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3 Hidden Triggers in Hiring (and How to Use Them)

Have you ever felt completely adrift during the hiring process?

The more you give, the more they want.

You never stop being compared to others.

And no matter how far into the process you get, you are never far from having to re-establish basic credibility yet again.

What’s going on here?

Most of the time, it happens when a candidate tries to “good employee” their way into to a job, agreeing to everything because they believe it’ll help their chances.

Doing so betrays a basic misunderstanding of the hiring process.

A good employee is extremely valuable…once hired.

But until that offer is made, there are only 2 parties at a negotiating table. And if one party decides to just acquiesce to things without question, then it naturally gives all of the power to the other party. The employer.

And that’s not a strategy that results in great outcomes.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the most powerful “hidden triggers in hiring” I’ve come across in my years coaching executive job seekers. Learn them, use them, and steer the ship to safer waters!

#1) Reciprocity- “I do for you, you do for me.”

Imagine going into a store to purchase an item and a salesperson immediately gives you hundreds of dollars in free merchandise. Does this inspire you to actually make the purchase? Or does it cheapen the overall value of ALL items at the store?

This is the problem with acquiescing to every request made of you early in the process. Salary range? Sure thing, here it is. A multi-hour assignment that I need to prepare before our next interview? Absolutely. You give and you give and you give…and when you don’t the get the job, you feel cheated. But the mistake made was yours, in thinking that all of this effort somehow entitles you to the role. It doesn’t.

Do not do anything unless you know what the ROI will be.

-Salary range? “Actually, I’d like to learn more about the position before talking about the numbers.” Or, “I’d be very interested to know what the company’s budgeted range is for this position, for someone with my experience level.

-Extra project? Here’s a good rule of thumb — if it takes you more than 20 minutes to do, DON’T DO IT. If free work is the only way for you to progress to the next stage of the hiring process, I have news for you: they’re just trying to take advantage of your knowledge.

This principle even extends to something as simple as answering interview questions. Rather than answering and letting the awkward silence reign, get into the habit of “flipping” the answer into another question. Here’s an example:

“So that’s what I did in leading the Facebook B2B Marketing initiative on behalf of Company X. However, I know that you guys are at an entirely different level of growth, and your marketing objectives are very different. What challenges have you been facing on the B2B Marketing front in the past 6 months?”

Now you can keep the conversation going based on their answer, and get progressively deeper into the actual mechanics of the job. This is reciprocity at its finest, with two parties delivering unique value in the service of a shared goal: an offer for you!

Also read: How to Tell if You’re Being Conned by a Prospective Employer

#2) Social Proof – “Don’t take my word for it!”

The sooner other people corroborate what you’re about, and how amazing you are, the more leverage you’ll have during the hiring process.

-Have some great LinkedIn recommendations and/or a strong network of industry contacts on the site? Eliminate the use of business cards in favor of having the LinkedIn app on your phone. When meeting someone, politely ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn, and fire off an invite right then and there. The big advantage to doing so is that this new connection will immediately be exposed to the “social proof” of your profile. That’s a powerful value-add, especially if things turn serious on the hiring front.

-Imagine that you’re in heavy consideration for a role. The hiring manager’s phone rings and it’s someone you’ve worked with closely in the past. This person describes the experience (in hopefully glowing terms) and personally vouches for you. This is called a “preemptive reference” and it’s one of the most powerful Judo moves you can make during the hiring process to jump to an offer. Just make sure you use it sparingly.

Other ways to demonstrate social proof is to develop and share blog posts, videos, and other “hot takes” on the industry regularly via platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. Few things say, “this person is up-to-date and well-respected in the industry” quite like a current, vital social media presence. Just keep it professional.

Also read: 3 Powerful Ways to be Memorable to Employers

#3) Likeability- “Treat me like a friend.”

Don’t fall into the “professional” trap and try to excise all aspects of your personality from the hiring process. Remember: these people will see you every day. You’ll face challenges together. You’ll be there for each other’s milestones. Unless they like you, your chances of being the one selected are slim. This is a major reason why the best-qualified person “on paper” is often not offered the role. Personality counts for a lot!

Here are some tips:

-Don’t blow through the “icebreaker” part of an interaction (be it a call or a face-to-face). Share a recent story from your life. Ask your interviewer what they did this past weekend, or how they celebrated a recent holiday. There are a hundred different ways to break the ice, and what you choose doesn’t so much matter as the fact that you took the time to do it. Expert tip: feel free to rehearse an icebreaker story beforehand, record it using a voice recorder app like the free Voice Memo app included in every iPhone, and play it back on the day-of so that you are prepared to share it at a moment’s notice.

-Treat your interviewer like a fellow member of the tribe, NOT the enemy. You’re negotiating with the company, not the interviewer. Ask questions about their journey in the company. Ask questions about what changes they’d like to see. Ask questions about what they think about what you’re presenting, and how you can do better. A little warmth and interest can have a HUGE impact on how successful you are, precisely because it’s something most people never bother to do.

Continue to Part 2
3 More Hidden Triggers in Hiring (and How to Use Them)

About the Author

Anish Majumdar is a nationally recognized Career Coach, Personal Branding Expert, and a fierce advocate for transitioning leaders. His posts and videos on disrupting the "normal rules" of job searching and getting ahead reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month. Go down the rabbit hole of Anish’s career videos at, and connect with him on LinkedIn to receive daily career tips and advice.