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 On this page: GL Hoffman provides 10 keys to increasing your likeability to increase your success in job search, work, and life.
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  Back to «  Home   «    Job Search Expert-at-Large Home
Keys to Likeability - Biggest Success Factor in Job Search, Work, and Life

To a large measure, your likeability will lead to success or failure. It often trumps skill levels in surveys of HR people who are asked to name the most important characteristic of job candidates and employees.

More from GL Hoffman:
Develop Likeability to Increase Your Success
Give This to Your Spouse When You Lose Your Job
How to Stay Up When You Have Every Right to Be Down
GL Hoffman, Expert-at-Large:
GL Hoffman, Expert-at-Large
Additional Resources:
100 StartUp Tips to Get Your Business Going - free 107-page ebook by GL

10 Characteristics of Likeable People

What can you do to increase your own likeability? Is it really possible to change? Or, do you believe your likeability has been set by some cosmic forces, and that if people don't like you as you are, so what? BTW, being rich or good looking is not on the list.

Here are ten characteristics of likeable people, I call it the reliable would-you-fly-across-the-country-with-them test.

Number 1: No Left Turns.

Years ago, someone wrote about his 90-year-old parents' Secret to a Long Life. He thought they would reveal the "secret" as eating right, exercise and wine with dinner. But their answer? No left turns.

When he asked "why left turns?" his parents said they read that more elderly people die from car accidents than heart attacks. Old people often turn in front of oncoming traffic and with deteriorating depth perception, accidents happen.

So, they resolved to never make left turns again. They made three right turns to get them going the right way. Some days, they would lose count and have to make seven right turns. If they lost track again, they just went home, they said. After all, they reasoned, there wasn't that big of a rush to get there anyway.

Such a simple solution to a big problem: No Left Turns. Same thing with how to make yourself more likeable.

There is one simple thing, that every likeable person has - a positive attitude.

But we all have positive attitudes; especially during good times. Being postive is much more difficult in tough times.

Here are some tips for becoming more positive:

First, develop the skill of self serving illusions. When suffering from negativity, think about something good that has happened to you recently in a similar situation. Chances are, you were able to solve it. Get good at drawing on these success stories in your mind. The more you do it, the better you will get at it.

Next, realize you can control your thoughts. Most of the negative people you encounter choose to be that way. I have never seen a birth announcement that says Mary and Bill Jones had a beautiful but negative baby daughter last night at 10:52 pm. We learn negativity, and it can be unlearned. Like my friend Roger Larson used to say, "the more you stir it, the more it stinks."

Lastly, positive people know that most setbacks can be attributed to external causes which can be challenged, fixed, or changed, not them. Negative people tend to think these are self afflicted, deserved, and permanent wounds.

I understand that becoming positive is a life changing process for people...and it is not quite as easy as this. There are books and books about this subject.

But again,....no left turns. Some times the solutions are easier than you think.

Set a goal for yourself. A simple goal---try to be positive for 30 days. Think about it and act upon it. Nothing can be more worthwhile. Can you imagine how powerful this one little change might make in YOUR life?

Number 2: Be Engaged, Passionate.

Every strength taken to excess is a weakness. Which is basically why some philosophers and parents counsel moderation, don't get too high or too low. Don't expect too much, don't go overboard.

But we do like people who are engaged in life, who have that sparkle in their eyes when they talk about what they do. The more passionate you are, the better. Just don't go all Jim Jones on us.

It is easy to find passion. You can have passion about your kids, your hobbies, your convictions. The more engaged you are, the more interesting you are, and the more we want to be around you.

If you are one of those who keep looking for that one job where you can have passion, you might be wasting your time. Every job deserves your passion. I believe that every job has something about it that should make you proud of it or the company if you give it a chance. Sometimes it takes a willingness to commit to showing passion before you feel it.

Once at a family gathering, I asked a younger relative about his job. Talk about showing passion. He said, "Can I tell you why I have the most exciting job in the world?" What a great line!! And he believed it, too. He worked in a feedlot, by the way. And literally shoveled manure all day. He loved what he did, and more to the point, he was unconcerned with my preconceived ideas about HIS job.

If you are like me, you want to be around people like that, instead of the people who are always searching for that one, stimulating job around the corner. You give passion, you don't take it.

Sure, you can go overboard with the passion stuff. But I will still like you.

Number 3: Be of Good Humor.

This is so easy to do, but we often get all wrapped around the axle of 'professionalism.' We lose sight of the fact that we all love to laugh. Those people who make us laugh are the ones we want to hang with.

I have written before about the power of smiling. I am amazed at how serious people can be inside a business. For Cripes' sake, smile a little.

Someone recently told me that his work environment was different, it was ˜old school," very professional and extremely serious. So serious that people didn't greet each other in the hallway, even. I told him that chances were good that the people wanted it to be more interesting and fun. And that he should lead the way. Changing the culture takes one person at the lowest level to get it all started. Company CEO's don't change the culture even though they take credit for it; people do.

Here are a few Baby Boomer tips to practice improving your humor. Watch: The Office, $%#* My Dad Says, and Jon Stewart. And then talk about them the very next day with someone at work.

Generally speaking, most of us already have good humor. We laugh with our friends. Use humor more, even look for ways to use it more. Tell a joke, however badly then laugh at yourself, if it is THAT bad.

The world is serious enough without all of us contributing even more. I choose to like people who are of good humor.

Number 4: Assume Goodwill

First, an assume-goodwill story. Years ago, I managed distribution centers for my company. There were twelve of these centers spread across the US, and my job, circa 1980, was to make sure they served our distributors with timely and positive service. Service had gotten so bad that it was all the distributors/dealers would talk or yell about - not how much more they could sell, but how terrible our service was and, for those of you familiar with third party sales channels when your distributors are upset, angry, even pissed, it gets ugly fast.

So, I got the job of fixing them. I had zero warehouse, inventory, or operational-type experience. Zilch. I was told the DC managers were so bad, so non-customer service oriented, that I should just start over. I had free rein to do so.

Instead, I called a meeting for all the DC managers at the home office. Most had never been to the home office before. They arrived thinking that the new guy (me) was about to fire them all. They were scared, defensive, and angry.

Even though they were uniformly described as malecontents and sloppy representatives of the company that chances were pretty good,I thought, that they had simply been ignored. In short, I believed they wanted to do better but someone had to show them how.

Once they understood that I was not going to fire them, that I assumed they wanted to fix this common, not-just-them problem, we all buckled down and fixed it within a few months.

My takeaway lesson was we should always assume goodwill in other people, instead of jumping on some out-of-control, negative, 'ain't-they-awful' bandwagon.

This works in almost all situations. If you are thinking negative thoughts about someone's actions, let your first thought instead be to assume goodwill on their part.

Number 5: We All Like Compliments.

This is a dicey one, because it is very easy to overdo handing out compliments. I'm just saying that people who feel comfortable complimenting others and, who give them sincerely, are more likeable. Honestly, I have noticed that paying even untrue compliments has a positive impact.

Many people are starved for compliments and many spend entire lives without hearing something positive or complimentary. Please look for a way to compliment a co-worker or a customer. It is really quite easy.

Obviously, you must do this carefully. Just because you call a pig a horse, doesn't make him one. But there are plenty of ways to make a compliment on something he just said or to compliment on a recent completed project without saying how you would have improved it or even on his thinking process.

I believe people like being valued and a well placed compliment shows them that you value them. Other compliment-rich areas include: anything about their kids, their thoughtfulness, their thinking process, their departments, teams, company, their skills, even their voice. Best compliment I have heard recently: "Gosh, you are so insightful."

Number 6: Control Your Insecurities.

I know someone who is constantly saying things like, "Well, it's not what you are used to," or "I know you would never buy this, but it is ok for me."

Maybe he means well, and perhaps is trying to show a bit of humility, but to me, it comes across as being incredibly insecure.

Admittedly, we all have a bit of insecurity, it is only normal and natural. But communicating your own insecurity often is a turn off to a lot of people. Therefore, to make yourself more likeable just watch how you communicate your insecurities.

We all do this, I understand. And, thankfully, we have people who are close to us who understand these moody comments and can help assuage our insecurities. But co-workers might be different.

Number 7: The Trick to Listening.

Since grade school, we have been taught, or told, to listen better. Trouble is, this is where most advice ends. So, when we hear that listening skills are important in all relationships, we don't really do much differently. We do not know how to listen better.

Good listening is more than that.

Here are some more tips to better listening. Listen, acknowledge and add something of value. One can't simply listen with a vacant look in your eyes. You have to acknowledge what is being said. This is more than "uh-huh, uh-huh."

Say something that lets the person know you were actually listening and thinking. Too hard, you say? Sure it is, because you will be more concerned about your part of the conversation, WHAT WILL I SAY NOW?, than actually listening. The more confident you get and the better you listen, you will find that you are worrying less about what you will say, and you will listen harder to what they are saying.

After you acknowledge them, and give a thoughtful response, you will become instantly more likeable.

We have known people who apparently listen but have that "what-I-am-doing-here" vacant look in their eyes. By training yourself to listen, and acknowledge, and then add value you will be a better listener than 90% of all adults.

Bonus: by listening better, even if you don't get to say too much in a one-sided conversation, people will think you are quite smart for taking such an active interest in what they are saying.

Number 8: Flexibility.

This has nothing to do with doing the splits or some yoga move. Peace out.

People who are willing to do new things, consider others' viewpoints, or learn some new skill are generally more interesting and likeable.

There are some people who won't try a new restaurant or a new food or a new type of entertainment. We are all different, sure. I don't like opera music, and especially on the radio. But if someone invited me to attend a local opera, I would go. Ok, truth: I might not. We all have likes and dislikes.

But the more you are willing to accept change and are viewed as flexible and adaptable, you will be obviously more likeable.

Number 9: Manners. Grooming. Language.

Some think that having good manners is outdated. Far from it.

People with good manners are more likeable.

Just remember what you learned in kindergarten, or what Mom told you.

Say please and thank you, write prompt thank you's, stand up when a woman enters the room, take your baseball cap off indoors, use the right utensil, say excuse me, open doors and let others go first. Better yet, buy a manners book and work hard on improving yours.

I have noticed that some people have poor grooming skills. You would think this is an adult-type skill, but perhaps no one ever took the time to explain these facts.

Wear clean clothes, shower or bathe daily, don't overdo the cologne, brush your teeth. Seriously, how hard is this? If you choose not to do anyone of these things watch how people avoid you.

Personally, I like people who have good language skills. It's not that I dislike people who have trouble with subjects and verbs, I just notice is all.

But even more than using proper grammer, I find myself avoiding people who use toxic language, show their temper, complain or whine.

And, gossip. If you are a gossip, just be aware that people will eventually migrate away from you. If you talk about others, the reasoning goes, you will get around to gossipping about me and THAT I don't like.

Number 10: Humility is Endearing.

Genuine humility is very appealing to others. The issue is how do you attain it without being false or fake. All of us have known someone who fakes humility. This fake humility is transparent and communicates more insecurity than humility.

How can you make yourself more humble?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Stop comparing yourself to others, old classmates and/or co-workers. Who cares what they are doing, instead ask “ how are you doing on your own path?"
  • Then, acknowledge your own faults. Trust me, you are not perfect. There is always someone better, who has more skills than you.
  • Next, defer to others. Sometimes other people have better ideas than you.

Review your past, ask yourself how you got to where you think you are. Was it as a result of your own natural born charisma? Or perhaps "just luck?"

© Copyright, 2010, GL Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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About This Author:

G. L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, which operates LinkUp, one of the fastest-growing job-search engines.. His blog can be found at WhatWouldDadSay.com.  His latest book is StartUp, 100 Tips to Get Your Business Going, available in print at www.startup100tips.com or ebook at www.wiseandwiser.com.

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