When you're interviewing for your dream job, one of the worst things you can be is forgettable. You know you want to set yourself apart from the competition, but how can you do that? And more importantly, how do you make sure you’re remembered in the right way so you get the offer letter?
Here are some ways to make hiring managers and recruiters remember you in the best way possible.
How to Be Remembered for the Right Reasons
Be genuine. Hiring decisionmakers across the board agreed that this is one of the best ways a candidate can stick out in a good way during an interview. Leah Tillyer of Venn Digital gives this advice, “Be genuine. If you’re nervous, tell them…It’s fine to admit nerves; it stops the interviewers trying to 'read' you and usually acts as a bit of an icebreaker.” Instead of trying to be something you’re not, you can be more relaxed by admitting your nerves. Tillyer goes on to advise that, “If you’re excited, tell them! Everyone wants to hear if you’re excited to interview at their company.” Make sure it’s genuine, though. No one likes a brown-noser, and they can be spotted a mile away.
Think outside the resume. Nick Gray, founder and Chairman of Museum Hack, recalls the first time someone sent a custom Youtube video with their application. “I was impressed. It made the connection and the applicant so much more human. It happens more often now, and we might even ask for it as a requirement for some of our corporate roles.”
However, he goes on to explain that there are limits to keep in mind should you want to try this tactic. “It can actually work against someone if the video is too long and boring. It shows a lack of self-awareness. 20 to 30 seconds is enough to express yourself and your energy.“ Like with resumes and cover letters, you want to cover the most important stats and facts about yourself, but keep it short enough to keep their attention.
Present your best work (literally). One powerful way to stand out in an interview is by giving a brief presentation on who you are, what you've done and why you're the right fit for the job — although keep in mind, you'll want to run it by the hiring team to make sure it's okay first! Much like the YouTube video, you shouldn't make your presentation too long. Five to 10 minutes maximum should suffice. Matt Campana, HR Manager with Revolution, describes an applicant who did just this. “He acknowledged that he understood we would have a structure that we would want to proceed with, but before we got to it, he asked permission to give his presentation.” It wasn’t your standard PowerPoint, either. “His presentation was well thought-out, providing insight into who he was as a person, as well as pre-answering any questions one would have in a formal interview.” Your presentation will be better if you can include stats, data and maybe even some humor, depending on the company’s vibe.
Share real-life examples. Companies love hearing how you react when challenges or crises arise. Susan Hosage with OneSource HR Solutions recalls a young woman who shared such a story. The woman was a part-time cashier at a grocery store back in the era of film photography — one day, the store’s photo developing machine malfunctioned, and a grandmother’s pictures of her grandson’s birthday had been ruined. The young woman asked the grandmother to come back to the store the following Saturday. When they arrived, the cashier had set up a birthday cake from the bakery, dozens of balloons from the party area and grabbed a disposable camera to “recreate” some of the photos lost. After hearing the story, Hosage responded with “‘Wow. That's quite a lot to go through. You're pretty empowered for a part-time employee.’ The applicant very calmly, but emphatically, replied, ‘It was our job to delight the customer.’” Unsurprisingly, Hosage hired her. You’ve probably put out fires at some of your jobs — remember those times, write down the details and don’t be afraid to share them in your interview.
How to Be Remembered for the Wrong Reasons
While there are ways to stand out positively, it seems there are even more ways to be remembered negatively. Here are some of the common, and not-so-common, complaints hiring managers had about job candidates during their interviews — avoid them at all costs.
What? It’s my lunch break! Hosage tells of a woman who came to interview during her lunch break. In the middle of the interview, the candidate pulled out a sandwich and proceeded to eat it. If you choose to interview during your lunch hour, keep your food for after the interview.
Watch out for wardrobe malfunctions. Campana describes one candidate who was polite and seemed like a good guy overall, but there was a wardrobe problem: the middle three buttons of his shirt were undone. Unfortunately, he had no undershirt on, so his belly was exposed. “I did not want to embarrass the candidate so, regretfully, I let it go unsaid. I was unable to concentrate the rest of the interview... I just could not focus on what was being said.“
Andrew Quagliata, a Cornell University management communication lecturer, shares a time when a woman entered the room in heels, a portfolio in one hand and a pair of sneakers in the other. “During the interview, she removed her dress shoes and put her sneakers on. She indicated that her heels hurt her feet.” While this wasn't the reason she failed to move forward in the interview process, it was a bit weird and made her stand out for the wrong reason. There’s a simple solution if certain shoes hurt your feet: don’t wear them to begin with!
Know your audience. Some companies embrace colorful language, but others prefer a more conservative approach. Know which category the company you’re applying for falls in, and if you’re not sure, better to be safe than sorry. Steven Alessandrini, currently at Unilever, shares a story when he was hiring for a PR Manager at another company.
The candidate had all the desired qualifications and the interview started off well. That is, until they dropped not just one, but many F-bombs during the interview. Alessandrini explains, “I don’t have a problem with cursing per se…. (I) do it myself on occasion. My concern was with the candidate’s judgment. If they didn’t understand that a formal job interview wasn’t the appropriate place to curse, did they have the necessary decision-making skills for the job?” Particularly for such a public position as a PR Manager, his concern was understandable.
Only acknowledging the “boss”. Many companies use a panel-style interview where more than one person asks questions. Tillyer says that it’s a common problem that candidates will only pay attention to one person in the room: the person they perceive is the decision maker. “Make sure you engage with everyone — their influence on the final decision could mean the difference between securing the position, or not,” Tillyer advises. It’s easy to focus on one person, but make sure to make eye contact with everyone and divide your attention as needed.
Put the phone away. Far, far away. Though you may use your phone to apply for a job, as 20 percent of people do, don’t let it become a distraction in your interview. Hosage even advises keeping your phone in your car, saying “There's nothing worse than a distracting ring, vibration or worse yet, an applicant who gazes at every incoming text or call.” At the very least, keep it out of sight and on mute (not even vibrate).
Whether you’re an interviewing superstar or still a rookie, take note of these tips to hone your interviewing skills. At the end of the day, it all comes down to being respectful, genuine and aware.