Persuasion on the Job Interview

Job Interview CartoonTimes are hard and you need every edge to compete in the job market.  The Interview is a crucial step in earning that new job and persuasion principles will help.  Here’s how to use persuasion during the interview.

First and always during the interview:  It’s about the Other Guy. The Other Guy is the job interviewer sitting across from you.  You don’t care what you want, you care what the Other Guy wants and you want the Other Guy to want you.  That means: get inside the Other Guy’s head.  It doesn’t matter how you think, feel, or behave.  It matters how the Other Guy thinks, feels, and behaves.  Got that?  A persuader constantly monitors the Other Guy and adjusts performance accordingly.  Get that.

Second, learn to use SOLER.  SOLER is an acronym for a set of nonverbal behaviors that indicate the cognitive and evaluative responding of the Other Guy.  Squarely face, Open posture, Lean in, Eye contact, and Relaxed body.  As people turn away, close up, lean out, look away, or tighten up, they are distracted and cold.  As they square up to you, open up, lean in, look at you, and relax, they are attentive and warm.  Observe the Other Guy’s SOLER to understand if they are listening to you and if they are liking what you are saying and doing.

Third, use your words to control three crucial persuasion functions:  WATTage, arguments, and cues.  WATTage means the Other Guy’s Willingness and Ability To Think.  Arguments means information of crucial importance for the job interview.  Finally, Cues means words that influence without requiring serious thinking.

WATTage is the key function you want to assess and adjust.  If the Other Guy is high WATT, then they will want job Arguments, the crucial elements for the hire:  references, credential, experience, motivation, appearance, social skill.  If the Other Guy is low WATT, they lack the cognitive willingness and ability to think effortfully and instead will seek out Cues like attractiveness, friendliness, fluency, glibness, stereotype fitness, or any other element that makes it easy and fast to make a judgment. WATTage varies over time, but during an interview you want as much high WATT time as possible.

Monitor WATTage with SOLER again and with question asking.  When the Other Guy is paying attention, you’ll see them lean in with good eye contact while squarely facing you with a relaxed body.  They’re getting it.  They’re tuned in.  That likely indicates high WATT processing.  They really want to understand you and are looking for key information about your fit for the job.  Follow up by asking questions of them to confirm that they have been listening.  Ask them if the qualifications you bring are what they are looking for.  You want to determine whether they are really tuned in as much as what they say.

Now, if the Other Guy is high WATT you’d better bring your best Arguments.  The Other Guy is SOLER, answering your questions, and clearly shows that persuasion frame of mind that is looking for your best shot.  Now, pitch the Arguments that support your hire.  Remember, it’s about the Other Guy, so a Strong Argument is not strong from your point of view, but from the Other Guy’s point of view.  You might be very impressed with your academic record (hey, the Dean’s List, hubba-hubba), but is the Other Guy impressed?  If you hit the Other Guy with your Strong Argument and they don’t look at you or turn away or if they respond with, “Gee, the Dean’s List is great, but we want someone with three years of experience” then you know you gave a Weak Argument.  Work harder and offer more Arguments that get SOLER and positive evaluations.

If the other Guy is low WATT, you have two options.  First and foremost, figure out why they’ve tuned you out and do something to flip the switch and make them high WATT.  Ask specific detail questions of the Other Guy.  Make them think and respond.  You’ve got to get that high WATT switch on so that you can play your Arguments.  Strong Arguments delivered to high WATT Other Guys get job offers.  Second, WATT can and will vary during an interview, especially one that lasts more than ten minutes.  Learn to ride the ebb and flow of WATTage and rather than fight the tide, throw out persuasion Cues during some low WATT moments.  Point out superficial, but relevant points like clothing and style, prestige experiences, fun and funny moments.

Your persuasion goal is to get the Other Guy high WATT, then deliver Strong Arguments to them that make them go SOLER.

Key points for using persuasion on an interview.

1.  It’s about the other Guy, not you.
2.  SOLER shows the other guy’s attention and liking.
3.  Monitor and manipulate WATTage, arguments and cues.
4.  Provide Strong Arguments from the Other Guy’s perspective.
5.  Use SOLER to assess both WATTage and evaluative reactions.

P.S. You might like this related job interviewing post.

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