Resources for Humans

The Elements of Persuasion: Use Storytelling to Pitch, Sell Faster & Win More Business

Employment law attorney Michael Maslanka reviews the book The Elements of Persuasion: Use Storytelling to Pitch, Sell Faster & Win More Business by Richard Maxwell and Robert Dickman. Review notes example in book of Ritz-Carlton’s job interview process.

Use Storytelling to Pitch, Sell Faster & Win More Business

From time to time, we read something in a business book that we want to pass along. The Elements of Persuasion: Use Storytelling to Pitch Better, Sell Faster & Win More Business by Richard Maxwell and Robert Dickman tells about the interviewing process at Ritz-Carlton. The company has developed approximately 50 questions to ask during job interviews. The questions are derived from debriefing several hundred high-performing employees across the full range of hotel jobs and looking for the personality traits that separated the high performers from the marginal ones. Ritz-Carlton came up with the questions in conjunction with a company called Talent Plus.

Here’s the clipping from the book:

Karrin McCarron, the head of HR at the Marina Del Rey Ritz, is one of the people trained to give and understand that interview [process]. It can be tricky because the answer to some of those questions is pretty obvious. Hotels are a service industry. The correct answer to “do you like to help people?” is ? duh ? a no-brainer. So, for 45 of those 50 questions, there is a follow-up. If you answer “yes,” Karrin will ask, “You say you like to help people. Could you give me an example?”

If you have just given the expected response because you knew what was expected, you tend to answer in a generality: “Well, all the time, really. It is just what I like to do.” But, if it really is what you like to do, you will answer with a specific story, because one just pops into your mind: “Well, my Mom is getting older, and I like to go by and help her with the cleaning. When we are in the kitchen, we get a chance to talk. The other day. . . .”

As Karrin puts it, “at Ritz, we say the story is proof of the action.”

Facts reveal nothing. Maxwell and Dickman tell employers to listen to the story an applicant tells because stories are facts wrapped in an emotion. And it’s emotion that really tells you how a person will act and what will motivate him.

Michael Maslanka is the managing partner of Ford & Harrison LLP’s Dallas, Texas, office. He has 20 years of experience in litigation and trial of employment law cases and has served as Adjunct Counsel to a Fortune 10 company where he provided multi-state counseling on employment matters. He has also served as a Field Attorney for the National Labor Relations Board.

Mike is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as a “Texas Super Lawyer” by Texas Monthly and Law & Politics Magazine in 2003. He was also selected as one of the best lawyers in Dallas by “D” Magazine in 2003. Mike has served as the Chief Author and Editor of the Texas Employment Law Letter since 1990. He also authors the “Work Matters” column for Texas Lawyer.