HR professionals may not admit it, but I believe being well liked carries as much weight as being well qualified when it comes to job offers. We pay more attention to people we like. We respond positively to enthusiasm, warmth, and supportive comments. Even the way we dress helps others relate to us. It's human nature to seek out similarities to ourselves and to perceive a reflection of ourselves in someone we like.
After a job interview, nobody says, "Gee, Tom was so punctual! I can’t wait to work with him!" It's more likely to be, "Tom was not only professional, he was so friendly! He’ll be great to have around!"
When I take stock of some of the candid, unconventional (but apparently likable) things I’ve said and done in interviews, and still got the job offer, I'm convinced this theory must have value. Here are some examples I've heard — or starred in — of how your attitude can be more impressive than your experience:
- I once interviewed with the company where my father was a well-known manager. Although we wouldn’t have interfaced in this huge company, my interviewers knew the connection. I played it safe and gave stock answers to stock questions. I was qualified but I was not being particularly impressive. I could tell I won them over when I added, "Look, do not hire me because of who my father is. I am my own person, with my own work ethic, and my own goals."
- Another time, I applied for a promotion to a newly created sales management position; as did 29 of my peers. Management screened out 16 applicants and interviewed 14. I was the last to interview with a panel of saleswomen, and they were exhausted. Having no idea how I stacked up against the competition, I strategically asked them to define "what success would look like" in the position. I could tell they loved the question because they all perked up. As I listened intently to their hearty descriptions, the hip, smart, saleswoman inside me grew increasingly confident. I sat back in my chair, smiled, and said very calmly to the panel: "Well, I’m your man." Thankfully, they got my little joke – they knew the value of “asking for the sale.”
- My aunt once trudged through something like 16 interviews in one month. The last one caught her in just the right (or wrong) mood. Sitting in yet another lobby filling out yet another application before the interview — where the application asked for Sex (meaning gender), she put "Never." And for Salary, she wrote "Yes, please!" They hired her on the spot because she was both qualified and funny!
- A friend of mine once traveled four hours to Atlanta for an interview. He got stuck in traffic and was forced to drive straight to the interview, unshaven, wearing jeans and a junky college shirt. Expecting to be walked to the door within 20 minutes, he avoided making excuses, and didn’t mention it. He figured he had nothing to lose by relaxing and being himself. Apparently they liked him just as he was; they kept him for three hours and later offered him the job of a lifetime!
You can do some crazy, corny, and amazing things if you just put some personality behind it. It all contributes to how well they'll like you, and in the end, that's what might get you the job. My apologies to HR nerds everywhere. It probably sucks to know how right I am and not be able to endorse it!
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