career, interviewing, job search, recruiting

Likability and Job Interviews

The subject of likability in job interviews has been discussed ad nauseam. There are even books written about increasing your likability.

I’ve previously stated that job interviews are a lot like first dates: very unnatural interpersonal interactions where both parties attempt to gain sufficient information about the other to make a determination whether they are worthy of another round. At the same time, you are presenting a version of yourself that has been to a spa day. Iit’s massaged, manicured, and any rough edges are buffed and polished; an optimized version of your everyday self. (The company–or your date–is doing this too.)

Recruiters look for people that will meet the hiring manager’s requirements for technical skills and experience (“She’s built an iOS app and had it published in the marketplace–check”), but also whether the candidate will be a good fit with the manager and team in terms of communication style, how they deal with that type of work environment, etc.

A part of this is often likability. Any recruiter is going to have concerns about a candidate who raises obvious red flags (being a total pain about scheduling calls/interviews; missing a scheduled call or interview; showing up late to an interview without a plausible reason). We’ll do the same if a candidate is clearly difficult during our phone screen. But in some cases, candidates are smart enough to act likable to people that they think are the primary decision makers (recruiters/hiring managers) but treat others poorly. Unfortunately, these candidates aren’t as smart as they think. Because some of the most important sources of information are not in the interview room.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll repeat it now as it’s a brilliant example. Zappos offers out of town interview candidates a tour of the area before they interview. After the tour, they collect feedback from the tour driver: Was the candidate nice? If they weren’t, they don’t get hired–no matter what the interview feedback says.

Another startup has gone so far as to create an imaginary HR person on LinkedIn. When prospective candidates call the company to ask for the imaginary HR person, they are evaluated by how they treat the person answering the phone.

Is likability everything in the interview process? It absolutely should not be. But should it be considered? Absolutely. I’m a big believer in the idea that people often reveal their true selves when they think they aren’t being evaluated–so feedback channels like the above (or from the Recruiting Coordinator or group admin who are facilitating the onsite interview) can be critical.

Something to think about prior to your next interview…



One thought on “Likability and Job Interviews

  1. Excellent techniques for sussing out the kind of (personality) information a person might be able to hide during an interview. I’ll keep those in mind for sure! Sadly I had one applicant that was exactly the opposite. She has a wonderful personality and I really enjoyed her, but she lacked the technical skills to do the job. When I asked why she should be hired over any other applicants, she pointed only to her amazing personality and actually told me she didn’t have the other skills. The person we hired had a good personality and very basic technical skills, but she answered the question by offering confidence in her ability to learn. I think it’s important to strike a balance.

    Posted by Nancy Kick | December 2, 2013, 2:02 pm

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