6 Ways To Ethically Use Con Artist Trickery And Ace Your Job Interview

Got a job interview coming up? Here’s how to give yourself the edge by exploiting these 6 infamous con artist techniques

“The wise man draws more advantage from his enemies than the fool from his friends”
-Benjamin Franklin

From Bernie Madoff to Frank Abagnale jr (Catch Me If You Can), con artists baffle, mesmerise and fascinate us. They are masters of social engineering and human psychology. But can we actually learn admirable things from them? Can we use their wayward tricks for more wholesome purposes?

I think we can.

Case in point: job interviews.

The modern job interview can feel like nothing more than a glorified interrogation session where one person (the interviewer) makes a quick judgement call on whether you’ll get the job or not.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could control the interviewer’s perception of you to ensure you come out looking favourable?

You can, and here’s 6 ways how:

1) Utilize Ingratiation To Be More Charming

Ingratiation is a psychological persuasion technique which aims to make you look more attractive and engaging to the intended target. Con artists use it to win trust, but you can use it in your interview to make you look more charismatic and relatable. Standard ingratiation tactics include flattery, opinion agreement expressions of humour.

Why it works: A study published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology found that in an interview ingratiation leads to ‘higher ratings of applicants’, as people who use successful integration are more likely to be seen as competent and likeable.

How you can use it in a job interview:

  • Use occasional flattery, give the company compliments by acknowledging their accomplishments and mentioning awards they’ve won.
  • Find out what company’s core values are and explain how you agree and relate to those values.
  • Be enthusiastic about the company, the job and any potential prospects for the future.
  • Timing is extremely important: use ingratiation tactics at the start of the interview, when it’s a bit more relaxed, to hold their attention and make a great impression
  • Lastly, remember to be subtle as too much ingratiation can be seen as sucking up and will have a negative effect.

2) Start Mirroring To Make Them Like You

Mirroring is when you mimic someone’s gestures, speech patterns, voice tone and pace. It’s the act of matching your body language and voice to theirs — usually it happens subconsciously when we get along with someone.

Whilst con artists use this tactic to disarm their victims, you can use it to break the ice between you and interviewer.

Why it works: Mirroring makes others feel comfortable and subconsciously make them like us and more likely to accept us. If you share the same gestures, our subconscious makes the leap that we must share the same attitudes and beliefs. This is what makes mirroring a great tool to build rapport, as your body language essentially says ‘hey I’m just like you’ and as studies have shown, people are more likely to like and get on with folks who are just like them.

How you can use it in a job interview: Subtly match the interviewer’s body language, their speech patterns and adopt their posture. Successful mirroring depends on following the other person’s lead, for example if they are fast talkers, speed up. Conversely, if they talk slowly, slow down your speech. Whatever you do, make sure not to copy them too much otherwise it will look like you’re mocking them, and it will backfire.

3) Present The Right Image And Increase Trustworthiness

This technique exploits the fact that many of us judge by appearance. A study by The University of Warwick showed that we are more inclined to trust someone based on their appearance. So it’s not surprising that a common con artist tactic is to dress up to present a certain image.

You’ve probably heard of scams where fraudsters look like businessmen by donning expensive designer suits or where they look like police by wearing uniform.

Why it works: This works because we expect the outer appearance to match up with our expectations. If someone dresses up as an investment banker and tells you they are an investment banker, we trust them to be an investment banker, because we expect the outer appearance to match up with our expectations. The assumption here is if you can look the part you can act the part.

How you can use it in a job interview: Present the right image and pay extra attention to your appearance. I’m not suggesting you should dress up in costume or full regalia, just that you should reflect the company culture and what’s expected, for example the company has a professional atmosphere, suit and tie, if it’s a relaxed environment, go for something more casual, either way: dress to their expectations.

4) Get Them To Agree To Anything With ‘Tie Down’ Questions

A tie-down is a question at the end of a sentence that calls for a positive response. Tie downs are notorious for subconsciously influencing people to agree with your statement.

Why it works: This strategy works by gently leading the interviewer towards your way of thinking. You can then then influence them to say yes to whatever statement you’ve proposed, by presenting a them with a tie-down question at the end of the sentence. If done right, they will have no choice but to agree with you. See the examples below:

Having a good work ethic is important, isn’t it?

Self-motivation is essential to succeed wouldn’t you agree?

Being committed to a positive attitude makes sense, doesn’t it?

How you can use it in a job interview: This tactic is at it’s most deadly when you tie-down a positive statement about your strengths with something that matches up to the job description or the company’s culture. For instance, if they’re heavily team based you can say,

‘I’ve always been involved in team dynamics because being a good team player is essential for success, wouldn’t you agree?’

You emphasise an aspect of you that’s significant to them (being a team player) and you get them to agree that it’s important. This will plant further seeds in their mind that you’re the right candidate. Be careful not to overdo though, as the interviewer will tire of your constant questioning.

5) Get A Job Faster By Increasing Urgency

Con artists are pros at forcing people to make decisions quickly and in their favour. They do this by engineering a sense of urgency. You could use the same principle in a morally honest way at a job interview

Why it works: A sense of urgency will make the interviewers speed up the recruitment process and offer you a job faster. You could increase urgency by explaining that you have lots of ongoing job interviews.

This is because of two things: firstly, if you are in demand there will be a fear of missing out on a great candidate and secondly, majority bias: if you have lots of interviews and are in demand, that must mean you’re a good candidate.

How you can use it in a job interview: The best way to increase urgency is by letting the interviewer know you are in demand and may possibly be snapped up by another company, so be sure to mention that you’re interviewing elsewhere and may have job offers coming up soon — if you’ve already gotten an offer make sure they know that too.

6) Say Their Name To Make Them More Receptive To You

As Dale Carnegie said: “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”.

Con artists know that using an individual’s name is very powerful, because they’ll pay more attention to what you are saying and become more receptive to you, which means you can exert more influence on them.

Why it works: We like having our names hear because it acknowledges our existence and makes us feel important. In short, it’s ‘the sweetest sound’ because it strokes the ego.

How you can use it in a job interview: Remembering and using the interviewer’s name increases likeability and makes you stand out (how many people remember names?)

However, consider formality, gauge the situation and see whether it’s appropriate to use someone’s first name or their title. Keep in mind that occasional use of their name will make you look friendly and charming, over-use will annoy them an make you look bad. As per usual, the key is moderation.

Those are just a few tactics that you could use in an ethical way.

A Word Of Caution

Please note, I don’t condone lying or otherwise being deceitful in your interview, just that you could use the aforementioned psychological strategies in an ethical way to succeed at your job interview.

If you liked this article, please check out my blog graduatejobinaweek.co.uk which will launch in March and have a lot more tips on how to get a job fast.

Image credits: Via Flickr, Under Creative Commons License: Artotem, Ed Shipul, reynermedia, Jonel Hanopol, db photography, satomodel