The Bagg Group on what to do when faced with an unlikeable candidate


The L-factor –it may be the key to who will run the biggest economy in the world, or who you will choose to join your organization.

In the US election campaign, likeability has become a buzz word. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll captured headlines across the States with its announcement that “Obama gets high marks on likeability.”  

In voting booths, people typically choose likeability over other criteria, according to the experts. Kathleen Parker, a syndicated newspaper columnist, defines likeability as finding someone to be “like me.” She writes, “But being ‘like me’ or ‘like you’ qualifies us only as good dinner partners.”  

When you are face-to-face with a candidate with great qualifications who, for whatever reason, you don’t particularly like, is likeability something worth considering or not?  

After all, it was largely suspected that in the 1980s, the board of Apple fired Steve Jobs mainly because they didn’t like him — and that didn’t go well.  It’s gone down in history as one of the dumbest firings ever.  And when you think of it, you don’t have to go dinner with every person you hire.

Still, we’re social animals and there’s no doubt that people who are likeable are, in a word, preferred.  That’s because they have all important social skills. 

Interestingly, the New York Times reported on a study that links earnings to likeability.  According to University of Chicago research, if five people listed you as one of their closest pals when you were in school, you can expect to make 10% more than others who were not as popular. 

In other words, if you could get people to like you as a kid, you’re likely to get people to like you, and reward you, in the workplace. 

At The Bagg Group, we put “fit” high on our list of must-haves when we consider a candidate for a full-time position, contract work, or temporary placement on behalf of our clients. We have developed an uncanny sense for making good matches over our more than 40+ years of experience. And certainly, personality is a factor.

Yet, we have found that sometimes first impressions just aren’t fair.  Excellent candidates can come off as aloof but they’re re simply nervous or shy.  As soon as they feel more confident, they often become more personable.

The hardest sell is to sell yourself.  We’ve seen people do powerful, persuasive pitches for just about anything on behalf of their organization, but become tongue-tied when it comes to pitching themselves to a hiring manager. 

The experts at The Bagg Group suggest asking yourself a few key questions when interviewing a less affable candidate to determine whether a person’s likeability factor is simply hiding behind a bad case of the nerves.

  • Does the candidate have a positive attitude?  Do they speak of challenges with understanding or with bitterness?
  • Are they non-judgmental?  Do they criticize or blame, or do they simply tell the facts as they are.
  • When they talk about their achievements, do they speak with contempt of others as they detail their own accomplishments?
  • Do they acknowledge you?  Do they listen and show curiosity? 
  • Do you sense what they are saying is honest and trustworthy?

When you interview a candidate with these questions in mind — depending on your answers — you may be surprised to find that the person you didn’t take to might not be so bad after all. You may even find them … likeable. 

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