March 8, 2018

Case Study – When Likability Influenced Hiring

It’s not all about skills and impact. Often, hiring comes down to likability and organizational-fit. Here’s an example when likability tipped the scale in a hiring decision.

As promised earlier in the year, I’m writing Case Studies each month highlighting real-world situations relating to a specific topic – this month I’ve been focusing on likability. I wrote about the general importance of likability as well as where likability shows-up in the search for a more engaging gig.

Now I’d like to show you the part likability played in a hiring decision. Like previous Case Studies, I’m keeping all the names (and some of the specifics) confidential.

This is the story of Toby.

Toby spent months as a vendor/contractor in a Seattle-based tech company. His dream – to become a full-time employee in the organization. Toby had a few years professional experience under his belt and achieved great results in his current role. Plus, he was a great addition to the team’s culture – he got along with everyone and always had a smile on his face (talk about engaged)!

Toby was stoked when a full-time role finally opened-up on the team. This was his opportunity.

Will was a Director and the Hiring Manager for the position. Including himself, he brought a team of leaders to the interview loop (including a VP with lots of influence who happened to be Will’s boss).

Toby knew he had a lot of work to do in his preparation for this intense interview.  He approached the interview aggressively, with focus and drive.

  • He knew his Professional Story (Elevator Pitch) and could articulate his value quickly and confidently.
  • He knew his results/impact and could highlight specific examples from various perspectives (customers, partners, leaders, etc).
  • He knew how he could impact the role in a positive (and different) way. He came with ideas and a point-of-view around the role.
  • He knew his audience – he studied each of the leaders and where they might focus. He anticipated questions from each and was ready with a “Thank You” email after.
  • He knew he has to be humble (and hungry) – he wanted his reputation as a great Vendor/Contractor to come-through in the interview.
  • He knew the basics – eye contact, confident body language, and lots of sleep prior.

Toby thought he nailed the interview. Lots of head-nods and smiles. Encouraging feedback along the way.  This full-time role was so close, he thought.

As Hiring Manager, Will also thought Toby was the perfect fit for the role on this team. Lots of valuable experience, knowledge of “how things worked” and a great relationship with the rest of the team.

The only problem: The VP didn’t think Toby was the right fit.  “I want to keep looking for the perfect person,” she said.

As Hiring Manager, Will had the final say in hiring Toby, but the VP’s perspective was really important (did I mention that the VP was Will’s boss??).  Will knew he had to convince his VP of Toby’s value to the open position.

Rather than focus on the traditional element of a candidate (results, impact, experiences, etc), Will decided to focus on Toby’s likability. Will knew this element was just as important as the hard-core skills – he just needed to showcase this to his VP.

Here’s how Will positioned the benefits of Toby’s likability:

  • Likability builds relationships – relationships were key to Will’s open role.
  • Likability creates culture – something the VP really wanted as an up-and-coming leader.
  • Likability instills confidence – people are more willing to take risks (and raise their hands for opportunities) if those around them are positive.
  • Likability makes the manager’s job easier – no one wants to work with (or manage) a Debbie-Downer.
  • Likability leads to better results – folks who are “in-it” push the boundaries of typical impact for themselves and the broader organization.

The outcome? After highlighting Toby’s results AND his likability, the VP gave her final thumbs-up on Will’s decision. Will made the offer to Toby that afternoon.

And where did Toby end-up 8 years later? A Senior Manager developing his own team in the organization. Thank you likability!

Your homework this week: Think about ways to incorporate (and showcase) your likability into everything that you do. Professionally, you’ll show up a lot better, and personally you’ll have a better time doing it! You never know – likability might be the tipping-point to a really important decision (like with Toby)!

Coming-up next week:  It’s BATP time! I’m a little off-schedule, but next week I’ll highlight my favorite Book, Article, TEDTalk, and PodCast (BATP) all around the topic of likability. You’ll like me for it – promise!!

Here’s to your Engaged Pursuit!

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