5 Ways You Can Influence Candidates and Hiring Managers, Based on Dale Carnegie's Famous Book

October 11, 2017

Dale Carnegie published How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936, and eighty-some years later, it’s still a bestseller, influencing everyone from sales people to Warren Buffett to, of course, recruiters.

Dale’s classic teaches his readers to become better leaders through the power of positivity, optimism, and genuine interest in others. But the book’s biggest surprise might be how many of his tips still resonate today—and how useful they are for recruiters and HR professionals.

In this post, we’ve collected some of Dale’s most popular tips, and we’ll show exactly why they’re so useful for recruiters—and how they’re still shaping leadership strategies decades later.

1. Appeal to candidates’ “nobler motives” by emphasizing purpose, mission, and impact

Dale Carnegie was all about the idea that we can’t influence others by criticizing or yelling at them. One of his most important messages was that we should aim to “appeal to the nobler motives” of others. In other words, if we want to influence someone to take a certain action, we should focus on the admirable reasons for taking that action. 

“A person usually has two reasons for doing a thing: one that sounds good and a real one,” wrote Dale. “The person himself will think of the real reason. You don’t need to emphasize that. But all of us, being idealists at heart, like to think of motives that sound good.”

Some companies already tap into these nobler motives with a purpose-driven employer brand. Dale’s strategies remind us how important purpose is, even if it’s not truly a candidate's first priority.

Say a candidate’s “real” interest in a role is salary, perks, or the prestige factor. You don’t need to bother emphasizing those reasons—the candidate already knows about them. Instead, find ways to show every candidate how their work can make the world a better place. Even if they care more about the money, we all like to tell ourselves we’re contributing to something nobler—and it can give you an edge when the candidate is weighing different opportunities.

2. Listen to candidates and take a genuine interest in their points of view to motivate them

Dale’s strategies begin with positivity and empathy. To influence other people’s decisions, he said, we have to figure out what they care about. That also means we can’t assume everyone else has the same interests as we do.

"The royal road to a person's heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most,” wrote Dale. “If we talk to people about what they are interested in, they will feel valued and value us in return."

When discussing an opportunity, don’t start with your pitch. Listen first to the candidate’s perspective, including their interests, goals, and career plans. Not only will they feel a boost from being “heard,” but they’ll tell you exactly how to to persuade them.

Don’t forget that listening is a skill that you can carefully develop. According to Tatiana Kolovou, a communications expert at Indiana University, high-impact listening boils down to understanding your purpose, presence, and pitfalls. Purpose means knowing exactly what you’re aiming to learn from each conversation with a candidate, while presence refers to awareness of tone and body language (which actually make up a whopping 93% of communication). Pitfalls, which include your own listening biases and snap judgments, should be minimized as much as possible.

3. Personalize your messages to candidates to make them feel important (sincerely)

Dale says we’re most influential when we use affirmation and praise to make others feel important. This not only lifts their spirits and makes you seem more likeable, but also empowers the other person—and even causes them to want to prove you right.

That said, insincere flattery won’t work. For example, if you praise every candidate for their work ethic, you’ll just seem inauthentic to most, and they may be even less likely to help you out. “You want recognition of your true worth,” wrote Dale. “You don’t want to listen to cheap, insincere flattery, but you do crave sincere appreciation.”

For recruiters, personalization is the key to making candidates feel important. Consider Rachel Saunders, a recruiter at Yahoo, who extensively researches candidates to determine what their “superpowers” are—then decides whether those powers fit their needs. By personalizing her outreach emails with a candidate’s hobbies, passions, and specific skill sets, she’s increased her response rates from 25% to 70%

This tactic applies to all kinds of messaging, too—don’t forget that personalized InMails perform 15% better than generalized messages.

4. When hiring managers make mistakes, praise them first and criticize them indirectly to avoid defensiveness

Dale always prefers a compliment to criticism, but sometimes you have to call out a mistake to make sure it doesn’t get repeated. Still, you should start with praise and honest appreciation, says Dale, then ask them to change the behavior without being disapproving.

As an example, Dale shares a story about Charles Schwab, who caught a group of employees breaking a no smoking rule at work.

“He walked over to the men, handed each one a cigar, and said, ‘I’ll appreciate it, boys, if you will smoke these on the outside,’” wrote Dale. “They knew that he knew that they had broken a rule—and they admired him because he said nothing about it and gave them a little present and made them feel important.”

Dale’s advice is super important for recruiters. For example, if a hiring manager has a habit of making bad hires that hurt their company culture, you can mention the negative consequences without directly criticizing their work. Start with an honest compliment about what they’re doing well, then add something like, "I think it'd be a great idea if we let the candidate meet the team first to ensure they're a good culture fit—I was really optimistic about Bob last year and was surprised when he didn't work out."

This language still gets your point across, but it won’t hurt the hiring manager or put them in an uncomfortable, defensive position.

5. Maintain a positive relationship with hiring managers by asking specific questions rather than giving orders

Dale believes direct orders only lead to resentment—and anyone who’s been bossed around knows why. When you need something done, he recommends asking questions instead of giving orders. That way, the other person feels like they’re involved in the process—rather than simply doing your bidding.

“Asking questions not only makes an order more palatable; it often stimulates the creativity of the persons whom you ask,” wrote Dale. “People are more likely to accept an order if they have had a part in the decision that caused the order to be issued.”

In other words, starting with a question helps others to feel like they came up with the idea themselves and lets them see problems from your point of view, leading to better decisions in the future.

For example, if you’re having issues with a hiring manager’s tactics or engagement, try not to order them around or criticize them directly. Instead, avoid souring the relationship by asking them pointed questions that will lead them to the same conclusion.

John Vlastelica, Managing Director at Recruiting Toolbox, recommends asking questions like, “Would you like to hear what the managers who fill these types of roles 10 days faster do differently?” The answer is an easy yes, and best of all, the manager ends up learning new strategies without any force-feeding or resentment.

6. Be appreciative of small improvements by hiring managers to encourage positive behavior

You’ve probably heard that praising small accomplishments is a common and successful strategy for raising small children—Dale argues that it’s just as important when we’re dealing with adults in business.

“Abilities wither under criticism, [but] they blossom under encouragement,” wrote Dale. “Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

If you're trying to get a hiring manager to engage, for example, be extra appreciative and praise their contributions. If they spent a half hour discussing hiring criteria with you for the first time, let them know how valuable their insights were. Even if the improvements are small, show that you appreciate a step in the right direction, rather than criticizing them for how they far they still have to go.

Recruiting is all about people, and Dale Carnegie’s lessons focus on how positive social acts, like giving compliments or showing genuine interest, can help us become better leaders. With these ideas in your back pocket, you can become not only more effective, but more influential to others, too.

*Image from clement127

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