Why should recruiters focus on reciprocity?

I have been an advocate for Dr Robert Cialdini’s for nearly 20 years, and his first book Influence The Psychology of Persuasion.

Reciprocity is Cialdini’s first of Cialdini’s 7 Principles of Persuasion. Reciprocity is defined by Cialdini as, people being obliged to give back to others in the form of a behaviour, gift, or service that they have received first.  This a lesson I myself learnt many years ago;  when I learnt how to source candidates Martin Warren always said, “you must give before you get.”

Why is reciprocity valuable to Talent Acquisition and Talent Advisory?

Reciprocity can:

  • Assist in building trust and relationships with candidates and hiring managers.
  • Improve the candidate experience and employer branding and make it more positive and memorable.
  • Make the process fun and enjoyable from your perspective.

Many believe that Influence is the domain of agency only.  I firmly believe that inhouse Talent Acquisition teams must be effective influencers of all their stakeholders, including  candidates, other team members, and hiring managers. However, the idea of reciprocity (as opposed to Value Proposition, which I will discuss later), is specifically relevant to our communications and relationship with candidates.

Previously, when I have discussed Reciprocity in one of my Influencing workshops, I’ve seen many people struggle with this concept. When asked why they were uncomfortable, I got questions such as:

  • Is it ethical? (Yes, because when I use Reciprocity I am coming from a position of helping and being kind.)
  • Why use Reciprocity at all? (I use it to build rapport, relationship demonstrate my listening and differentiate our organisation.)
  • Will the person receiving the act of Reciprocity think I am a bit weird? (I don’t think so. But I cannot control how people think, and being different is good.)
  • Is there any guarantee that people will reciprocate? (No, but I am not attached to them responding and if I help, there is a chance they will as well.)
  • What is the difference between Value Proposition, Reciprocity, and what the employee gets for doing the job? (This is an interesting question, and it can be confusing. Let’s delve in deeper!)

Key Distinctions Between Reciprocity and Value Proposition

Value Proposition is what a candidate will get if they become an employee. It is a unique mix of benefits and rewards that a company offers to its employees in exchange for their skills, experience, and effort.

Reciprocity a favour or kindness that is provided typically unexpected which is provided on the basis that the recipient will repay the favour at some future date.

So, as recruiters, when do we use an act of Reciprocity, and when do we focus on Value Proposition? Let’s look at some practical examples.

Offering Reciprocity:

When: Typically early in the interaction or first contact
Why: To build rapport and establish a positive initial relationship
How It’s Done: Reciprocity in this context might involve providing the candidate with something of value that could be unexpected without an immediate expectation of something in return.

This could be

  • valuable industry insights.
  • flexible interview scheduling to accommodate the candidate’s needs,
  • constructive feedback or advice on their application or career path
  • an article, eBook or blog in an area of interest
Goal: To create a bond or sense of obligation, making the candidate more open to further engagement

Offering a Value Proposition

When: When the candidate is interested in considering the position and at interview and offer stage
Why: To clearly communicate what the organisation can offer from both an extrinsic and intrinsic value proposition, and how that differentiates the organisation in the market
How It’s Done: Understand what’s important to the candidate and prioritise the value proposition. This could be salary, rewards, benefits, training, career path or intrinsic values such as organisational culture and values, professional brand, the ability to work with experts, work life balance etc.

The value proposition must meet the candidates needs.  Typically, I ask two questions on after explaining the value proposition.  What excites you most in our offer?  If I was able to get the Hiring Manager to generate an offer based on this would you accept?

Goal:  To persuade the candidate that the role and the organisation are the right fit for them and that they will gain significant tangible and intangible benefits by joining the team

Both Reciprocity and Value Proposition are important in talent acquisition/advisory, but they operate at different levels. Reciprocity is about the quality of interaction and relationship-building, whereas the Employer Value Proposition is about the tangible and intangible benefits that make an organisation an attractive place to work. Understanding and effectively integrating both aspects are key to a successful talent strategy.

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