Clients and Candidates: Should You Get Nice or Get Real?

Nice people are nice, but good people make for better employees. Yeah, there’s a difference!

Being good comes down to being authentic. Living honestly. Straight up, getting real.  Not always easy, we know.

Being nice? Well, that’s a way to get people to like you.

As author and thought leader Brooke Allen says, “Good and nice are not the same thing. The opposite of good is bad. The opposite of nice is unlikeable.”

That’s an insight from his recent article “How to hire good people instead of nice people.” It got us thinking about why authenticity matters on both sides of the hiring table. Clients and candidates, read on.

Why We Get Nice

In the typical job application process, employers scan resumes, looking for certain attractive qualities to jump out at them from the page – relevant skills, experience, and education. They choose candidates for phone calls, trim down the selection for interviews, and eventually hire one – “the one they like the best,” as Allen says.

Uh-uh. Bad strategy. These employers are on one-way track to getting nice hires, not good hires.  And those nice hires aren’t doing their new bosses any favours, either. Says Allen:

“Nice people will allow you to hire them even if they know they are not among your best candidates; a good person won’t let you hire them unless that is what is best for you.”

Nice people often do everything in their power to please, even if that means fudging their credentials or work experience history to appear perfect for the job.

Not exactly a healthy way to establish a relationship with a potential employer. But it happens all the time, because nice is what candidates think employers desire.

How to Get Real

Allen calls on employers to set an example for what they really want. Speaking from experience, Allen says:

“I want people with a good heart and a giving personality, so that is what I explicitly ask for. I won’t hire anyone before I can see their authentic self because I don’t want to guess who they plan on being afterwards. To expect authenticity, I must be authentic.”

Candidates clearly aren’t the only ones who benefit from being honest during the interview process.  Recruiters and employers also have to get real if they want to connect with the people who can actually have a stake in the company’s success.

When employers project honesty, they get honesty back. Leading by example – it’s not a cliché yet, friends.

When hiring, Allen forgoes standard resumes and cover letters, instead asking candidates for their thoughts and questions about the position. He spends his time evaluating how they think, not by checking off skills and achievements.

Then he invites “everyone who might possibly be appropriate [for the job]” to an open house at his office. They get a chance to meet the staff and learn more about the work.

Now he gathers the group and lays down the rules for how he hires. Honesty is at the crux of every point. Here are a few highlights:

  • “I give honesty and I require it in return. I’ll listen if you want to convince me that honesty is not the best policy, but so far nobody has.”
  • “I will not hire anyone until we both understand and care about each other.”
  • “If you don’t have a requisite skill right now, I won’t hold it against you as long as you get it up to speed before I hire you.”

With this approach, “the results are amazing.”

Candidates are open with Allen, which helps him make the best hiring decisions for his company’s needs. In return, Allen fosters meaningful relationships with his candidates, and often finds new opportunities for those he cannot hire.  The conversations make an impact, and form new connections.  Now that’s something to like.

Authenticity rules

When it comes to choosing the best candidate or being the best candidate, authenticity rules.

Want more ideas for bringing honesty to the hiring table? Check out these awesome articles:


For Candidates

“How to be your real self in an interview” by Penelope Trunk

“In Job Hunting, Honesty Is Still The Best Policy” by Anna Prior

“Honesty and the Job Interview” by Stephanie Clark


For Clients

“Do As I Do: How To Lead By Example” by All Business staff

“Is Authenticity in the Workplace Overrated?” by Joe Connelly

“What Makes A Great Leader?”  by Anita Bruzzese 





Allen, Brooke. “How to hire good people instead of nice people.” 28 May 2013.