Using NLP Skills to Deal with Difficult Situations

Rintu BasuJob HuntingLeave a Comment

I have received a lot of emails about a rash of people trying to use power and authority to force their will on to others. This article will focus on one common situation that is difficult to deal with and some ideas to help you out.

Knowing Your Rights

I recently received an email from a guy who is working through the Persuasion Skills Black Book of Job Hunting Techniques concerning the legal rights of interviewees. He has asked to be kept anonymous. Here is the second email he sent me:

Hi Rintu,

Thanks for your email.

No problem, I don’t mind you using this at all. Feel free to edit and paraphrase my email if that makes for a better blog post.

Here is a good article about people’s rights which explains the full range of things that recruiters shouldn’t ask you.

I know you’re not in the business of giving people legal advice, but I do think it’s always important to know your rights! Most people recruiting will know that it is not cricket and that they are essentially opening up their company to liability on grounds of discrimination – they could be sued, so if they are asking it anyway then they are taking a gamble that the candidate won’t know their rights. Naughty!

I have an absolutely shocking story which I don’t mind telling you as long as my name is kept confidential – a female friend was interviewed for a senior post – clearly a very important one for the company to get right. The panel included an HR person and at one point she was left alone in the room with the HR person.

The HR person then proceeded to make ‘small-talk’ to fill the time, and then when she answered, started looking up information on her phone. My friend had the every strong impression that the HR person was googling something related to what she’d said to see if they could find out if she was married or had any kids!

She was also asked very leading questions about forthcoming holidays and who she was going on holiday with. Very tricky to deal with as it was ostensibly a sociable chat, but my friend valiantly evaded the questions as she realised just what was going on!

It’s definitely something that would make a very useful and interesting article- what to say in interviews when you realise that employers are fishing for information that they aren’t allowed to ask out-right!

A proper linguistic challenge!

Best regards,

Firstly; I kept the link in because it is a really good article on what your potential employer can ask you. It is really useful to know and it is only half the story.

Having the Confidence to Stand Your Ground

Let me switch contexts for a moment. Imagine a police officer in full uniform came up to you and asked to go through your pockets to eliminate you from a crime that they are investigating. Compare your reaction and feelings to the same situation but instead of a police officer you have a normally dressed person that does not identify themselves as part of any organisation.

Most people will comply with the wishes of the first albeit they may grumble, complain and ask awkward questions first. The second is unlikely to yield a response without a lot of serious questioning and even then possibly not, unless you were feeling threatened in some way.

The reason this happens is because in the uniformed police officer scenario people feel like the officer has some authority to make the demand or that they will get in to trouble if they don’t comply. In essence they have something to lose. Even if they know the police officer has no ground to make the search many people just comply.

Now let’s go back to the interview situation. I picked this one to discuss because people often feel the need to comply because they are going for the job. Even when they know that the interviewer has no right to ask. In fact the story in the email above is by no means the worst I have heard.

Switch the Balance of Power


In the Persuasion Skills Black Book of Job Hunting Techniques the first thing we take the reader through is how to develop a job winning attitude, getting their CV / Resume to pull multiple interviews and get them to understand just how much value they could bring to the role or organisation.

Once you have an attitude of abundant job opportunities and having real worth to companies you will find yourself less inclined to kowtow to the demands of any one company. This then gives you more opportunity to push back. Let me make this more explicit:

When you are in a situation where there are abundant job opportunities why bother with a company that is asking you questions that you don’t think are appropriate?

Here is our reader’s first email and his idea of how he would push back:

Hi Rintu,

I’m using your book for a forthcoming job interview and practising away on people. Finding it very useful so thanks for your advice.

I thought in the interest of equal exchange of skills that I would offer you one small piece of feedback on your book that future readers of future editions might find useful.

In your section on difficult questions you talk about asking women about family plans. Did you know that it is strictly illegal to ask this question?

I’m aware of this from my legal training background.

If anyone is asked this question they can simply decline to answer it. They should probably also consider whether this employer is worth working for. Some sneaky interviewers try to find out by asking peripheral questions but they really shouldn’t ever do it.

Every recruiter should know this and I would agree that if you are asked about this then you’d be perfectly entitled to throw that right back at them. I’d probably say something like:

It’s interesting that you’ve asked that question. Did you know that it’s actually illegal to ask me a question about my family plans in a job interview? You might not have realised that and so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and pretend that you didn’t ask that question.

Anyway, I just thought you might like to know that fact for future job interview training and advice!

Thanks for the book, I’m off to practice in my lunchbreak!

Calling Them Out

In the Persuasion Skills Black Book of Job Hunting Techniques I take a different approach. The process I have was adapted from my approach for other awkward situations and it also doesn’t require you to know the specific legalities.

The first point is to let them know that you are uncomfortable with the situation. And then to ask them if they have any grounds for doing what they are suggesting. Here are a couple of examples:

Being asked a direct question in interview, for example your ethnic origins:

“I am uncomfortable with being asked that. Is there a specific reason for you asking me that question?”

Police Officer asking to go through your pockets:

“I am uncomfortable with allowing you to do that. Do you have any legal grounds to force me to comply?”

The reason you are doing this is to give them the opportunity to back down, move to another topic or explain themselves. From their you can redirect the conversation and take control using a redirect.

Let’s take the ethnic origins one and the interviewer comes out with some lame reason for asking…dietary needs for example.

“I understand why you asked and the issue is not whether the canteen will have to supply beef free meals it is about the results I can provide for the company in this role, for example when I…” and you go into one of your prepared examples of what makes you an excellent candidate

With the police officer, let’s say he just says he is entitled to go through your pockets:

“I understand that you believe you have the authority to go through my pockets and the issue now is that if that is the case you have nothing to hide and therefore I am going to record the whole thing on my phone so I can have this confirmed by your senior officers when I discuss it with them later today. Can I start with your name, number and the station you operate from?”

Sneaking in through the Back Door

Remember that being left to make small talk situation mentioned above. A gentle approach might be something like:

“I’m not comfortable discussing my personal life in this situation let’s pick another subject. What sorts of books do you like reading?”

Or if you want to give them a proper shot across the bows:

“This is dangerously close to subjects that are illegal for you to ask about in an interview situation. It may be better for all of us if we stick to more neutral subjects. What sorts of books do you like reading?”

If you have read the Persuasion Skills Black Book you will recognise all of these as conversation management techniques. But if we restrict ourselves to the interview situation you may already recognise that this approach is only going to work if the candidate is comfortable and confident enough to be able to push back.

You can find more information about dealing with dumb…but not necessarily illegal questions in this article about NLP to Manage Job Interviews:

Final Thoughts

I don’t always recommend this but it is my favourite approach to all these situations. The book will take you through how to develop the attitude that recognises your skills and the contribution you can make…as well as giving you the tools to articulate that both on your CV / Resume and in interview.

If you have that then do you want to work with a company that is prepared to exceed the bounds of their authority or pry into areas of your private life? When you are asked something that you don’t think they have the right to ask just get up and start to leave.

When they ask you what you are doing or where you are going just say to them that you are not prepared to work with any company that will behave this way. You then tell them that the interview is terminated and that you will explain fully in writing to the CEO when you enter your complaint.

Obviously if you want to give them a chance to redeem themselves you will have to soften the approach a little. These ideas are discussed in the Persuasion Skills Black Book of Job Hunting Techniques but take it the right way The issue is not just about using the techniques it is about developing the attitude that allows you to take a different approach to Job Hunting.

The Persuasion Skills Black Book of Job Hunting Techniques

3djobhuntThe best selling book on using NLP and Convert Hypnotic Persuasion to work for you in getting the job that you really want.

Buy it from Paperback or Kindle

Buy it from Paperback or Kindle

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