I was listening to an executive the other day talk about what he needed in an employee. Of course, there were the job skills and competencies, formal education was one, and then that magical phrase came, “Oh, and the candidates better be a ‘people person’!”
A People Person.
What the living hell does that even mean?
A People Person: A person who enjoys and is particularly good at interacting with others.
Oh, so like a normal person who isn’t an asshole?
The skill of being “A People Person” might be the most over-valued skill of all time. And not because it’s not important, not one wants you to hire an asshole, but because have you ever met someone who when asked said, “You know, I’m just not A People Person!” No! You haven’t! Everyone, from the beginning of time, says they are A People Person!
The reality is, we ask for it because we know the truth, most people don’t enjoy interacting with others. We put up with idiots we run into every day, some of us are better at than others, no profession really does better than another.
In HR, we like to say, “We the People Person People”, but I find it’s actually the opposite. Most HR pros I run into might have the worst People Person skills, but they are paid to do a job, so put on the act fairly well. Once in a while, you find that true kind soul who seems, almost naively, to get along with everyone. “Oh that Mark, he’s a stinker, but you know he once opened a door for me, he’s good people!” Those people might be only real people persons in the world.
I’ve been labeled A People Person in my career. The reality is I’m an inch deep and a mile wide in terms of my interest, so I just have a skill of finding those few things I have in common with people I meet, so conversation comes easy for me when I meet new people. But, I dislike people at the same rate as others. I would consider myself as much of an asshole as most people, I might just hide it better at the right times.
Maybe that’s the true real skill of A People Person. Not being an asshole at the wrong time. Or at least limiting those times you’re an asshole.
Here’s the thing: The next time you hear someone say or ask for A People Person, just smile and chuckle a bit on the inside, because what they are really saying is “I just want someone who isn’t that much of an asshole” but saying “A People Person” sounds so much more professional!