I am reading, or should I say “listening” to, a book called “Negotiation Genius” by Max Bazerman and Deepak Malhotra.
The book is not only interesting and exciting because of real life examples but also provides well structured and an easy to follow framework anyone can use during negotiations.
One of the book chapters talks about people psychology and how we can react differently to the same data depending on “framing”. While they use interview examples quite often though the book, I wanted to go even further by taking a couple frequently asked classical interview questions and applying their approach.
Strategy 1."Loss versus Gain mentality"
The "Prospect Theory” developed by Daniel Kahneman, professor at Princeton University's Department of Psychology, and Amos Tversky in 1979 states that people are much more upset by prospective losses than they are pleased by equivalent gains. What does this mean? It means that our pleasure of finding a $20.00 bill would be comparable with the pain of losing just $10.00. We, as human beings, like to gain things but surprisingly not as much as we hate to loose things. This is a psychological factor which can be used not only during formal negotiations but also in our day-to-day life. So, what does this mean in practical terms? Let’s take a look at the most classical interview question:
Why should we hire you?
Standard answer (from Wiki.Answers)
“I'm a good fit for the position. I have what it takes to solve problems and do the job. My high energy and quick learning style enable me to hit the ground and size up problems rapidly. My colleagues would tell you I'm a team player who maintains a positive attitude and outlook. I have the ability to stay focused in stressful situations and can be counted on when the going gets tough. I'm confident I would be a great addition to your team. I have what it takes to fill the requirements of this job - solve customer problems using my excellent customer service skills. I will be an asset to your company. I look forward to being a part of your team.”
Ok, I am not thrilled with this answer even without thinking about any influence strategies. I see couple things for sure. First of all, nine “I”s and four ”me” probably too much for a single answer. Second, the answer is too generic. For instance, phrases “I will be an asset to your company”, “I’m confident I would be a great addition to your team” give interviewer nothing.
Now, if we follow “Negotiation Genius” approach, this answer is concentrating on what company would gain by hiring you, while psychologically it is more convincing to concentrate on what company would loose by not hiring you.So, let see how we can rephrase it. How about:
“You should hire me otherwise you would loose a highly motivated person with strong problems solving skills and high desire to work for your company. I am sure you have other qualified candidates, but I have unique experience in XYZ technology while with other candidates you would need to spend from three weeks to a month bringing them up to speed. You also mentioned that you need someone to start as soon as possible, or would need to keep your development effort on hold until you find qualified candidate. In addition to the fact that I meet all the requirements of this job, being local candidate I can start as early as the next week. ”
Loosing statement might include: loosing potential clients, contracts, spending time on training or simply need to keep looking for the candidates and spend time and effort performing the interviews.
Strategy 2. “Volume matters”
In the book, Max and Deepak give following interesting example of human psychology:
Situation A. One morning walking in park you find a $20.00 bill. Would it be nice? Think what amount of joy would you feel?
Situation B. One morning walking in park you find a $10.00 bill and next day on the way to work you find another $10.00 bill.
Think what amount of joy would you feel in this case? The outcome is the same - you gain $20.00, but if you similar to most of people then you would find that Situation B is more enjoyable.
Now, let’s take a look on this from the different angle:
Situation A. You reached for your walled and find out that the $20.00 bill you know should be there is gone. Would you be upset? Think about the emotions you would feel. Situation B. You reached for your walled and find out that the $10.00 bill you know should be there is gone. Next day, you loose another $10.00. How this make you feel?
In this situation, with exactly same monetary outcome – you lost $20.00 most people feel better (or less upset) in the Situation A.
So, based on this, negotiation genius book, concludes that people like to gain in incremental pieces and consolidate loses in one chunk.
I tend to disagree with this conclusion. I believe that this is the matter of volume. Then split on chunks everything tends to look bigger. That’s why we more glad to find ten dollars one day and another ten the next day. To illustrate my point, take a look on following picture:
Where you see more black color?
It looks like left image has more black pieces. However, if we combine all back bricks we would get exactly the same about of black inc as on the right picture… Anyway, I think you get my point..
So, again what about practical application? Let's take a look on the following question:
“What is the highest degree you have?”
Regular answers (the ones I hear a lot) “I have Master in computer science from XYZ University” or even “ I have Bachelor degree”.
While totally valid and acceptable answers, they often goes unnoticed by interviewer. Unless XYZ stands for MIT...
So, way better answer would be:
“I hold three degrees from XYZ University. Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering, Master of Science in Mathematics and Ph.D in Computer Science. I also did my postdoctoral work in ZYX University. Do you want to know about my Ph.D thesis’s?”
It is also true in the other direction. If you have something negative to say about you then try to package it into the one piece. As an example:
A: “Unfortunately I don’t have experience with Web Technologies all together. My strength are in Windows Apps and back end. However, I thrilled to learn new technologies and looking forward to apply my backend knowledge in web area if required”
You dismissed all following question about web in one sentence forcing interviewer to move on.