By Emily Hughey Quinn
Tribune Media Services
June 4, 2012
Congratulations, your foot is in the door. Your next step? It may surprise you.
"Career all comes down to personality," says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn's connection director, and author of three books. The combination of appearance, words, actions and spirit, Williams says, is what makes a job candidate likeable and therefore more hirable. "We are attracted to warm and inviting personalities—and that normally gets the deal made…. If you've left someone thinking, ‘Wow, I like being around that person,' then your job is done."
Of course, as Caroline Ceniza-Levine, career coach with SixFigureStart, explains, you must be qualified for the job in order for likeability to count.
"It is not the case that a large population of unqualified nitwits are beating out super-geniuses for jobs," Ceniza-Levine says. "The job market is competitive, so many candidates meet the threshold qualifications, and likeability is a key differentiator that can tip the scales."
Bill Graham, likeability and storytelling speaker, learned about the importance of likeability years ago in his own career and later set out to help other people and companies master it.
"I call likeability, ‘The Final Decision-Maker.' When a group is getting ready to hire an employee, it usually comes down to two or three people for the job," Graham explains. "Once the decision-makers agree about the competence of the finalists, they ask that last important question, ‘So, who do we like?' That's the person who gets the job."
Earlier in his own professional life, Graham was hired to work with writers to improve the soap opera stories of "Guiding Light," "As the World Turns" and "Another World."
"Just six weeks into the job, the "As the World Turns" business manager pulled me aside and told me that everyone there hated me," Graham recounts. "He said I better fix my attitude or he was going to try to keep me out of the building."
He went to work on his likeability and Graham spent 11 more years in that job. Now he believes there are three components to likeability in business, most of which are detected in your first impression. The first is a lack of emotional walls, which means you don't look or sound like you are keeping secrets, and therefore appear trusting as well as trustworthy.
The second key to likeability is the appearance of competence. Lastly is the leadership mindset, or what Graham calls "the Helpful Head," which he defines as "We don't care how smart you are. We only care if you help me."
Improve your standing
Rita Gunther McGrath is a Columbia Business School professor, author and a globally recognized strategy expert.
"In general, empathy, connection, willingness to listen are all associated with likeability," she summarizes.
Gunther McGrath tells of a senior executive who received dreadful scores on the likeability/informality dimension of a 360-degree feedback and couldn't understand why. After observing his patterns of interaction, he received two suggestions for simple changes in behavior.
First, instead of following the same path to and from the office each day, vary it so that he would interact with more people and be personally visible to more people. Second, instead of eating lunch at his desk and working, make a point of eating in the cafeteria and being available to people.
"Within a month, his likeability scores shot up," Gunther McGrath says. "This corresponded to an increase in scores for engagement and commitment on the part of the employees — even though he was basically the same guy, he was demonstrating more of an interest in people."
That said, introverts need not feel compelled to change their personalities to attain conventional likeability for a thriving career. Gunther McGrath assures that it takes all kinds.
"As a general rule, people who are personally expressive and outgoing are usually thought to be more likeable than those that are more withdrawn or analytical, but I think it depends a lot on what the business needs," Gunther McGrath says. "If you are in a crisis, the likeable guy you'd be happy to have a beer with is not the leader you want to make tough decisions and save the moment. So likeability has its limits."
And it's important to note, LinkedIn's Williams emphasizes, that the game isn't over just because you've charmed someone in an interview.
"Once you land a deal, you've got to maintain the spark and keep the fire alive so that your employer/client/supervisor continues to recognize your value," Williams advises.
Improve your likeability
"Yes, it definitely helps to boost your career if you are likeable," explains Sarah Hathorn, executive coach, CEO of Illustra Consulting and the creator of the Predictable Promotion System. "We all prefer to work with those we like, and nobody wants to work with someone they dislike."
To help her clients remember her tips for likeability, Hathorn uses the acronym "LIKEABLE."
Listen: The first rule is to listen, with full attention, to make the person you are interacting with feel like the most important thing in your life.
Image: Maintain a consistent, positive, polished professional image and you will gain credibility and trust. When people know they can rely on you to always project a professional image it opens doors for career advancement.
Kindness: Stepping forward to help a boss, colleague, or teammate when they need a hand makes you instantly likeable. Make a habit of it and you'll also get the attention of senior executives who look for that selfless, team-oriented quality in leaders worthy of promotion.
Empathy: Learning to put yourself into the shoes of others makes you more capable of understanding complex issues from a 360-degree perspective. It makes you a better problem solver while it also inspires people to appreciate you for your respectful open-mindedness.
Awareness: To be kind, empathic, image conscious or a good listener you have to cultivate keen awareness. Step beyond your own comfort zone and pay attention to the world around you. It will make you more interesting as a person while it makes your life more interesting to live.
Businesslike: Be a prompt, courteous, honest, hard worker and team player. Cultivate the qualities you admire in people with whom you like to do business. Your professionalism will be a magnet to attract others to like working with you.
Looks: Looks count, but I'm not talking about whether you are pretty or handsome. I'm referring to looking the part. Your brand is reflected in the way you dress, carry yourself, and communicate both verbally and nonverbally. You want to appear to be an icon of your industry and a superstar in your profession. Look the part if you want to be given the role and responsibility.
Energy: Everyone likes to around positive people who project uplifting, optimistic energy. Be true to yourself and grateful for what you have. Emanate an energy that is warm, authentic, and full of energy. It will do wonders to accelerate your career as well as your confidence.
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