In 2019, I experienced a roller coaster of highs and lows. I shut down my start-up after investing three years and most of my savings into the company. This failure triggered feelings of self-doubt but provided painful lessons. At my low point, when I was uncertain how I would crawl out of the deep hole I had dug for myself, I feared I would be forced to take a job I didn’t like.
But I invested the time and energy to engage in self-reflection and learn from my mistakes, and I bounced back before the year’s end. In fact, I found myself riding high after receiving four competing job offers from Silicon Valley technology companies.
When my start-up failed, I was anxious and worried about getting a job before my bank account was fully depleted. To pay a mortgage in San Francisco, you need to make a base salary of at least $150,000 if you want to enjoy a normal social life without adding a roommate.
But I didn’t want a job just to pay the bills. I wanted a fulfilling job to guide me toward my long-term goals.
In order to make the right career choice and gain leverage in my negotiations, I needed multiple job offers to position myself for the best opportunity. So I designed my job search to align the timeline of the offers.
I knew the spray-and-pray strategy of submitting multiple job applications online was a losing approach. So I used the principles of persuasion and the process described below to help get four competing job offers and land a great job leading business development for a start-up building wireless technology to automate factories, industrial processes, and smart cities.
Getting multiple job offers completely restored my confidence and helped me gain significant leverage in my negotiations with the four companies.
Job seekers have an advantage
Qualified job seekers are well-positioned to secure multiple job offers because companies are engaged in fierce competition to hire and retain the best talent. Their growth and success rely on finding the right people, and the demand for qualified, skilled workers outstrips supply. Technology advancement and automation are rapidly changing the skills needed in the workforce, and this trend applies in start-ups, large corporations, construction, healthcare, and other skilled trades. As highlighted in this article in The Atlantic, companies have complained for years about the lack of skilled workers.
But even though you may have an advantage over the employer, you must overcome two significant obstacles to get the job you want:
- You must persuade employers you are the best candidate for the role; and
- You must align the timeline of your job offers.
Having options will allow you to evaluate which opportunities provide the best path to financial independence, fulfillment, and your desired lifestyle.
Use principles of persuasion to influence decision-makers
Backed by over 60 years of scientific research, Dr. Robert Cialdini, social psychologist and foundational expert in the science of influence, highlights powerful psychological principles that direct human behavior. In this email, I summarize how to use these principles to land the job you want. To dig deeper into these ideas, I recommend reading Dr. Cialdini’s best-selling books, Influence: Science and Practice and Pre-Sausion which has sold millions of copies.
- Use social proof. Businesses use the expert stamp of approval, user testimonials, awards, and celebrity endorsements to sell products and services. Social proof works because people look to and accept others’ behavior as a signal for what is correct and trustworthy when making decisions. These techniques provide a convenient shortcut to build trust quickly. Social proof works most powerfully under conditions of uncertainty and ambiguity. In these situations, we observe the behavior of people who are similar to us or who are the type of people we aspire to become.
When applying for jobs, you can leverage social proof to stand out from the crowd and build trust quickly. When a recruiter or hiring manager faces uncertainty due to a large pool of unfamiliar candidates, they consciously or unconsciously look to social proof as a filter to help them efficiently screen job applicants.
To utilize social proof, seek to get introduced through mutual connections; highlight your awards or past employment at a high-profile company known for strict hiring criteria; or bring attention to your affiliation with a school, social club, or religious organization you may have in common with the recruiter or hiring manager.
- Demonstrate authority. Valuing people with authority is deeply embedded in us. We’re trained from a very young age to respect authority because the functioning of a peaceful and prosperous society relies on it. One of the main functions of school is to teach compliance. Our parents and teachers controlled rewards and punishment, and we looked to them for advice because they knew more than us.
As adults, we look to authority figures because they typically have more experience, access to better information, or more power. Job titles are a label and symbol of authority because we assume those titles were earned with years of work and achievement. Credentials and clothing are other examples of authority symbols. What we wear is not just ornamental; it also communicates status and position. This explains why bankers wear suits and why judges, police officers, and doctors wear uniforms. And that’s why you don’t go to a job interview in shorts and an old T-shirt.
Establishing authority requires showing that you’re a specialist or expert in a particular subject matter or skill set. You can read 100 books on a topic without anyone recognizing your expertise in a field. But if you write one book on that topic, you share your knowledge and demonstrate your credentials. This explains why writing a book is a universally recognized way of establishing authority and expertise.
But you don’t need to write a book to demonstrate authority. Just use the read, write, teach formula. It doesn’t cost money, and you don’t need permission from anyone. Read books on a niche topic related to your desired field. Show and share your knowledge by developing and sharing content online. Write blog posts, create videos, host a webinar, develop a case study, create infographics, share book summaries, build presentations, post frequently on social media, or write a short e-book. All that’s required is a sincere interest to learn about a niche topic and the time to develop the content. And you don’t need a large audience to see it. Your target audience will be the people involved in hiring at the companies you want to work at.
- Create scarcity. The perception of scarcity immediately increases the value of almost anything. Collectors of everything from art to baseball cards know that the rarer an item, the more valuable it becomes. Businesses of all types create the perception of scarcity through words — such as “exclusive,” “limited-time engagement,” “expires soon,” “last chance” — to sell all kinds of things, including concert tickets, luxury products, real estate, and wine.
People are more motivated by the idea of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value. Whenever freedom of choice is limited or threatened, we desire those things more than before. This explains why fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) drives everything from investment decisions in Silicon Valley start-ups to the run on toilet paper and firearms when the COVID-19 virus hit.
Create the perception of scarcity by getting multiple job offers to make yourself more attractive, accelerate the hiring decision’s timing, and gain leverage to negotiate a higher salary. Trigger FOMO in the minds of hiring managers. When an employer knows that a candidate has multiple job offers, the candidate becomes more valuable because their potential availability is threatened.
- Be likable. Most hiring managers prefer to employ people they like. Being likable is underrated. People will go out of their way to help you if they like you. Top salespeople know this well and sell more by being likable. Criminal investigators use the good cop/bad cop technique to extract more information from suspects by leveraging the likeability of the good cop. You likely have given a bigger tip than usual to a server in a restaurant who displayed a genuinely happy, outgoing, and helpful personality.
People also tend to like others who are similar to themselves. Do your homework on your target contacts; run a Google search to learn more about their backgrounds and read everything they have written or created online, including social media posts, videos, and articles. Look for ways you can highlight your similarities in background, lifestyle, opinions, interests, hobbies, religious beliefs, or personality traits. This may appear trivial, but it works.
Familiarity also affects liking. Although often unconscious, we tend to act more favorably toward people we met previously or the ones who were recommended by someone we know. Getting introduced to a hiring manager through a mutual friend can give you a significant advantage because it leverages the liking bond between friends. This explains why, when we meet someone new, we usually share the name of a mutual friend near the beginning of the conversation if we know someone in common.
In addition to leveraging familiarity and similarity, offer authentic compliments and positive praise when they are deserved. Positive comments make us like someone more. We are all suckers for flattery and tend to fall prey to compliments. Of course, a compliment needs to be genuine. But most of us like people who provide positive praise even if we know they want something from us.
- Trigger reciprocation. If someone does a small favor or gives us a gift, it will trigger a need to reciprocate. That feeling of obligation is so powerful that it can overpower our dislike for a person and significantly increase the chances we will do what is asked.
Companies trigger a feeling of obligation by giving away free samples of food, personal care, and household products. Some companies, such as Amway, designed their entire business model around the reciprocity rule. Amway grew their door-to-door sales into billions in annual sales revenue by leaving a bag of free household products (e.g., detergents, shampoo, window cleaners) and then returning to the home a few days later to pick up the samples and take orders.
Whenever you reach out to a recruiter or hiring manager, consider how you could be useful to them. What unsolicited favors or gifts could you give? Could you introduce them to someone they would appreciate knowing? Perhaps you can forward them an article on a topic they may be interested in or related to their business. Can you provide information that may prove helpful in their product development and marketing plans? Don’t expect anything in return, but don’t be surprised if giving something of value unconsciously triggers reciprocation in others.
- Get small commitments. People want to be consistent with what they previously said or did. Salespeople leverage this desire to be consistent by getting you to make a small commitment early in the process. For example, they may ask if you have two minutes to hear more about an offer. If you agree to listen but change your mind after 30 seconds, the salesperson can reference your initial commitment, and most people will honor that commitment.
By asking targeted questions or making small requests, you may get the hiring manager to make small, voluntary commitments. For example, you can ask about the hiring decision timeline and when they will get back to you. This may prove useful when trying to align the timing of multiple offers.
Listen closely to what the recruiter and hiring manager say in your conversations. Use their statements to activate the consistency principle to reinforce your position and influence their decision. Also, uncover public statements made by the company’s representatives and weave those into your discussions to trigger the consistency principle and support your perspective.
Take steps to align multiple job offers
Persuading decision-makers that you are the best person for the job is essential. But you also need to align the timing of the job offers. It doesn’t do you much good to get another offer two weeks after you start a new job. Getting the timing right is tricky because each company has different priorities and a different hiring timeline. You need to run a tight process to maximize your leverage and ensure each company moves along at the same pace. It seems very simple on the surface, but if you don’t consciously focus and time your outreach and interviews, the offers won’t converge on the same timeframe.
The critical distinction here is between serial and parallel job hunting. In serial job hunting, you engage with one company at a time, one after the other. In parallel job hunting, you meet with multiple companies at a time and run multiple processes at the same time. Running a sloppy process yields bad results, so pay attention to this process.
Follow these steps to align multiple job offers.
Step 1: Build a list of target companies. Identify, research, and prioritize target companies.
Create a spreadsheet of companies and capture key information (e.g., company description, website, location, number of employees, target contacts.) I recommend starting with a list of at least 20 companies, and you should not limit your research to companies that have open jobs. You want to include the best companies that align with your goals, and companies are always on the hunt for talent. It may be worth your time to contact them even if they’re not advertising an open position that matches your experience. Add decision-making criteria to help you prioritize the list. For example, if I were evaluating new job opportunities, I would use the following criteria.
- Interest level. What’s my interest in the mission and the problem the business is solving?
- Job description. Is the company actively hiring for a role that meets my interest, skills, and experience? Do I meet the minimum qualifications?
- Impact. What would my potential impact be in this company? Will I be successful in the role?
- Learning opportunity. How much will I learn in my job at this company?
- Location. How far will I need to commute to work?
- Financial return. What will be my total compensation, including base salary, benefits, and stock options? Note: You will not have precise info at this stage, but you can find base rates for the industry and target company to compare opportunities.
Include as many evaluation criteria as appropriate. After establishing and adding your decision-making criteria to the spreadsheet, add a score on a 0-to-10 scale based on importance. Put a 0 (least favorable) score to 10 (most favorable) under each criterion for each job. Add confidence levels (e.g., 80%, 50%, 20%) on your likelihood of success. See Table 1 for an example.
For example, if one job opportunity includes a 15-minute commute, I would give it a score of 8 or 9 in that category. I would give another job with a one-hour commute a score of 1 or 2. This process will help you determine a total score for each job, but don’t get caught up in being too precise. You will not yet have complete information about the job opportunity. Remember, it’s a tool to help you grapple with tradeoffs and prioritize your outreach. Identify your top 5 to 10 companies on the list for further in-depth research and initial outreach.
Table 1. Evaluating target companies
|Eval Criteria 1 (e.g., Interest)||Eval Criteria 2 (e.g., Job description)||Eval Criteria 3 (e.g., Impact)||Eval Criteria 4 (e.g., Learning opportunity)||Total Score||Likelihood|
Step 2: Create or update job application materials. Invest time to update your resume, social media profiles (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter), and stories before you start reaching out to target contacts. Tailor your stories to the qualifications for each job and use the principles and the 5 Cs story framework shared in my last email, “Tell better stories to make more money.” In addition, I highly recommend writing a 500-word article or blog post on a topic related to your target industry. This will help you establish authority, show your ability to communicate ideas clearly, and get the recruiter and hiring manager’s attention. Include a link to your article in your initial outreach email.
Step 3: Kick off outreach campaign. Start with your top 5 to 10 companies. Reach out to contacts in your network who can potentially make introductions into your target companies. Simultaneously email a personalized note to your target company contacts and include links to your LinkedIn profile, resume, and article. Don’t delay your outreach while waiting for an intro from someone in your network. Initiate outreach to all your top target companies on the same day to align timing and follow-up. If one of your contacts later gives you an introduction, it will reinforce your potential value and bring attention to your original email. I recommend a minimum of two follow-up emails if you don’t receive a response. Each follow-up email should be spaced five to seven days apart and should briefly highlight a different story and include interesting new information about your background.
Step 4: Schedule interviews. Group interviews as tightly as possible. Due to the different company hiring timelines and priorities, this will be challenging. Ask each recruiter or hiring manager to share their process and timeline for the hiring decision. Use the scarcity and social proof principles of persuasion discussed above to help drive timing. For example, as long as the timelines are not significantly different, you can mention interviewing with several companies and say that you hope to make your final decision by X date.
Use the principles of persuasion and run a tight process to get multiple job offers. And don’t settle for a company’s initial offer. You will never have more leverage than you do at the moment you receive an offer, so that is the best time to negotiate.
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