidate.

Interviews: Opportunity to Engage, Position, and Influence Decisions

There’s no doubt about it: That first visual impression will influence how the rest of the interview proceeds. Assume an air of professionalism and confidence accompanied by a smile, a firm handshake, and appropriate attire, and you’re off and running. You’ve researched the company, you know your résumé inside and out so you can provide articulate responses to questions from interviewers.

But have you prepared your “pre-suasive” questions and comments?

“Pre-Suasion” is the Art and Science of Changing States of Mind

Pre-suasion is a revolutionary technique to influence and persuade others, as detailed by Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book by the same title. It’s the artful channeling of attention that leads to positive outcomes by focusing someone’s attention just prior to requesting a relevant action. It’s placing that attention in a receptive state prior to a request or question being made.  One of the most effective uses of pre-suasion is in interview situations where you can direct someone’s attention to a state or scenario to your benefit.

First Set Up Your Questions for Interviewers

Your purpose (obviously) is to get the job, contract, or promotion. There are strategies you can use to help lead hiring managers and decision makers along that path to extend an offer to you.

First, don’t just describe the types of projects or work you have experience with; anyone can do that. What decision makers are looking for is evidence of future value of expertise. You don’t do that by belaboring your past accomplishments; you turn the skills, knowledge, and expertise you used in those achievements into how they will contribute to the strategic direction of the organization going forward.

Example: “Have you experience with analytics software on large projects?”

Response: “Yes, I have used several platforms for BI on a few large projects…”

Better: “Yes, my proven expertise with BI analytics platforms such as yours has consistently reduced the time necessary to discover data patterns…” (implies a future value of expertise).

When It’s Time to Ask YOUR Questions

As you formulate your responses to questions that imply a future value of expertise, you are placing the interviewer’s attention in a receptive state to your branded value and expertise before you ask your questions. Here are three questions that are designed to place you AND the interviewer/decision maker in a future state of working together since you have already primed that individual’s attention to the future value of your expertise:

Question 1: “What is your highest priority project and how do you envision us working together on it?” (Speak to the crisis or situation, not the individual)

Question 2: “What is your greatest need on the team or project, and how do you see my expertise adding value there from Day 1?” (Speak to the crisis or situation, not the individual)

Question 3:“Do you have any other questions or concerns I can address right now about how I will contribute to these efforts?”

Bonus question if you REALLY believe in yourself: “If you don’t have any other questions of me, is there any reason why we can’t have a conversation now of a starting salary and a start date?” (They may say, “Yes, we have other candidates to interview,” but it shows that you are an assertive go-getter ready to get started.)

You have primed the decision maker during the interview process to be more receptive to the future value of your expertise. Continue the pre-suasion by asking questions that place you and the interviewer or decision maker working together in the future, you’ve established three things:

  1. You have maximized the Continuum of Belief™ in the future value of your expertise (“Continuum of Belief” is the idea that the further along you proceed in an interview process, the stronger the belief others have of your expertise and ability to deliver).

  2. You have created a Mindworm Contagion™ in the mind of the interviewer/decision maker (“Mindworm Contagion” is when some element of your brand/expertise remains top of mind with decision makers, like a song “earworm” you can’t get out of your head) such that the value/expertise associated with your name will be at or near the top of the job-offer list.

  3. You have minimized Irreducible Unpredictability™ in the hiring process (“Irreducible Unpredictability” is the point where – given all expertise, experience being equal among candidates – the offer is likely extended to the person with the highest “likeability” factor).

Such influence and persuasion strategies are used in all types of negotiations; in fact, influence strategies and language is what keeps the business world moving each and every day.


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