Most people that I interview are nice people. Some of them are incredibly nice. More than likely, you are a nice person and your HR guy is an optimist: he thinks most people are pretty nice people. Granted that I’ve had an interview with a jerk or two and while it can be fun to make those guys sweat, it is pretty useless otherwise. But here is the problem with “being nice”:
Nice doesn’t get you the job.
How mean of your HR guy! Being nice isn’t a job skill though. It isn’t portable equity nor is it remarkable. Being nice in an interview is like wearing nice clothes and not smelling bad. It is expected of you and it is really a matter of respect and being polite (which isn’t the same as being nice by the way).
While I wish I could hire every nice person I interviewed, I can’t. And while I don’t particularly like the part of the job where I tell nice people that they aren’t going to be employed with us, it is necessary so I deal with it. Even if I say no, I probably still think you’re nice. So when a candidate (or hiring manager or the co-worker that referred him or her) uses this as a reason why I should hire them, I laugh a little to myself. While being nice is…well, nice…it isn’t a job skill and nobody will hire you for it.