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You're Qualified, But Do They Like You?

Emotions make up the fabric of all relationships; they're woven through every human interaction, including hiring. The job seeker's emotional journey is well known – anticipation, disappointment, trepidation, uncertainty, elation – but have you ever considered the highs and lows that interviewers undergo during the hiring dance? Yes, interviewers experience their own stresses and anxieties. And the most qualified candidate is never the one they hire. Rather, the candidate who gets the offer is the one who makes the strongest emotional connection with the interviewers.

With more than 20 years in the hiring game, I've witnessed thousands of interviewing cycles. Although a hiring process might start with a specific, written job description that spells out exactly what qualifications the "ideal candidate" should have, there is no perfect candidate. The final hiring decision is filled with the emotions, illusions, and opinions of the interviewing team.

Interviewers are Emotional 
Hiring managers and interviewers experience a range of increased emotions as the hiring process unfolds from writing the job description and reading resumes to conducting phone screens, interviewing face-to-face, and finally, delivering job offers. Their assignment is to find a qualified candidate who can not only do the job, but be accepted by and complement the people already in place.

At the root of these emotions is the fact that hiring the best applicants is part of the interviewer's and hiring manager's job, and they'll be judged on how well they do it. If the company hires you based on their recommendation, and you turn out to be a bad employee, it reflects poorly on them. So as an applicant, part of what you need to convey is that you will make them look good.

They Have to Like You
Job applicants often feel they're competing with a perfectly qualified "ghost" candidate. Rest assured, this perfect candidate does not exist. Even the job description is not analytical; it's simply a best guess of what qualifications a person should have to do a particular job well. It might have been written by an HR person who doesn't understand the job. It might have been written five years ago. It may or may not reflect the reality of the job today.

Companies perpetuate the illusion of the perfect applicant by rejecting candidates with phrases like, "We found a stronger candidate for this position." When you don't get the offer, despite excellent qualifications, the truth is that the interviewers chose someone they like better. That doesn't mean you're inherently less likable than the person they hired; it just means they established a better rapport with the other candidate. (I'll write about techniques for building rapport in another post.)

The mistake most applicants make is assuming the interview process is logical and analytical. In reality, it's filled with the emotions of every individual you interact with along the way. Encourage the interviewers to like you by building rapport with each of them. If they do like you, you've got more than a "ghost" of a chance of getting the job.

How has being liked, or not liked, affected your career?

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