Influencing an interview outcome – Dr. Cialdini’s Principles

I was cleaning out my desk recently and came across a “Pocket Guide” that I received from a sales workshop I attended quite a while ago.  Dr. Robert Cialdini ( was the speaker and the guide was an encapsulation of his “Principles of Ethical Influence”.  I thought it was a good exercise to relate them to the job interview for those of us who feel they need some polish – like myself.  How to get to “YES” from the recruiter, hiring managers, interview panels.

Dr. Cialdini starts his guide with this statement:

“The ethical use of influence means: being honest; maintaining integrity; being a detective, not a smuggler or bungler.”

I guess it is obvious that a job seeker should be honest about their accomplishments, education and crime record.  Yet recent data from SHRM (Society of HR Management) says that fully a third of job seekers lie on their resume and of course play that into the interview.  I had the experience recently where I quoted a salary range to a candidate to only have him tell the recruiter I recommended him to that I quoted him a higher range.  We immediately took him out of consideration.  Yet the other parts of this quote are just as important and so let’s go into his Principles.

CONSISTENCY (The Starting point)

Start: Small and build; With exisiting commitments; From public positions and Toward voluntary choices.

Are you telling the recruiter the same thing as you wrote in your resume?  What I see in most resumes and then talking to candidates that they leave out lots of information for the job I am talking to them about.  Many times I ask – so why did you take this job?  Why did you leave? Why did you make this turn in your career?  Have you planned you career well and is that obvious in your resume?

RECIPROCATION (You, then me, then you, then me…)

If your interview isn’t going like this – where you are the interviewer is doing all the talking – then there is no fairness and less likely to get to YES.  In a sales (interview) situation Cialdini says:

Be the first to give: Service, Information, Concessions

From an interview standpoint service could be a willingness to deliver, information is a willingness to reveal knowledge and concessions might come later or earlier – it can come in a  willingness to admit that they have to be made at all.

SCARCITY (The rule of the rare)

Cialdini says to emphasize: Genuine scarcity, unique features, exclusive information.

Are you a scarce candidate or are you a commodity?  What are your unique features and how will they benefit an employer?  Do you have exclusive information – not proprietary but perhaps exclusive kinds of experiences?  I recall being in an interview for a teacher position at a famous high school in NJ.  The Principal was grilling me after I had gone through a thorough interview with the Science Department Chair.  It went on a while and then I mentioned how I had done my student teaching during a time of racial riots at a high school nearby.  I was probably the only person in that school who had an experience like that and guess what – she hired me.  Think of those experiences that set you apart and tell them in a story.

AUTHORITY (Showing knowing)

Cialdini says to establish position through: Professionalism, Industry Knowledge, Your Credentials and admitting weaknesses first.

I think we pretty much do these on a resume but that last item –  WOW – does that make sense?  Humility I thinks can help sell but I think one can have too much of it.  It is very important to ground your abilities and capabilities against the competition in your line of work.  You should know what your function asks for if you are ambitious in getting ahead in it.  Do most people in your profession have Masters degrees?  Maybe some other certification?  Maybe some international experience?  To know this is to know your weaknesses  but also understand your strengths.  This will also keep you from applying for jobs that you do not qualify for!  Assess this by looking at jobs in that you strive for and see what you have to do to get to YES.  Cialdini tells a good example of this on his website’s video.

LIKING (Making friends to influence people)

Cialdini says to uncover: Similarities; Areas for genuine compliments and Opportunities for cooperation.

Do you go into an interview or screening session to make friends no matter what the outcome?  Do you know something about that person besides the fact they are the hiring manger or could be a co-worker or internal client?  I don’t think I have to tell you that many people do not get the job simply because they didn’t make friends even though they were qualified.

CONSENSUS (People proof, people power)

Unleash people power by showing: response of many others; others past successes and testimonials of similar others.

“People want to follow the lead of similar others” is what Dr. Cialdini tells us that consensus.  I interpret this as knowing the company’s competition well enough to understand that   what they are doing and that this company is not doing.  Does this difference make the competition more successful?  Can you bring them up to speed and maybe do one better?  Maybe another tactic is revealing that you understand what the company is doing right and how that influences the industry.  Most likely the company is looking at you to solve a problem.  Can you solve it?  What would make them think you can?  Can you tell them not only how you did it but how others have done the same thing and were successful?  Obviously the risk assessment on their part in hiring you to solve this problem is mitigated by your having a record of experience but also that it worked for others.  Another interpretation could be the importance of  testimonials of your character, your expertise, your spirit and your influence.

I would love to hear what you have to say about these principles as they apply to getting to YES in the job interview.


Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of the groundbreaking book, Influence, is your guide, translating the scientific research into practical business applications.  His widely acclaimed studies are highly instructive to those who want to be more influential.  Dr. Cialdini’s books Influence: Science & Practice and Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Persuasive were listed on the New York Times & BusinessWeek Bestseller lists.


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