How Engaging The Likability Effect Will Make You A More Desirable Candidate

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Did you know that multiple research studies show that likability is equally if not more important than competence when recruiters and managers make hiring decisions?

Many believe that likability is an innate quality based on being naturally outgoing and charismatic. When, at its most basic, likability is just being easy to be around.

And as a former recruiter and licensed psychologist, I can tell you that it’s more often the relationships rather than your resume that secures an offer.

So here are some simple ways to increase your likability factor with both recruiters and hiring managers in your next job search:


Complete the application. This sounds basic, but you may be surprised. Internal recruiters are often working on multiple open roles with several hiring managers with different demands and timelines. Most aren’t trying to give you busy work by asking you to complete an online form, but rather trying to keep things organized. Even if you have a referral into the company, which I highly recommend to avoid some of the hiring gymnastics and whims of the Applicant Tracking System, it’s likely you’ll need to complete the standard online application for legal reasons. While as a former recruiter, I’ll be the first to say this process has a lot of room for improvement, being difficult may get you weeded out since recruiters likely have other qualified candidates in the queue.

Don’t stonewall the salary question. It’s standard for recruiters to ensure a candidate is in the salary range before moving them to the next step. This is equally helpful to the candidate so you don’t waste time on a role that doesn’t pay what you expect. While you may have been coached to avoid giving a number, which is good advice, don’t be so stubborn it costs you the relationship. A better process is to ask if a salary range has been set so the company gives the number first. If you don’t get a direct response, simply share a range that incorporates your target salary. For example, “Based on what I know about the role at this stage, I’m expecting between X and Y.”  Even if pressed for your current salary, which is irrelevant and now illegal in several US states, you can still include your expected range with your answer so there’s no confusion later.

Build a relationship. While you’re correct in assuming that the hiring manager is the person you need to ultimately impress, don’t make the mistake of treating the recruiter like a stepping stone. They can be a helpful advocate if they like you. Be respectful, send a thank you note, and keep in touch. Even if things don’t work out with the primary role you’re targeting, they likely have several open roles to fill for different managers or departments and may know of other jobs in the company that could be a match.

Understand their challenges. Hiring moves as a glacial pace. In my experience, this is often due to the Hiring Manager’s lack of availability, not the recruiter’s lack of responsiveness. If you’re not getting a reply as quickly as they promised, which is typical, recognize the hiring manager may be traveling, waiting on sign-off from a superior, or otherwise unavailable. Yes, it might also be that the company has sloppy hiring practices or is entertaining their top choice while you wait as runner up, but if you lose your cool, you may also lose this opportunity or another one in the future. Feel free to briefly check in with an email stating, “I really enjoyed meeting the team last month and am very interested in next steps.”


Know your audience. You’ve heard it before, and it stands for the interview. In order to sell the product (which is YOU), it’s critical to know what’s important to the buyer. While you may have several impressive qualities, focus on the ones most relevant to the role you’re applying to. Then go one step further – consistently tie your responses to how they’ll positively impact the bottom line. Many candidates miss this step, but when you do this heavy lifting for the hiring manager, they’ll be impressed you understand their core needs and will have an easier time seeing you as a match for the role.

Be human. Although you may not have thought about it, the hiring manager actually wants you to do well in the interview. The quicker they can fill their open position with a qualified person, the faster they can re-focus on other company priorities. So, if you need a moment to think about a response to an unexpected question, ask for it: “That’s a great question – can I have a moment to think of the best example?” Or, if you’re nervous, remember that anxiety and excitement trigger some of the same physical sensations, so admitting, “I’m excited to have the opportunity to learn more about the role” may be enough to cause your fear to dissipate. And in the end, remember, a big part of the interview is evaluating if you’re a fit for the team. That isn’t something you can fake, nor should you. Prepare the best you can, and then be yourself.

Prepare insightful questions. Managers are eager to hire candidates who show drive and motivation to join the team. But even if you’re not the expressive type, you can still demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm for the role in other ways. One way is to prepare insightful questions. It’s a given you’ll be asked what questions you have, so be ready. Here’s a secret – prepare questions you’d ask if it were your first day on the job because these will usually show your curiosity and engagement. Ask about team goals, current challenges, how your department interacts with other groups, or what company changes are coming that you should be aware of. Avoid asking questions you can research online or only reflect your personal interests such as when you can expect a raise. A manager will be impressed that you already have the best interest of the company in mind as an applicant, and it’ll end your interview with a favorable impression.

Do you want even more good news? Likability also helps you succeed once you land the job. People perceived as likable get more assistance, obtain more pay raises, receive more information, and mistakes tend to be more easily forgiven.

The likability effect is real and can help you both land the job and get ahead once you’re in it. So, it’s worth investing your time in building positive rapport with those around you.

Happy hunting!

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