The rhetorical triangle and the job search process


The Rhetorical Triangle from a Job Seeker’s Perspective


As a writer, one of my biggest responsibilities is to the rhetorical triangle. It is the framework that gives structure to everything I write. Whenever I feel stuck on an article or a long project, I take a break and refer back to the rhetorical triangle, because most often than not, it can help me target an area in my writing that is weak, thus giving me something to work on during my next writing session.


After reading this post on marketing principles applied to the job search, I began to think about how job seekers could make use of the rhetorical triangle in their own search. In some respects, finding and applying for a job is similar to writing: both are acts of communication and connection. So, with that in mind, here’s my take on how job seekers can benefit from knowing the rhetorical triangle.


The rhetorical triangle is made up of three concepts, as originally explained by the great rhetorician Aristotle: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. Logos is a rational appeal to the audience, Ethos is an ethical appeal to the audience, and Pathos is an emotional appeal to the audience. Each of these appeals influences the other during the communication process, and each is influenced by the context of the communication itself. In other words, the context of an email to your friend asking for driving directions is much different than that of a letter to a distant relative asking for money.


So let’s think about how each of these appeals can be applied to the job application process.




Job applicants must use logical and rational appeals in portions of their application in order to show potential employees that they fully understand the nature of the position. By showing how the facts of your background connect to the needs of the employer, you set up a chain of reasoning on the part of the potential employer that essentially can be broken down to this: candidate A meets our current needs because of X, Y, and Z.




An ethical appeal to a hiring manager would emphasize the applicant’s credibility and trustworthiness. Having great professional references is one way to establish your credibility in the eyes of the hiring manager. Showing up on time and dressed appropriately for an interview show your reliability.





In order to appeal to the emotions of an employer, applicants can personalize the application process. Something as simple as mentioning your family during an interview, should the opportunity arise, can add enough of a personal touch to appeal to the emotional side of an interviewer that the hiring manager won’t forget you. After all, we’re all human, even hiring managers. And be sure to remember to send a note of thanks to follow-up once the interview is complete.



This guest post is contributed by Kate Willson, who writes on the topics of best online colleges.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id:



1 Response to “The rhetorical triangle and the job search process”

  1. 1 Owen Doonan November 23, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Hi Ian,

    Great concept in utilizing logos, ethos and pathos as a rhetorical triangle for re-employment.

    In my own decades of advising senior managers, professionals and executives with mid-career ending disabilities, I most often saw the fourth Greek os, namely chaos as the pervasive roadblock to vocational rehabilitation. My remedy has been to implement a slightly altered version of the classic business plan and entitling it “… Career Plan”. It is the same classic exercise in creativity and research with a twist that focuses on ones new career and contains the age old subsections of marketing, finance, operations all wrapped up in an executive summary. Using this familiar model career seekers can excape from chaos and enter a ordered model for success. Your rhetorical triangle is a great addition to this process.

    All the best,


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