Acting Scarce Can Help Your Career

scarcity principle

By Yvonne Milosevic

Have you heard of the scarcity principle? It says that we’re attracted to things that seem in short supply. If something’s hard to get, it must be worth having. Think red diamonds. Nike Killshot 2 sneakers.  Or the mass hysteria surrounding the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich.  This concept extends beyond accessories and snacks. You can also apply elements of the scarcity principle to your career. It’s a law of economics, according to this piece in The New York Times.

If you’re in low supply and high demand, you’re worth more.

Step One: Play it cool.

You may feel pumped about a new job opportunity on the horizon. After all, you’re 100% qualified. The company culture seems fantastic. Plus, you suspect the compensation beats your current salary. But showing the hiring manager that you’re giddy over the prospect immediately makes you look desperate. A definite no-no, even if you hate your current job.

Say you get a call at 10 a.m. asking you to interview that same afternoon. You want to do a happy dance and agree to a meeting right away. That’s a rookie move. Your eagerness puts you at a negotiating disadvantage right off the bat. Instead, explain that, unfortunately, today doesn’t work for you. But you’d be happy to rearrange your schedule to accommodate a time tomorrow or the day after. Sure, it may seem like you’re playing hard to get. In reality, you’re countering with an option that shows you’re a busy, in-demand person.

The same tactic applies if you’re asked to commit to next steps on the spot after an initial interview. Offer to get back to them after checking your calendar. The benefit is twofold. First, the interviewer will think you may have more interviews/offers on deck. Second, when you set a time based on what’s comfortable for you, you’ll likely perform better. That’s a win-win.

Step 2: Show you’re selectively interested.

The trick here is letting the hiring manager know that you’re interested in learning more about the opportunity while keeping the enthusiasm at an appropriate level. As social psychologist Jeremy Nicholson tells the Times, you want to respond in a way that lets them know that, “You’re selective with who you work with, but you would consider working with or for them.”

Act confident and assertive, Nicholson advises. Being selectively interested doesn’t mean playing so hard to get that you insult the person seeking a relationship with you, he explains. Instead, it’s about letting them know that you have options. “Plus, you’re prioritizing them because they’re valuable to you as well,” Nicholson adds.

Also, let the potential employer know that you want to do your due diligence to understand the company and responsibilities involved with the position.  This shows that you are deliberate and thoughtful with your decision-making, which many hiring managers would consider an attractive quality.

Step 3: Know your worth.

When it comes to compensation negotiations, John Lees, career strategist and the author of “How to Get a Job You Love,” tells the Times that you need to give off the sense that you’re aware of your skills and market value.

Don’t base an assessment of your worth on your title or skills from two or three years ago. You should have a good idea of how your current skills and achievements translate into a value you can present to potential employers. Check out websites like this one to help you determine your market value. Otherwise, you might jump at a job opportunity well below what you could be earning.

As professor Shirli Kopelman from the Ross School of Business tells the Times, “Emphasizing the uniqueness of your resources and your collaborative approach can help you more quickly advance your goals.”

In the end, these experts believe using the scarcity principle as a career move is about valuing your self-worth and converting your excitement into a mindful strategy. As they say, attitude is everything.