I’ve often wondered what hidden biases we as interviewers have lurking when making that all important hiring decision; we are, after all, only human. As much as we aim for the process to be as objective as possible, it’s surprising to find that research supports the fact that although interviewers think they are choosing a candidate based on qualifications, skills and experience - their decision often comes down to one important factor: Do you like the candidate as a person?
The concept of likability is often overlooked
The concept of likability is often overlooked by jobseekers. There is no place where this concept is more relevant than in the job interview and likability can often be a deciding factor. During an interview, you are essentially trying to persuade the interviewer to hire you for a position and it will help if they like you! As a Recruitment Consultant, I am sometimes surprised there are candidates out there who view you as more of a hindrance or a ‘necessary evil’, instead of a key stakeholder in the appointment process – and their behavior reflects this attitude.
Likeable people are more likely to be hired, to be listened to, to have colleagues offer help and to be promoted. Research has found where backgrounds and skills of job candidates are similar, the person seen as more likeable gets hired almost 90 per cent of the time.
The good news is there are some behaviors that clearly correlate with being liked. Some people believe that likeability is innate i.e. you’re either likeable or you’re not. But that’s wrong. As with any skill, if you focus on the right behaviors and apply yourself, with practice you’ll get better at being liked by people. Here are some tips for the interview:
Likable candidates greet the interview panel by name. Your name is an essential part of your identity and it feels good when people use it. Use names regularly throughout the interview, not just when you are introduced. If you are poor at remembering names, write them down!
Likable candidates smile a lot and use an appropriate sense of humour. People naturally (and unconsciously) mirror the body language of the person they’re talking to. If you want people to like you, smile at them during the interview and they will unconsciously return the favour and feel good as a result. Never dominate the conversation, always be courteous and take the interviewer’s lead.
Likable candidates ask questions to engage the interviewer. They listen intently to the answers, giving the interviewer their full attention and ask follow-up questions for elaboration. And of course, likeable people never, ever interrupt the person they’re talking to, the kiss of death for being seen as likeable.
Likable candidates make connections and find commonalities. Most interviewers open an interview with at least some small talk and it helps to remember that this is a conversation, not an interrogation. There’s a large body of research showing people are attracted to people with shared backgrounds and interests. So do your research about the panel and use this to break the ice by finding things in common.
Likable candidates seek out opportunities to make genuine compliments about the organisation. Do your homework about the organisation or perhaps you could visit the company in advance, for a hands-on experience
Likable candidates do their research. An interviewer can tell straight away how much you know about the company and its sector and how well you understand the position. They will like you less if you haven’t bothered to do your homework or think about how you can contribute to the organisation.
Likable candidates are reliable – they never ever ever turn up late to the interview! There are no excuses for this.
Finally, positive body language is something you need to practice for an interview. Research shows most people decide whether or not they like you within the first seven seconds of meeting you. They then spend the rest of the conversation internally justifying their initial reaction! This may sound terrifying, but by knowing this you can take advantage of it to make huge gains in your likeability. First impressions are tied intimately to positive body language. Strong posture, a firm handshake, smiling, being enthusiastic and having a positive manner will help ensure that your first impression is a good one.
Wherever possible, remember the acronym SOLER which describes good ‘attending skills’:
S – Sit square on and open your shoulders to the interviewer
O – Open and positive body language. Uncross your arms, smile and use an enthusiastic tone
L – Lean forward slightly to give the impression you are listening
E – Eye contact. Maintain appropriate eye contact
R – Relax and be comfortable during the interview! Since interviews have a lot riding on them, they can bring out anxiety. Remember, the more anxious you are, the less likely you are to be perceived as likable, especially if your anxiety makes you seem stiff. Arrive in plenty of time, be well prepared and take time to build a rapport with the panel.
So next time you’re being interviewed for that all-important-position, remember that your CV, cover-letter and answers to the questions may only get you so far. A lot of it will simply come down to how likeable you really are. It’s a trait worth honing.
Louise Green is a senior organisational development and executive selection consultant for Sheffield South Island. With over 20 years’ experience as a facilitator, consultant and HR professional, her skillset includes:
CEO and Board performance reviews, 360 surveys, Organisational Development, Leadership Development, Executive Recruitment, Succession Planning, Change Projects, Team Building and Executive Coaching.
Louise can be reached at www.sheffield.co.nz