Entrepreneur Magazine once wrote about how the job descriptions my Ongig software created for our clients caused candidates to spend up to 5 minutes and 23 seconds viewing the ad (more than 6X the time spent on typical job ads at the time).

At the heart of this high candidate engagement is what I call Candidate Commitment Theory. You can get these results too — I’ll give you some tips at the end of this article.

But, first, let’s explore the underpinnings of this commitment theory. Afterall, if you master this yourself you can invent new tools for yourself!

It goes by other names and it helps to see some real-life examples outside of candidates too.

Perhaps you’ve heard it called one of these:

Consistency Principle (or Commitment Theory)

Dr. Robert Cialdini made the principle of consistency famous in his book Influence (see all 6 principles of persuasion here).

For example, health centers were able to cut missed appointments by 18% simply by asking the patients rather than the staff to write down appointment details on the future appointment card.

Here’s an excerpt about it from Cialdini’s profile on Wikipedia:

If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment because of establishing that idea or goal as being congruent with their self-image. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement.

Many fans of Cialdini interchange the word “commitment” for “consistency”.

Or you may have also heard it called:

“Foot-in-the-door” Theory

You can double your conversion by getting your “foot in the door.

In 1966, a team of psychologists telephoned housewives in California and asked if they would answer a few questions about which household products they used. Three days later, the psychologists called again.

This time, they asked if they could send 5 or 6 men into the house to survey the household products. The investigators found these women were more than twice as likely to agree to the 2-hour request than a group of housewives asked only the larger request. [source: The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology/Wikipedia).]

No wonder car salespeople want us to step into their showroom!


Sunk Cost Fallacy

aka Sunk Cost Bias

One example comes from Wikipedia (I’m paraphrasing):

Take the case of a non-refundable sporting event ticket. For many people, if you have “sunk” the cost into buying a ticket, but then don’t feel like going (e.g. you’re sick or something better came along), you might feel obliged to go to the event anyway. This is because not going to the event you invested in would be wasting the ticket price. This is irrational because the cost of the ticket is already a “sunken” cost. But, still, people often go to the event even though they don’t want to. [source: Wikipedia]

or perhaps you know it as:

Escalation of Commitment

Wikipedia now has another name for it: Escalation of Commitment. Here’s an example they give from wartime:

One of the first examples of escalation of commitment comes from George Ball, who wrote to President Lyndon Johnson to explain to him the predictions of the war outcome:[1]

The decision you face now is crucial. Once large numbers of U.S. troops are committed to direct combat, they will begin to take heavy casualties in a war they are ill-equipped to fight in a noncooperative if not downright hostile countryside. Once we suffer large casualties, we will have started a well-nigh irreversible process. Our involvement will be so great that we cannot—without national humiliation—stop short of achieving our complete objectives. Of the two possibilities, I think humiliation would be more likely than the achievement of our objectives—even after we have paid terrible costs.

Rob’s Candidate Commitment Theory Tips

Those 4 names are all great. In the case of candidates, I’m going to call this simply:  “Candidate Commitment Theory”.

I call it this because you are trying to get the candidate to make micro-commitments.

If you want a candidate to commit more to you (e.g. more time viewing a job description or more clicks on an apply button), try to get them to make some of these types of micro-commitments.

  • Give them great job search on your career site — The more positive search queries you give them the more they’re putting their foot in your door
  • Give them easy clicks to jobs through city/department landing pages.
  • Offer them a video — If they play it, they are making a micro-commitment. They might even get emotionally committed by something they see (like your culture)
  • Offer them a picture — If they sink time into looking at just one pic, it’s still a commitment!
  • Offer them a gallery of pics — Each time they click through a pic, they are making another little commitment.
  • Offer them a comment field — I’ve seen 50% of the candidates who left a comment for an employer end up clicking apply (versus the normal 10% to 20% apply rates)
  • Offer them a LinkedIn Connectability widget — You know the widget that allows the candidate to see how they’re connected to you the employer? If they click on a connection in that widget, you can bet they are typically more likely to join your company.
  • Make your job description copy outstanding. If they are hooked in by the opening line of your JD, they will keep reading….keep committing! The more time they read, the more committed they are to you!

Overall, the more you can get candidates to make these micro-commitments the higher engagement you will get. You’ll also likely see boosts in apply rates in many cases.

The Ongig platform lets you automatically add these micro-commitment options to your job pages to increase engagement. Give us a holler to explore how we can help get more candidates to commit to you!

by in Candidate Engagement