Interviewers will tell you, they hire based on qualifications… experience… results… and so on and so forth, blah blah, etc.
Says Richard Wiseman, in his book “59 Seconds…” they’re mostly kidding themselves. And he’s got 30 years of psychological research to back him up on this point… including a joint study by the University of Washington and the University of Florida.
Two researchers followed the job searches of over one hundred students, from the creation of their resumes and their lists of qualifications through to the content of their interviews, replete with follow up thorough interviews and questionnaires.
The same researchers then contacted the interviewers and quizzed them too. They noted everything from general impressions to job requirements, skill matching, and so on. And, of course, whether the interviewers expected to make a job offer.
What was the key?
Not past experience. Not school performance or other qualifications. Not even embarrassingly low salary requirements or the cost of the suit worn to the interview.
Over and over again… it came down to how much the interviewer “liked” the interviewee. Yep. It came down to being irresistibly… personable.
Is that fair? I haven’t a clue. But it is what it is.
Gallup says the same, looking at presidential polling going back to the 1960s. Consistently, a candidate’s “likability” has more reliably predicted who will take the White House, more than any other factor.
Says the University of Toronto, the same goes for divorce — people others characterize as more “likable” end up about half as likely to get divorced. And doctors who rank as more “likable” are far less likely to get sued for malpractice, even if something goes wrong with a patient.
Likewise, says Wiseman, your “likability” can save your life — since doctors are more likely to urge pleasant patients to stay in touch and come back in for frequent checkups.
But what’s all this matter if you’re NOT looking for a job… getting married… visiting doctors… or seeking to run the country? Simple.
See, likability is simply another way of saying you’ve managed to persuade someone to trust you.
Both aren’t both those things — trust and persuasion — the very oxygen that sustains a good marketer and a good copywriter? Yes they are.
If indeed that’s right, that you can persuade anybody to do anything just by being more likable… then how do you go about it?
Wiseman had a few tips. And in some ways, they’re not at all what you might think. For instance, he says, in interviews you might look to go in swinging, with a barrage of your best selling points right up front. After all, you want to impress… yes? No, actually. Not yet.
Research shows it’s much better, says Wiseman, to come in positive and personable… but to quickly get past a worrisome weakness first. That way, you come across more genuine. People are less likely to trust you if you’re too perfect.
What’s more, says the same research, you’re also better off saving really impressive details for later. Why? For the same reason, coming in with them early sounds like boasting… holding them until later smacks of humility. It also lets the good bits linger longer, after the interview is over.
Reading that made me wonder, could the same be true in copy? Indeed it could. Think of the best classic ads of all time. Rags to riches and bumbling genius stories abound. (e.g. Every variation of “They laughed when I said…” ad ever written).
Likewise, consider what Dale Carnegie used to say. You’ll win more friends in two months, he said in his famous book about how to do just that, by developing a genuine interest in the people around you… than you will in two years of trying to make them interested in you.
In interviews, Wiseman says that means you need to show genuine interest in the company or client you’re trying to woo by knowing something about what they care about, by asking questions, and by offering a sincere compliment about something you admire.
And don’t be afraid to go off topic and chat — sensibly — with your interviewer about something he or she cares about too. Or rather, getting them to talk while you listen.
In copy, you do the same when you show you know what your prospect worries about… and when you do the work of finding out what they want a product to do for them in return.
You do that, too, when you use examples and analogies they can understand in their own terms… and when you tell them stories where they can see themselves, either as victim or hero.
In short, like the company looking to hire, your copy prospect is “interviewing” you and the product you’re selling, too. They want more than just the thing you’re offering. They want more than just the irrefutable data points you’ve dug up, too.
They want to know, most importantly, if they can trust you. They want to know… if they could learn to like you. And will they? If you don’t already think this way, you’ll be surprised how much it will change more than just your pitch. It will change the way you do business.