The ‘Likeability Factor' in Interviews - Why and How?

In association with Thornshaw Recruitment

In an ideal world, job offers and opportunities would be based purely on skill, ability and experience. Realistically, being ‘likeable’ is an important aspect of getting through the interview process successfully. As we all know, a person’s fit within the company culture and atmosphere is important both for you and your employer. The work might be ideal but getting along with colleagues, clients and customers is essential and will impact on your enjoyment of the role as well as your colleagues’ enjoyment of having you around! Most of us spend at least 5 days per week with our colleagues and would like to be in the company of people we can get along with.

A Harvard Business School study in 2005 found 4 typical ‘types’ of employee. When faced with deciding between working with a highly skilled meanie and an incompetent charmer, level of competence was almost irrelevant when the person was disliked. In the modern business environment, Skype and Video conferences are common place and it has also been found that likeability is more important in this situation than in face to face communications. It is harder to impress in a video interview than meeting in person and this is likely down to the fact that it is difficult to get your real personality across and humour can be lost in translation with delays and connectivity problems.

While some people have that enviable ‘natural charm’, likeability can be developed and, contrary to belief, is not about being good looking or extremely sociable. Here are a few tips on how to improve your likability in interviews.

Make a Good First Impression

Studies show that it takes people seven seconds to form an opinion of you so first impressions really do count. In an interview in order to make a lasting positive impression you should smile, greet people with a firm handshake and have an open posture. It can be difficult when nervous to remember to smile but it is so important. Face people talking to you and make eye contact with them. It is often a good idea to remain standing while waiting to be called in. This prevents any creases to your clothing and you are ready to greet your interviewer immediately from a level position. If the waiting area has art or magazines, pay attention to it and use it to start a conversation on the way in.

Positive Body Language

Positive body language is essential in an interview. Your body language draws people in and can dramatically improve your likability. Open your shoulders and face the people speaking with you. Maintain eye contact and try speaking with an enthusiastic tone. Positivity breeds positivity. Use positive hand gestures when talking and when listening have your palms facing upwards. This is an open gesture that suggests you are trustworthy and can increase likability. Also be sure to lean in slightly when engaging in a conversation and you will be seen in a positive light. Although one interviewer may do a majority of the questioning, be sure to look at all interviewers equally.

Using Names

Using people’s names is the oldest trick in the book but it’s a great one. People respond more positively to you when you use their name as well as an initial greeting. Using names creates a sense of familiarity and familiarity creates positivity. People feel like you are listening and that what they are saying is important if you address them by name. Just be sure to get the names correct in your interview! Always try to find out the interviewers’ name prior to the day but this can change last minute so don’t be thrown off. Clarify the person’s name and continue on.

Ask Questions

It’s an old one but always have questions to ask at the end of an interview. Questions about the company, culture, history, career progression, training etc. are all good go-to queries but if you have something more original you want to ask, go for it. It will make you stand out from the sea of mundane questions. Some ideas include showing an awareness of competitors by asking how they are different, asking about a typical day in the role, asking about the specific department this role is in, the company’s vision for the future etc. A word of warning though- make sure your question hasn’t been already answered by the interviewer or it will seem like you weren’t listening!

Honest, Genuine and Open- minded

Trust is of utmost importance in building a relationship with your interviewer. That “little something missing” can be their reservations about what you have said and how truthful it is. For instance, if you don’t clearly explain why you left your last role, the interviewer is left guessing. We all enhance the truth and try to sell the best version of ourselves in an interview but avoid telling all out lies. If questioned further it can cause real problems and will automatically result in a lack of trust all round if found out.

On this track, it is important not to criticise previous employers or colleagues. While it might be a genuine issue you had with someone, bad mouthing can raise questions in the interviewers mind about the other side of the story – “Did you do something wrong to end up in this situation?” It can also create questions about how well you fit into a team and get along with your work colleagues. Managers don’t want to look after work place squabbles. You don’t have to say you were best friends with everyone, but be careful how you talk about others. If you are asked questions about any issues you had, give a well - rounded and clear answer without being disrespectful to anyone involved.

Listen to what is being said during the interview and avoid coming across as judgemental. If something is said that you don’t like, remember you are under no obligation to take the position. Note your issues and take the opportunity at the end to ask about these and get a clear understanding of this role.

And finally, if you are regretted from a role, be as dignified as possible in your disappointment and mention how you would be happy to be kept in mind for anything in future. You never know when an even better opportunity will come up and they will remember your positive attitude and enthusiasm for the company!

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