Jason — I’m the editor for all the personal development articles for Members. Do you mind if I respond with a tangent? I love the details behind these articles, and, I’m wondering, what your reaction is going to be to find out that the original headline multiplier was 17x.
Both are technically and straightforwardly correct — the author changed her interviewing strategy and got 5x more job offers and experienced a 17x higher rate of acceptance. Those are the facts.
In my opinion, 17x is actually the more honest number. In the first data set, she interviewed 25 times and in the second only 7 times. So theoretically, if the second set was equally large, she would have ended up with 17 offers rather than just 5. But we went with 5x because it felt conceptually simpler to say 5x more job offers than to say 17x higher rate of success. Either way, the point is that she experienced a stark change.
Going back to your point, yes, I can go as far as agreeing that the headline is at least click-bait adjacent. I’d use the word hyperbolic though. We cherry picked the most hyperbolic fact. It’s a true fact that also happens to read has hyperbolic. I hear that you are suspicious of that fact. Clearly that level of success is not going to hold true for all people in all situations.
One of the guidelines I’ve been giving authors who are writing these personal development articles is to demonstrate the source of their expertise. I’m reacting against a lot of other personal development writing where it’s unclear if the author has ever tested the advice themselves. That’s like buying a cookbook where none of the recipes have been tested — you’re going to be upset to go through the effort of buying the ingredients just to end up with an in-edible failure.
It’s basically the same in personal development. I don’t want readers psyching themselves up, attempting the impossible, failing and then blaming themselves when really the advice was untested and broken.
So, when it comes to demonstrating expertise there are a couple of options: the author could have self-experimented, could have helped other people (as in they are a coach), or could have studied the subject in an academic context.
If the author is an academic, then they can say what the percentage chance of success is. If the author is a coach, then they’ll have the experience to address when the advice works and when it doesn’t, if the author is a experimenter then they’ll by definition be sharing a personal, rather than one-size-fits-all, experience. In any case, it gives the reader a much better chance of evaluating whether advice is going to work for them and if it fails, who is at fault (usually not the reader).
That’s the tangent — when you see personal development articles on Members, this is usually part of the framing of the article. And in the case of this article in particular, we managed to get the “demonstrated expertise” right into the title.
A thing I like about publishing for Members is that we don’t have to fight for readers or page views. I think that’s why I only went as far as saying the title was click-bait adjacent. Clicks just aren’t a major concern for me editorially here — although they are when I publish outside of members. That’s why I went prefer the descriptor of hyperbolic for this title.
In the behavior science of an article, the goal is to make an article that could effectively change someone’s life. In order to do that we have to connect to people at two levels — one is emotional and the other is rational. A hyperbolic title often plays a huge role in making the emotional connection. And once that’s done, we just have the moral responsibility to give solid advice that works in the rest of the article.
I guess that’s a second tangent. Have you read Thinking, Fast and Slow, yet? That’s what I’m referencing about the need for articles to work at multiple levels.
Ok, I’m going to sign off. Obviously I’m crazy for responding with 13 paragraphs to a simple reaction from you. Yes, I am.