'Likeonomics': Will Being Likable Make You More Employable?

Ever ace an interview only to find out you didn't get the job? If so, you likely asked yourself a lot of questions about what went wrong: Did I talk about myself too much? Was my handshake too aggressive or too weak? Did I wear the wrong outfit?

The painful truth is that it probably wasn't any of those things. It's more likely that another candidate was simply more likable. That can be a painful lesson to learn, but like it or not, being likable has become a bankable and powerful commodity in today's technology-driven world.


In an age in which people are more apt to do business with and hire people and companies they like, it pays to improve the qualities that make us likable, says Rohit Bhargava (pictured above), author of "Likeonomics" ("like" plus "economics"), which examines what it takes to win others' trust by being more likable.

As the author notes, "Being more believable is the real secret to standing out." AOL Jobs recently spoke with Bhargava about likeonomics and the important role it plays in job-seeking and career advancement. Here's some of what he had to say:

Q. Likeonomics, as a concept, has been around for awhile, so why is it more important today than, say, 30 or 40 years ago?

A. Two reasons: Firstly, we are in the midst what I call the modern believability crisis. People are easily manipulated by marketing messages and they know it, so they have less trust in organizations. The keenest examples are the political ads we're now seeing. The other reason is that technological advances have greatly reduced the number of face-to-face interactions people have today compared to, say, 50 years ago. Many of us have forgotten the importance of personal connections in decision-making, and why we believe certain people and don't believe others.

Q. Is there a portion of the workforce who intrinsically "get" likeonomics?

A. There are definitely people who are naturally good at it. Bill Clinton is an example. But the wider population -- 85 to 90 percent of people -- are able to learn different elements of likeonomics. People who might have used it already in certain situations and certainly could get better at. It's something they can learn.

Q. What are strategies that job seekers can use to become the most likable candidate and potentially the most hirable?

A. Job seekers are often advised against letting your personality show in the process of searching for a job or during an interview. But for all you know, the person sitting across the table from you may share your passion for soccer, or whatever it is. That kind of thing doesn't always come up during an interview, so you may miss a chance of connecting on a more personal level. Try to share more of who you are and what you're passionate about, even if it doesn't necessarily feel completely relevant to the job you're going for.

Q. But doesn't that go against advice many experts give about leaving out hobbies or pastimes on your resume or cover letter -- for fear of turning off recruiters?

A. In general, it's much better to include personal passions in a written document or a resume. But the way to avoid turning people off is to keep it general. For example, if you're a huge Washington Redskins fan: So you love football -- and leave it at that. Then if somebody's a Dallas Cowboys fan, you won't turn them off. Politics, religion and sports tend to polarize people. But you can share a passion without having to say, "I hate everybody who doesn't share my views."

Q. How do you make sure you're the person an employer likes more?

A. Preparation is key. You want to know as much as you can about the company you're interviewing with, and develop a point of view. That's better than just walking in and saying to yourself, "Well they're going to ask questions, and I'm going to answer them and that's it."

Q. As the title of the book suggests, there is an economic benefit to being likable, yes?

A. Exactly. There is a hard-dollar benefit attached to being more likable.

Q. And the benefits of likability extend to workers themselves, right?

A. That plays out in business all the time. For anyone who's looking for a job or looking to change jobs, it's important to understand that at some point during the job search you're going to look the same on paper as someone else. That's a fact. So the only way to distinguish yourself is with something that's not on paper -- your personality and yourself. It's the same reason given by so many when asked: "Why did you hire this person instead of that person." They point to something called culture-fit -- or basically they hired the person they liked more.

Q. What's the difference between emotional intelligence and likeonomics?

A. Emotional intelligence focuses on learning the skills to read other people's emotions so you can understand them better. Likeonomics is really making the argument that your personality and behavior has a huge impact in how much trust you are able to earn -- and why people will choose to do more to help you once you build that trust -- and the trust comes from being more "likable."

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