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Being More Likeable in Job Interviews Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Question: I am considered to be a highly competent, distinguished practitioner in my field of financial management. Approximately eight months ago I lost my job due to internal restructuring. As part of my severance package I was provided the services of an excellent outplacement coach, who helped me to focus my search for employment and produce effective marketing material. Yet here I am two thirds of a year later, still jobless. What little feedback I have received from the many interviews I have attended suggests that while I am being perceived as technically proficient and quite intelligent, I do not convey the sort of ''likeable'' personality that people would want to work with. Have you any suggestions for me in this regard?

Colin T, Montreal, Quebec
Dear Colin,

It's a little difficult to determine the exact nature of why interviewers aren't falling head over heels for you. Obviously you are well spoken and you claim that your track record at work is strong.

Interviewers are a notoriously fickle lot. Last week I answered a question in which I mentioned that people often get hired even without having 100% of the desired qualifications, if they are likeable enough that the employer is willing to take a bit of a chance on them. Here is what I meant by this.

When it comes to job interviews, it usually boils down to the following basic question: can you make the people that are interviewing you believe not only that you'll reasonably contribute to the success of their organization and do your job well, but also that you will be the kind of person that they, and others, can imagine working with on a daily basis?

Of course, likeability is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak. It's difficult to be the kind of person that appeals to absolutely everyone. So here are some three common traits that interviewers tend to look for in candidates, beyond the standard ''skills and experience'':

Trait How To Demonstrate It Enthusiasm (behaving as if you are genuinely interested in the job and the organization you're applying for)
  • Try sitting up straight and making eye contact with the person whose questions you're answering
  • Lean forward in your chair when the interviewer is talking, to indicate that you're interested in what they have to say
  • Use information from the research you've done beforehand to show that you really do know something about the employer

Approachability (showing that you are the sort of person others can get along with)
  • Greet the interviewer(s) with a smile, handshake, and eye contact
  • If you're in the interviewer's office, try to notice something interesting (like a painting, book, etc.) and ask the person about it, to indicate that you're not just there to talk about yourself
  • If you're not too nervous to do so, try to smile and even laugh a bit when appropriate

Helpfulness (being generous, supportive, decent)
  • Make sure you mention an example or two of how you have stepped up at work before to assist others, above and beyond the call of duty
  • Talk about your involvement in any outside activities that suggest you are contributing in some way (such as coaching a children's sports team, doing volunteer work)

I'm not saying that you have to become best friends with the interviewer, or that as you leave their office they start marking off the days on their calendar before the two of you can be back in each other's presence. It's just that at interview time you need every edge you can get. Trying to be visibly likeable is simply one more way to improve your odds of getting the offer in addition to everything else.

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