Imagine it's zero hour and the administrative assistant calls you in for the job interview. It took you a long time to land this interview and you don't want to go home without the job.

The process of interviewing can be intimidating. There are so many things you need to know. What should you wear? What questions should you ask about the company? What should you answer? Wait! What if you could do one thing to swing the odds in your favor?

In a recent talk at our company, Dr. Robert Cialdini, the best-selling author of Influence and Pre-Suasion, shared a secret method to put you in the interviewer's good graces before the interview even gets started. It all has to do with the interviewer's need to have a consistent identity.

What is consistent identity?

Consistency is one of the six principles of influence. In Pre-Suasion, Cialdini states that all people want to be seen as consistent with their commitments. These commitments are the previous statements they have made, stands they have taken, or actions they have performed.

This principle was first discovered in a study done by two Stanford psychologists, Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser. The researchers were able to persuade 76 percent of homeowners to put an enormous--and ugly--billboard reading "Drive Carefully" on their front lawn, simply because two weeks earlier the homeowners had agreed to put a tiny "Be a Safe Driver" sign, the size of a postcard, in the window of their car or house.

Why did the homeowners do this? Well, the first postcard established an identity for the homeowner as a citizen committed to driving safety. So when the researchers asked homeowners to put an ugly billboard on their lawn with the same concept of safe driving, the homeowners wanted to stay consistent with their safe driver identity and agreed to do so.

How consistent identity works in the job interview

In order to get someone to be consistent in the job interview, Cialdini says you need to get people on record as making a preliminary step in your direction. This is what will drive their commitment.

Verbal commitment works wonders in getting people to commit to doctor appointments, voting, and showing up for dinner reservations. In the case of dinner reservations, Cialdini recounts a tale in his book Yes! in which the owner of a restaurant was upset about all the no-shows for dinner. No-shows meant no money.

To turn this situation around, the owner used the principle of consistency. All he did was have his host change the question "Please call if you have to cancel" to "Will you please call if you have to cancel?" and then wait for an affirmation from the guest. All the guests, of course, verbally committed with a yes. This simple verbal commitment decreased the rate of no-shows in the restaurant from 30 percent to 10 percent.

The one question you need to ask...

Now, imagine you are sitting down for your job interview. The reason you are in this room at all is because the interviewer thinks you have the potential to do the job. All you need to do to increase the odds in your favor is have the interviewer verbally commit to your good qualities. How do you do this?

Before you begin the interview, Cialdini suggests asking, "Why did you invite me here today?" or "What was it about my candidacy that attracted you to my résumé?" By asking this one question, you will invite the interviewer to talk about your strong qualities.

Having made this verbal commitment to your strengths, the interviewer will then focus on your strengths when deciding if you should be hired.

Cialdini said this method worked three times for one of his friends. It might just work for you, too.