I couldn’t resist answering this reader question. HR professionals are constantly described as “people persons.”
I’ve been thinking about your post on interview questions. If I tell you “I’m a people person and normally I get along with everyone.” How do you know I’m lying?
Nobody in the workplace is perfect. If you hate some or all of your co-workers, then you will never progress. But a “people person” will because he/she can get along different people and knows how to deal with difficult situation. By talking through the situation, you can turn others around with your delicate powers of persuasion. Only a “people person” can do this.
Being a “people person” is a quality that you are born with, it cannot be learned. It’s who you are. Unfortunately in today’s modern and high tech world, people can fake it.
I recently said this to a recruiter – that I’m a “people person” and know how to handle difficult situations. They looked at me with the same kind of thought you described. So, what does recruiter look for? Individuals who are truly a “people person”? Or someone who can wear different masks at work?
First, let me say that I do believe that “people persons” exist. But I define the term people person as someone who is gregarious, outgoing and enjoys being around people. I do not define a “people person” as someone who has excellent communication skills and is able to handle difficult situations.
In my career, I’ve met individuals who loved being around people. And would regularly tick them off. I’ve also worked with people who were off-the-chart introverts that had fabulous verbal communication skills.
Enjoying the company of other people doesn’t make a person immune to dealing with jerks. And while there have been times when you are able to turn around the less-than-desirable behavior of others, there are plenty of times when you aren’t.
To this reader, if you’ve been able to change every person’s behavior you’ve tried to change…I say, bravo to you. Let me toss out a word of caution. There will come a time when you can’t. It won’t be for you not having the skills. And it won’t be because you didn’t try. But sometimes people don’t change. Simple as that.
Recruiters want to know how you’ve handled situations in the past because there’s a chance it could happen again. Telling a recruiter that you get along with everyone because you’re a people person is another way of saying “I don’t want to tell you what happens when I don’t get along with people.” It’s completely unrealistic to think a person has lived their entire life getting along with everyone.
At some point in our careers, we will work with someone that we just don’t like. And we don’t want to spend time trying to build a relationship. But we do need to work with them.1