You really want to stand out for this big job interview, but you’re not sure renting a pink elephant costume or wearing your neon blue suit speckled with gold stars works.
The vice president may not appreciate your homemade three cheese lasagna either, even though your research shows she’s a vegetarian.
Yet you know you need to do something to make a favorable impression – and get to the second interview or even better, receive an offer.
“What am I going to show that is going to make me memorable from everybody else they’re interviewing?” said Stephen Jennings, author of Graduate With A Job. “If you’re not memorable, you’re really going to get lost in the shuffle.”
Years ago, Jennings started teaching friends how to “go above and beyond what you find in most interview books” after such techniques worked for him again and again. Now he offers group talks and seminars to college students and graduates to share ways to land a first professional job.
Here are three suggestions from Jennings on how to standout in your next job interview:
- Interview a Customer. Hardly any job seekers will do this because it may require some effort. As you prepare for the interview, check the organization’s website and find some of their customers. Find one or two and call them up or arrange to go see them. Then ask them some questions about your would-be employer. If you’re lucky, you’ll get someone who will share quite a bit of information, which you can use strategically in the interview. They’ll be sure to ask you what you know about the company or why you want to work there. Then you share some of what you heard and learned from the customer. “Without a doubt that will make the person memorable… head and shoulders above everyone else,” Jennings said.
- Use Great Terms and Your Limbs. Think about how you are going to contribute to the employer’s success right away. Then use the term “contribute” as you link your previous experience to the current job’s needs. Other terms that can be grabbers: enthusiastic, energy, energized, success, and whatever are the essential traits and tools valued by your future employer. Also remember: “Have a smile on your face,” said Jennings, who noted that many candidates are too stressed or nervous to show their positive energy. “Then mimic the body language of the person interviewing you. If they’re leaning forward, you go ahead, too.”
- Bring on Your Success Portfolio. This records all the examples of your success and achievement, whether they’re in volunteer or community groups or in your graduate classes. Students may use sports and clubs to document their team-building and other traits, Jennings says. They could include notes from professors or a copy of their project for an important class. Adults may have awards they won from their employer or thank yous or appreciations from clients. “When you have this in your portfolio, you have credibility,” said Jennings. “You’re showing you can market yourself.”
And, a success portfolio also serves as your cliff notes – with bullet points to remind you of your examples and accomplishments.
If you really want to wow a potential employer, have two copies of your portfolio – and leave one behind when the interview is finished, Jennings said. That stands out amid all the one- and two-page resumes.
If you decide to create a website that serves as your success portfolio, it’s important not to put everything out there when you first apply for the job. You may want to have two or three levels available – including one that’s only visible during the interview on your laptop. Otherwise, if a hiring manager sees it all at the start: “It takes away that memorable moment,” said Jennings, as well as the opportunity to really stand out.
Your goal, of course, is to be memorable while impressing the hiring manager with your talents and ability to achieve results.
So no need to don a pink elephant costume – unless you’re interviewing to become a college mascot.