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The power of persuasion in a job search

Meridith Levinson | Feb. 5, 2009
When you're hunting for a new job, you may not realize that your main objective is persuasion

FRAMINGHAM, 4 FEBRUARY 2009 - When you're hunting for a new job, you may not realize that your main objective is persuasion: You need to persuade members of your network to introduce you to people who might connect you with a job. You need to persuade HR professionals and recruiters to consider your résumé. You need to persuade hiring managers that you're the perfect candidate for their organizations.

Some people are easier to convince in your job search than others. Getting friends and colleagues to make introductions for you doesn't require much persuasive effort because they know you and (presumably) like you. Therefore, they're willing to work on your behalf. Your powers of persuasion with them stem from your credibility and likeability--not from your rhetorical prowess.

A hiring manager, on the other hand, generally doesn't know you from any other candidate's resume, so you have to work harder to convince her that you're worthy of her time. In such situations, job seekers would benefit from understanding the fundamentals of persuasion. Here to explain them is James Borg, a workplace psychologist, business consultant and author of Persuasion: The Art of Influencing People (FT Press 2009).

According to Borg, effective persuasion combines equal parts communication and observation. It hinges on having good people skills--being able to read people, being a good listener and being empathetic.

You need to be a keen observer of the person you're trying to persuade, says Borg, so that you can match the tone and language you use in conversation to the other person's tone and language. You should watch how the other person reacts physically--through their facial expressions and body language--to what you're saying. If you notice a negative reaction, he adds, you know you need to change your tact.

To be an effective influencer, you also need to be likeable and trustworthy, says Borg. "Whether you're selling an idea or a product, people tend to buy people," he says. "If I like you, I will listen to you. If I don't like you or your message, I won't listen to you. Getting someone to listen to you is the first stage of persuasion."

Persuasion isn't inherently difficult. To do it right, says Borg, people just need to focus on listening to the person they're trying to persuade and adjusting their communication accordingly.

Whether you're seeking a new job or clinging to an existing one, persuading people of your value is going to be your key to success during this recession. Borg spoke to CIO.com about how to persuade others without being pushy and about the dangers of steamrolling people into submission.

When trying to influence or persuade others, what's the biggest mistake people make?

 

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