Likability: It Matters More Than You Think

Whether in a job search or looking to get ahead, the research is consistent: you’ll get farther if you’re considered “likable.”  The Journal of Applied Psychology* published a study showing that applicants who were defined as “likable” had a greater chance of being hired. Similar results rang true in studies looking at likability in relation to obtaining a pay raise.

The simplest definition of likability is being perceived as “easy to be around.” If you’re wondering how to increase likability, here are a few simple steps:


  1. Smile. They truly are contagious and science shows the mere act of smiling releases endorphins, which makes people happy. It’s like giving those around you a shot of joy! In an interview, it puts others at ease and signals you are positive and approachable, qualities highly sought after when hiring.
  2. Be Curious. Dale Carnegie taught, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Ask questions. Invest time learning about the people you meet. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!
  3. Assist. Everyone is busy, but holding the door or staying late to help a colleague can go a long way. Before rushing to your next task, consider the impact of the few minutes you delay to assist someone else. (Click here for an “instant karma” story of a job candidate in a rush.)


  1. Be One-Sided. When networking or interviewing, it’s natural to talk about yourself, but frame the conversation to show how your skills have a positive impact on the company. Getting hired is a contract – you offer something of value to an employer and they compensate you in return.  You’ll get better results in a job search when highlighting both sides.
  2. Complain. No one enjoys being in the company of a whiner. When you’re having a bad day, vent to a trusted friend or put your thoughts on paper.  Bottling it isn’t healthy, but spewing negativity onto everyone damages your brand.
  3. One-up. If you’re the guy who always has a story to top someone else’s or are consistently correcting others, you’re losing points in the likability column. Sharing common experiences can be a great way to bond, but constantly one-upping others will distance you. Instead, refer to #2 in the “DO” list.

No matter what your skills, few Managers will hire someone they don’t like. It causes too many headaches, and there are always other options. I’m not advocating for becoming a pushover or ignoring your values, but rather pausing to consider the impact of your behaviors before taking action.

Happy hunting!

*Journal of Applied Psychology, 2004, Vol. 89, No. 4, 622–632

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