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.