Using the science of influence to look for a new job

My wife, Lynette, recently upped her job search game. In fact, she quit her job last week and starts a new one in about 10 days. She’s very excited and I’m insanely proud of her.

I wanted to share something she started doing with her job search that blew my mind a bit. I’ve never seen anyone do this in the dozens and dozens and dozens of resumes I’ve looked at or job candidates I’ve interviewed, but it seems so simple to do. If you are currently looking for a job or plan to, you might want to jot this down.

So a tiny bit of background.

The father of the science and psychology of persuasion is a guy named Robert Cialdini. He’s a professor out of Arizona State University and he’s written one of the most popular books on the subject of persuasion called… Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

The book describes 6 key principles of persuasion:

Social proof is what makes us look in the direction of where a group of people are looking. If you were to happen upon a group of people all staring into the sky, you are more than likely going to stare into the sky as well.

It’s also a reason why you want to know what’s going on when you see a group of people standing in line for something. There must be something important going on at the end of that line.

Websites use social proof to help sell their services to you all the time. This is why on most websites you see testimonials from other customers talking about how great or interesting this website or product is.

Just a couple quick examples: Freshbooks and Highrise.

Seeing testimonials immediately persuades you to pay more attention to this company and what they are selling, because look at all these other people doing it.

Social Proof

What Lynette discovered was how powerful social proof could be in the job search process.

As a manager for Allstate, Lynette has interviewed hundreds of candidates for employment and hired dozens of people. She’s seen a lot of resumes. Recently though, one resume stood out to her among all the rest.

It was from a girl who brought in letters of recommendation to her interview. She had been through a round of layoffs from her previous job, and her employers wanted to help her find new work. So colleagues and superiors wrote her letters of recommendation that she was handing out with her resume at interviews.

Lynette was super impressed. The interviewee had Lynette’s attention immediately.

Now this situation of getting letters of recommendation to find a new job isn’t something everyone can accomplish, since it might tip off people you are looking for a new job who shouldn’t know about that yet.

So Lynette took this great example of social proof and tweaked it some more to suit her.

She pulled testimonials from places liked LinkedIn and from emails that she’s gotten that go something like: “Great job on this. We really appreciate the effort you gave on XYZ project. Yada yada”. She also went to places like her yearly reviews.

(Save those emails and reviews!)

She took quotes from the best ones and put them in her cover letter/email she sent when applying for a job.

And she brought them to interviews.

This is where it’s ok to have “an extra page” to your resume. It’s ok if this page even gets lost or thrown away. It doesn’t add to the cognitive weight of your resume. All it is is the right amount of text to get your interviewer to pay extra attention to you rather than other job candidates who aren’t walking in with any social proof.

This isn’t the same as just mentioning you have “references upon request”. That’s a useless statement and everyone has references. That’s like a restaurant putting up a sign that says, “ask us to see if anyone has said anything nice about us”. That’s not what they do.

They put that stuff on their awnings: “Best Steakhouse as chosen by some guy in some magazine”. Or their windows. It’s on plaques hung up all over the walls as you walk in the door.

Besides, the conversation HR usually has with those “references” goes something like… HR: “Did so and so work for you from 2009-2012?” Your reference: “Yes”. HR: “Thanks. Have a nice day. (Click)”.

What you want are quotes from people your interviewer can relate with greeting their eyes before they even glance at your resume.

This really worked for the girl Lynette was hiring and it worked for Lynette.

She recently incorporated it into her job search process, and like I mentioned above, she landed a new job a couple weeks ago and starts soon.

This also got me brainstorming on how other principles of persuasion could up your job search. Tomorrow I’ll share a few of those that came to mind.

Update: Part two of this post is up here.


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