Our good friend Aristotle, arguably one of the founding fathers of the art of rhetoric, defined 3 modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. These modes are persuasive devices constructed from an appeal to ethics, emotions, and logical reasoning. But we’ll come back to that.

Now, I totally get that the term “persuasion” and “rhetoric” get a bad rep. Society’s interpretation is that a communicator is operating with malicious intent or has a self-serving ulterior motive (e.g. “political rhetoric,” anyone?). And sometimes, that is the case, but it’s presumptuous to say all persuasive communicators are out to get you.

Hate to break it to you, but everyone uses persuasive tools in some capacity every single day—recruiters in particular. Or, at least they should. I mean, part of having a dialogue, especially when it’s a cold one, is to be compelling, right? Despite widespread belief, most recruiters approach candidates with good intentions. They source candidates they feel would be best suited for a role based on a myriad of factors. But, candidate rejection happens… a lot.

But what if we looked at recruiting from this perspective: candidates don’t know what they don’t know—same goes for everyone. So when a candidate says one thing about her current role or another about changing jobs, it’s your job to fill in the blanks so she can make the most educated decision about her future. If your persuasive communication skills fall flat, you can forget all of that.

But hey, don’t sweat it. I’ve tailored Aristotle’s 3 modes of persuasion specifically to recruiters and how to successfully encompass them during candidate-recruiter dialogues. Let’s take a look.


Ethos is the appeal to credibility, trustworthiness, and authenticity. When a recruiter exhibits ethos, she’s trying to demonstrate her character and credibility, but she’s doing this not necessarily with what she says, but with her appearance. I know what that sounds like, but hear me out.

Social media is a gold mine for character research. That said, your digital presentation has a lot of pull in how candidates perceive you. After all, trustworthiness is a perception (until proven otherwise). And when you cold InMail, email, or call a candidate, perception is all you’ve got.

Before candidates even respond to you, the first thing they’re going to do is look you up on LinkedIn. Something as simple as a poor-quality photo is a hit to your credibility. However, ethos has evolved alongside our digital world. A typo-riddled or incomplete LinkedIn profile is just as detrimental as your low-quality selfie, as these are all elements that comprise perception.

Truth is, you can be a total mess and still be a great recruiter. Whether we like it or not, appearances play a part in recruiting, so react and respond accordingly. You cut yourself short when you let your mess seep through the cracks.


Pathos aims to appeal to candidates’ emotions. To truly create pathos, it’s critical that a recruiter understands (at least on a basic level) the candidate’s morals, beliefs, wants, needs, values, goals, and so on. You got to ask targeted questions to get to the root of what makes the candidate tick; what’s important to him? What’s not important to him? It involves going beyond the resume and into the mind.

One powerful way to develop pathos is to tell a story. For example, if a role requires the prospect to relocate, give specific details about the city and cater those details to his lifestyle, interests, and priorities. Compel him in a meaningful way, and make it applicable to him. Don’t go pulling things out of thin air.

Pathos can also develop using emotional tones of voice and word choices.


Logos is an appeal to logical reasoning. A recruiter would utilize logos by presenting evidence and facts that appeal more to a candidate’s logical mind versus the emotional one. For example, if a recruiter rants and raves about how wonderful a client’s culture is, give the candidate undeniable proof.

However, decision-making is emotional; not logical. So while developing logos certainly has its place in recruiting, forming an emotional connection to prospects is the breadwinner. Logos just provides a sweet little cherry on top.

The key to becoming a super-recruiter is building trust, forming an emotional connection, and packaging it all together with indisputable evidence to support your claims. So really what I’m trying to say is: ethos, pathos, and logos should govern all dialogues between candidate and recruiters.