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A generation ago, it wasn’t uncommon for a well-written resume, relevant job experience, and some basic skills to be enough to land an interview. And while those things may still get you past an HR screening, being likeable in real life is just as important as being marketable on paper.

Hiring managers aren’t just looking for new staff who can drive funding, increase employee retention, or seek out new partnerships. Rather, they’re looking for folks who want to contribute to organizational culture. This requires an ability to engage across differences, build supportive relationships, and function as part of a cohesive team.

So while having the right qualifications for a given position is key to getting in the door, being likeable during the interview is what gives potential new hires a winning edge.

Be present

It goes without saying that arriving on time is essential to making a good first impression. But being present in the interview process is about more than just showing up. It’s about making eye contact with the receptionist and saying hello to others in the waiting room. Being present means tuning in to the sights, sounds, and energy of a potential new work environment.

Rather than scrolling through your newsfeed or staring off into space, ask a direct question of someone nearby and engage in conversation. Use the few minutes between arrival and interview to take some deep breaths, settle into the space, and observe your surroundings. Take advantage of marketing and promotional materials in the reception area to brush up pre-interview.

Pay special attention to the set-up of the office. How do employees engage with one another? What is the general vibe of the space? After all, it could one day be your new work home.

Be engaged

A successful interview almost always starts with a handshake, a smile, and direct eye contact. It’s easy to jump right into the Q & A, but an engaged candidate asks questions of the person they’re sitting down with, shares observations of the space around them, and seeks to find connection through conversation. 

Open body language, like a slight leaning in or a warm smile, can send a visual signal that you’re excited to be interviewed and eager to learn more about the position. Back-and-forth dialogue signals a desire to collaborate, and can lead hiring managers and potential supervisors to feel like they’re navigating a discussion rather than a one-sided interview. 

Be authentic

Real recognizes real. That’s why some of the most successful and recognizable names in technology, business, and innovation are people who showed up as exactly who they are.

When it comes to combing through resumes and vetting potential hires, it can be difficult to stand out. But showing up to an interview with your own unique flavor can forge connections beyond what’s written on paper. Perhaps you use an anecdote from your cross-country trip to answer a question about getting outside your comfort zone. Or maybe you show vulnerability by talking about a time you were faced with a challenge. Whatever the case, it’s easier to connect with people who are showing up as their most authentic selves.

Be curious

Potential job candidates need to be ready to answer questions. but the most likeable hires ask plenty of their own questions, too. A bit of due diligence can show potential bosses you’re well-informed—not only about the organization and its mission, but about some of the employees, projects, and agency objectives as well.

Take time to ask for additional clarity and encourage expansion on personal narratives, stories, and anecdotes. This shows not only a desire to learn more about the job, but also to learn more about the people.

Be positive

Hiring managers often look for people who can contribute to a positive workplace culture. The way you talk about your current position can help your interviewer determine if you're the kind of team player they're looking for.

Remember to keep your attitude positive. You might speak fondly of current colleagues, name the successes of past projects, or reframe a major setback as an opportunity for growth. This shows a passion for your purpose, and a desire to connect with others to get the job done.

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Jill Nawrocki profile image

Jill Nawrocki

Jill Nawrocki is a Licensed Social Worker and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer living in Brooklyn. She is an ultra runner, freelance writer and social justice warrior with a background in program management, direct practice, mindfulness and advocacy.

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