The Aristotle Approach to Your Job Search

By Robert Poindexter

From the teachings of Greek Philosopher Aristotle came the three methods of persuasion we all rely upon. Around 300 B.C., while teaching at the Lyceum, he introduced them to us.

They are as follows:

Ethos (Credibility). Sometimes we believe something just because we trust the person telling us. In the world of job seekers, I would put the ability to come across as credible high on the list in helping my clients land that much sought after position. A 25-year-old professional can be at a distinct disadvantage in some cases when going up against someone seen as more mature even if the experience levels are the same in that particular field. The more mature job candidate brings credibility that the perception of youth will have a hard time overcoming.

A strong marketing document (resume), as well as in-depth interview coaching can go a long way in overcoming that disadvantage by helping the candidate show their credentials in such a way as to level the playing field.

All of us at some time or another have bought a product or service or hired someone based solely on our sense of how credible the person or company seemed to us. Conversely, there are folks out there whom you wouldn’t buy a 20 lb. gold bar from for $10.00.

Pathos (Emotional Appeal). Sometimes we do things because of a “gut feeling” or an appeal to our emotions. This is arguably the most important, and the most used, method of persuasion. We use pathos to sell everything from cars to clothes. Were it not for this method, most of us would never have a mate. Small children and puppies are very adept at this form of persuasion. So are politicians.

While a well written resume may convey emotion or appeal to emotion, the interview process is the perfect arena for this method. This is the job candidate’s opportunity to get personal with the interviewer. If this person has the final word on whether or not to hire you, you will be appealing to their ability to look good to their superiors and peers based on the sense they’ve shown in selecting the right person for the job.

On paper, you may not have been the first choice. But sitting across the desk from them you become real and as such, have a responsibility to yourself to take advantage of their humanity.

If you still question the importance of this method, I beg you to show me one office where there isn’t at least one person on the team who is so inept that you wonder how they walk through a door without bumping their head, and yet, because of the relationship they share with a superior, manage to hang on to the position year in and year out.

Logos (Rational Appeal). Providing good reasons to hire you is important. Providing evidence and reasoning are a strong part of the persuasive process. A well written and professionally crafted resume is by far your best opportunity for rational appeal. The resume will be your evidence, based on past experience, that you can do the job for which you are being considered.

At the same time, it should convey the reasons that you are the best candidate. Appealing to logic may be the hardest of the three sources of influence, so it is vital that you develop relevant support material. A career strategist will help to develop this material in the form of not only your resume but your Linked-In profile and the all important cover letter as well.

As humans, we learn rational appeal early in our lives, usually from a mother telling us if we don’t eat, we will starve to death. So, not wanting to die in an excruciatingly painful way, we choose to eat. An employer can be lead to believe this same rationale when it comes to the company “starving to death” if they don’t put you on the team.

While the learned Greek philosopher may not have invented these methods, he did verbalize them in such a way as to make us aware of how best to use them as a means to our own desires.

5 Responses to “The Aristotle Approach to Your Job Search”

  1. Hello Rob. Wow, this is a moving subject. I really enjoyed this smart post! In this particular scenario Aristotle has taught us that a career without credibility, emotional appeal, and rational appeal lacks heart. When career seekers lack passion it affects how effectively they can deliver on a career mission statement. The resume is often the very first window a recruiter, hiring manager, decision maker is offered into the candidate’s “soul” – a very key component when determining a viable talent match.

    Thank you for sharing your invaluable wisdom. Keep on channeling please. You and Jacqui make an insightful team!

  2. Thank you so much Meghan. You really got this, and I really appreciate the additional insight on my ramblings.


  3. […] behavior doesn’t interrupt most of our lives. However, if you are currently involved in a job search, there is no level of this attitude that would be considered acceptable. I am shocked almost on a […]

  4. Brilliant, Robert! Aristotle’s wisdom never disappoints. I like that you used a triad of his teachings on persuasion to enhance a job hunter’s understanding of what he or she must give to the interviewer during the conversation.

    The mind is driven by many things, the least of which is intuition. But, along with a keen sense of pathos, a job seeker must have facts and credibility to create the mixture that truly persuades.

    • The mind is driven by many things, the least of which is intuition. But, along with a keen sense of pathos, a job seeker must have facts and credibility to create the mixture that truly persuades.

      That is an awesome statement and absolutely true!

      Thanks so much for taking a few moments to read my ramblings here and then leaving such a “meaty” comment!

      You rock!

Leave a Reply