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A Harvard Business Review Article pointed to likeability as being the #1 variable in a salary negotiation. It is true of interviewing, too.

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One of the things I've always been very good at is preparing people for interviews. If you look at my content on YouTube you’ll see hundreds of videos I've done, specifically, about interviews and that’s before I even get into how to answer tough interview questions.

One topic I hadn't really address and it came up to me because I was making something in Harvard Business Review about factors the weigh into a negotiation. The first variable beyond qualifications that they referenced was likability. When we think of politicians, most of the time, we vote for a politician that we like personally. Certainly, President Obama fit into that category for many Americans, even though they disagree with his policies. They liked him. They like his wife. They liked his family. It’s very different than the client we have as I record this in 2018 and, no disrespect to the current president, likability is not one of the leading things that people think of when they think of President Trump.

So, likability is a big variable negotiation, but it's also a variable when interviewing. When I saw that, I asked myself how does someone become likable? What do they do to demonstrate likability?

Now, I want to start off by saying you can't do anything that suggests you’re a BS artist. Everything you do has to be congruent with who you really are. One of the things I always think of is a smile, a friendly demeanor about you. I’m just trying to illustrate it here with a twinkle in my eye, a good mood of my face and just being friendly with a friendly handshake that lets people know that you are a friendly kind of guy.

Now, I'm not saying that you lower your guard in anyway but you make eye contact, a firm handshake. That's true for men and women, of course and, in doing that, you demonstrate that you’re open . . . which is a big part of likability. People want believe that is someone who is open is a likable individual.

Another thing to increase likability (and this is a variation on something I've said differently before) they’re good listeners and one of the things that you want to foster in the course of your interview is having them do a lot of the talking. In my interviews, I talk about the headhunter secret to knowing you did well on the interview. In it, I say, the more they talk, the more they like you. Part of the reason they are talking is they are selling to you. Part of it is you’ve made space for them. Maybe you've asked questions that allow you to listen more.

So, the goal becomes, at a certain stage in the conversation, you are doing a lot of listening and, energetically, you're also in sync with the interviewer. So, you being open is only one variable. You also have to appear as though you're engaged while you are listening to them (and this is the joke I’ve always told) bask in in their magnificence. They’re doing so much talking, they feel good because they are hearing the sweetest voice in the world to them . . . their own voice.

So, again, you want to be a good listener. You also want to appear open-minded. People who disagree a lot come across as being disagreeable and for a hiring manager, the last thing they want to do is hire someone else's headache.

So, again, you want to appear as though you're a good listener and I'm not saying to be such an agreeable person that you appear to be as a suck up but you want to carry yourself in a way where you are paying attention to them.

I also want to say there is congruence in your body language. Now there are people who were energetically very excited and they talk with your hands a lot and you. I've always said that's a little too much, but you do would feel free to talk with your hands and, if you’ve watched made in my videos, you know I do that a lot and I do it primarily to release energy but it's also an emphasis point that’s congruent with what I'm saying.

So, for you as a speaker, I want you to start thinking about how you can engage physically with your audience while still appearing likable, friendly and not a suck up, but an affable individual who is likable to them.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1200 episodes, “Job Search Radio,” “and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

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