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What is the "It Factor"?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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In the past the “it factor” might have been defined as someone with je ne sais quoi, or the indefinable something that makes someone special. It was also called the X Factor in some cases, and still may be referred to as such. Most often, it is applied to celebrities or semi-celebrities that seem to radiate charisma and charm.

The “it factor” can apply not only to celebrities but also to politicians, to people seeking work, or to religious leaders. Mother Theresa eschewed the fashionable world and lived a life of privation to serve others. Her appeal had everything to do with the spiritual way in which she lived her life. People would wait for days for audience with her.

When people interview for jobs, a certain confidence can be the “it factor” prospective employers are looking for. Somehow, an interviewee must stand out from the crowd. There are numerous books written on how to apply for, interview for, and land a job.

Most of these books focus on appearing strong but flexible, and moreover establishing a personality that will be remembered in a positive way. Many of the recommendations have to do with making the interviewer feel at ease and comfortable. Basic things like nodding one’s head and smiling can establish an attraction other job candidates do not possess.

Unfortunately the “it factor” can get in the way of judging people on who they really are. There is an old saying that one can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. However, frequently the “it factor” in its most superficial forms is all about transforming the sow’s ear into the silk purse. It is about looks alone, and not about one’s view and contributions to the world. While it may be amusing to watch the parade of folks that have it, society also takes intense pleasure in seeing such idols torn down, as evidenced by the massive interest in the decline and fall of celebrities.

Thus the “it factor” is both elusive and transient. Those who have it today, may lack it tomorrow. It is usually not an adequate measure of the human, and there is no definable yardstick by which to rule such a factor.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PublicPeople contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By ByAngelo — On Jan 20, 2010

I have always consider the "It Factor" as pure confidence and a state of mind. I never fashion myself as that guy that women fall head over heels for but as I have notice with myself as well as others "It's" my confidence that has always defined me. Hope this helps anon16785

By anon46393 — On Sep 25, 2009

Wow, Happy Trails, I'm doing a seminar on Leadership Excellence. I'm using the It Factor as the norm like everyone but you have just shed a different light and the seminar is Saturday! Good job but poor me.

By KnowerOfStuf — On Jun 05, 2009

Interesting post, I thought that I might add a word or two that may help define "it". Not everyone has the infamous "it" factor, "it" is different for everyone that has "it". Although it can best be described as presence.

There are commonalities that tend to run along the sexes, for women there tends to be a come hither quality without acting/dressing to evoke such a response. For men it is less definable. I have been told that I have the "it" factor and to the best of my reckoning it is more of a smoothness or suaveness(for me at least). I tend to not be an eloquent speaker, but when I genuinely compliment someone or pay extra or particular attention "it" comes out. I have been told by a good personal friend that whenever I do it to her she cannot often remember what I have said but instead remembers the feeling that my words provoke, and no she is not interested in me in any other way than being just a friend.

For me, the more genuine I am the bigger the "it" factor. However, both sexes do have people that have "it" and the best way of defining "it" I would have to come back to the idea of presence. People that really have the quality of "it", it is usually "on" all the time but it can be ratcheted up or cooled off,(at least by my understanding) it can be manipulated. I cannot do this because I can't manipulate anybody and tend to be somewhat oblivious but for people that can "it" can be a powerful tool for manipulation. Anyway I hope that that helped.

Happy Trails

By anon16785 — On Aug 15, 2008

so is the it factor confidence? or good looks?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PublicPeople contributor, Tricia...
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