Impression Management and The Science of Persuasion
I recently read an excellent article in the October 2001 issue of Harvard Business Review by Robert Cialdini entitled, “Harnessing the Science of Persuasion.” He explains these six principles of persuasion:
Liking: People like those who like them.
Reciprocity: People repay in kind.
Social Proof: People follow the lead of similar others.
Consistency: People fulfill written, public, and voluntary commitments.
Authority: People defer to experts who provide shortcuts to decisions requiring specialized information.
Scarcity: People value what’s scarce.
I want to focus on No. 5 (Authority) and No. 6 (Scarcity) as they relate to managing impressions during job interviews.
Here’s what Cialdini states (along with my take):
AUTHORITY Example: A single New York Times expert-opinion news story aired on TV generates a 4% shift in U.S. public opinion.
Business Application: Expose your expertise; don’t assume your expertise is self-evident. Instead, establish your expertise before doing business with new colleagues or partners.
My take: When you expose your expertise through articles in peer-reviewed journals, writing books on a subject in your profession, speaking at conferences, or teaching a college-level class, your authority builds and is promoted and polished by others. The more of these brand builders you have behind you prior to any job interview, the easier it is to continue forward through the hiring process. It’s amazing how opportunities seem to present themselves as your expertise and authority radiate outward in an increasing sphere of influence.
SCARCITY Example: Wholesale beef buyers’ orders jumped 600% when they alone received information on a possible beef shortage.
Business Application: Use exclusive information to persuade. Influence and rivet key players’ attention by saying, for example, “Just got this information today. It won’t be distributed until next week.”
My take: This doesn’t apply to insider trading or passing along intellectual property secrets, obviously, and Cialdini goes to some length in his article about deceiving others into compliance. That said, being in a position of authority often gives you access to information that, while not broadly available, could help promote your case, argument, or initiative to others.
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Former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of the newly released Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies: Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers). He leads career strategy seminars at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. Military Veterans organizations.