In my last two posts, I shared insights on what I believe to be a powerful, non-negotiable truth in job search and long-term career management, for that matter. One has to sell oneself. Though not necessarily easy, there is a three-step process that can keep your selling-the-product-that-is-you momentum going. First, part of your job as a candidate is to give them reasons to hire you. The second step is to tell stories about you that differentiate you from the pack; that make your claims come alive with believability. The third step is to hone your social skills.
It’s important. It translates to likeability! People do business with people they like. They buy from people they like. They hire people they like.
Job Search Sales Step #3:
Cultivate your social savvy
“Basically, likeability comes down to creating positive emotion experiences in others …When you make others feel good, they tend to gravitate to you.”
~ Tim Sanders
One of the least discussed, but most important aspects of selling yourself, is the fine art of positioning yourself as someone liked by those who have influence or power in hiring you. A number of years ago, the Harvard Business Review contained a piece called “Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks.” The findings were very interesting. If a person is strongly liked—even if not the most competent—employers and colleagues will try to find a way to work with him or her. By contrast, if someone is disliked, it is almost irrelevant whether he or she is competent; folks don’t want to work with that person. This means that whether we want it to be or not, likeability is a job search and career management reality.
While you are giving people reasons to want you and telling stories about your past, they will be shaping their notions about you and in essence, your likeability:
- Is she easy to talk with?
- Is there anything about him that makes me uneasy?
- Does she really seem interested in what I’m saying?
- Do I feel like she’ll fit in and get along with me? Everyone?
- Can I trust him? Rely on him? Work with him every day?
The answers to these questions might impact whether you are hired, every bit as much as your qualifications to do the job at hand. It’s not at all unusual for a sociable, friendly person to be hired over someone with more experience or better credentials. I’ve heard similar stories over the years from recruiters, human resources and other hiring authorities, where the one hired was the guy who seemed genuinely happy to be there, making those in the room feel comfortable—versus the one with impeccable credentials who came across as disinterested and disconnected.
Likeability and social skills connection
Yes, likeability is often a key variable in the hiring process. You often will not know how much weight it has carried. You need to give it attention by default.
Being likeable is not necessarily an innate trait—a gift some have and others don’t. It can be improved upon. One of the best ways I know is to hone your social skills. Socialization savvy does wonders to brand you as a likeable job seeker and candidate. Perhaps socializing relevant to your job search is outside your comfort zone. Here are a few suggestions.
Develop your social skills.
- You can start with informal partying with your family or friends. Go out with them … dancing at a club, attending a birthday celebration, enjoying a sporting event, going to a party at someone’s house … the point is to begin with those you’re comfortable with, and add a few strangers in the mix. Start conversations. Mingle. Have fun!
- You might give a party yourself! It’s a great opportunity to enhance your socialization savvy. Make your guest list one where not all know each other. Plan an event that will make people feel comfortable. Being a gracious host is truly a cultivated talent.
- Gain experience with work socialization. It’s important to become savvy with this. Work socialization may be recognition for employees or celebration of a holiday or event. It might even be part of the interview process. If you don’t have work socialization in your life for any reason, see if you can participate in one with a family member or friend. It might be an end-of-year picnic or perhaps a Chamber of Commerce event. What’s important to remember is that while most business social get-togethers may look like parties, they are not. You are best served to think of them as doing business standing up. That leads me to my next point.
- Shift focus away from food and drink. While most parties or social gatherings will have food and drink—often alcoholic beverages, it’s important to deemphasize these when practicing your party and socialization skills. Try eating something before you arrive so that you’re not famished. Practice drinking in extreme moderation—one or two limit. Focus on the people, the conversations and the interaction.
- Invite a networking contact to lunch. Asking someone to lunch (or breakfast / coffee) is one of the best ways to get comfortable with the social skills that are part of the working world. If you are uncomfortable taking someone you don’t know that well out, start with your hot circle – people you speak to and interact with on a regular basis. Then make sure you invite someone you know less well. Take it a step further by going to an unfamiliar restaurant, so you can handle a new scenario. Or consider going to a place where you will likely run into the contact’s friends or associates so that you get used to introductions with other people. Mix it up.
Seek feedback and truth.
While it may be hard to hear the realities of perception from others regarding your social skills (and likeability, though it may not be labeled that), it is how we learn and improve. Some ways to go about it:
- Ask your friends and family for feedback. Ask them yes or no questions with an invitation to elaborate on the hows and whys. “Am I a good listener?” “Do I come across as confident but not cocky?” “Do I interrupt?” “Do I have good eye contact and a smile?” “Do I do anything that makes it hard to listen to me or talk with me?”
- Ask interviewers for feedback. You interviewed for a position. The hiring decision was made and it was not you. This is the perfect time to reach out to the interviewer or hiring authority if you can. Ask, “Can you please share a bit about how you perceived my strengths and areas for development? Was there anything in my personal demeanor or behavior that you’d recommend I change?” Sometimes, this kind of frank honesty will garner some helpful guidance.
The type of socializing I’ve recommended may make you very uncomfortable and self-conscious. All the more reason to do it. Socializing is not a natural talent for everyone, but it is important. Jump in. Push your envelope. Give yourself permission to make gaffes, have slip-ups, and learn. Practice the art of conversation and mingling in as many situations as possible. Become that person others like to be around – and hire!