Aristotle wants you to ace your job interview

AristotleMost of us learn about Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle in high school and again in freshman English. The concept is simply this: in order to persuade your listener or reader to do what you want, your argument should be informed by ethos (credibility), logos (fact, logic) and pathos (emotional appeal). In case you were wondering, that rhetorical triangle sure comes in handy outside of school, too. Here’s a YouTube video that applies the rhetorical triangle to images from advertising.

So how does the rhetorical triangle fit in to your job interview?

  • Each of the three rhetorical strategies can be accomplished through metaphor or storytelling
  • Success depends upon your delivery and the audience’s reaction

 Telling the story via the CAR method

The CAR formula (also known as STAR) is borrowed from many, many other people. And it works beautifully for an interview situation.

To answer most interview questions, you need to tell a story. To structure your story, use CAR:

  • Context
  • Actions Taken
  • Results.

To illustrate, let’s pretend that the interviewer has just asked The Little Engine That Could (LETC) to describe a situation when he (it?) was challenged. The LETC begins with context: A train full of toys and candy needed to be pulled over the mountain to the children of the neighboring town. None of the big engines in the rail yard wanted to take on the task of pulling the heavy train up the mountain. I knew that the children would be sad if they didn’t get their toys and treats.

Then the LETC describes the action: I didn’t want the children to be disappointed, so I volunteered to pull all the cars of the the train myself, even though I am only a Little Engine. I went very slowly, but I kept going. All the way, I said to myself, “I think I can, I think I can.”

And then, the results: I made it over the mountain, and I said, “I thought I could, I thought I could!” I delivered the goodies to the children. They were so happy! And now I am well known for my determination.

There you have it–a way to plan for both the common interview questions and the ones that come out of left field.

The audience reaction

rhetorical triangle

Aristotle believed that rhetoric was effective only if the audience was moved to take action. And what moved them? A credible speaker (ethos), backed up by solid facts (logos) and an appeal to what we value in our hearts (pathos). In the triangle illustration at right, we can see movement from the writer (or speaker) to the audience.

The triangle encompasses trustworthiness, passion, and any number of character traits.

  • You build credibility through your appearance (classic, tailored clothing), your actions (greeting each person cordially, arriving on time or just a bit early), and your words. (My advice? Take time to plan what you want to say before you speak!).
  • The facts you emphasize should be sprinkled throughout your résumé. Bring work samples and references to further support these facts.
  • Research the company and the field, particularly if you are just starting out, and understand what they value. Understand who the competitors are, what problems this particular industry faces, and identify ways to align your skills to help them reach their goals.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!


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