Career Advice, Interviews

How To Wow In An Interview

If you really want to wow your future bosses, maybe you should bake them a cupcake or create a mobile phone app for their new product.

Or you could create an ad, a PowerPoint or a Slide Share presentation highlighting your best talents or achievements. Maybe you’ll write a case study from your work experience showing how you think quickly, solve problems and encourage customer loyalty. If you write it well enough, it also will highlight your writing abilities, which are increasingly rare, said Lynn Hazan, an executive recruiter in the Chicago area who fills communications and marketing jobs.

“The wow project…makes the difference. You stand out from the competition,” said Hazan, who’s been a recruiter for more than two decades.

She uses them herself when she’s meeting with potential clients to show she’s the ideal recruiter to hire. At the right moment in an interview, a job candidate might say “I’m so interested in working for you, I put together a presentation.” Then they show it to the hiring manager, and the person will start to smile as they look it over, Hazan said. You’ve just taken charge of the interview or conversation – and made a big impression.

If you’re eager to cook up your own ‘wow’ project, follow these suggestions from Hazan:

Know your audience. What wows the advertising director at a fast-growing mobile technology company will be far different than what impresses the ad honcho at a high end resort. The hiring manager’s background, current problems and the company culture must be understood and considered before you start a wow project.

Show the right talents. Your wow should show talents desired in the job you are seeking. So an administrative assistant may want to show their organizational savvy with budgets they kept or tracking methods they used to keep their department running more productively or efficiently. A pastry chef could bring along a couple of cupcakes – but the rest of us cannot use sweets as a bribe for the hiring manager, Hazan said.

Quality and professionalism matter. The project needs to reflect your abilities and style. So think about your tone and make sure the material’s clean, clear and professional. Some hiring managers will love your quirky humor, especially if they’re in the greeting cards or toy business, Hazan said. Others may not find it funny. Avoid including anything that is proprietary.  Once you’ve developed your wow piece, show it to a trusted friend or career coach – or the recruiter if she’s been friendly and helpful. That second set of eyes will see typos and watch for a tone that’s too boastful or too bashful.

Bring on the enthusiasm. The wow projects show initiative and make you memorable. You also want it to surprise and delight the hiring manager. “You have to touch them emotionally so they’re going to get excited,” said Hazan.

Sometimes the wow project seems “overreaching and a little arrogant,” Hazan said. That happened to an advertising agency candidate who created a prototype of an Advertising Age story featuring Mad Men like visuals and the headline asking: How come you haven’t hired me yet?  That over the top approach could hurt instead of help, she said

During the interview, timing is crucial. You need be far enough along that you’ve started to develop a rapport and some trust. You also want to make sure that your research on the hiring manager and employer were accurate and your wow project will is on target. If it’s not, she said, you just keep it stashed away in your briefcase. “If it’s not appropriate or on target, you do not present,” she said. Take it back and retool it, and then perhaps send it along with the thank you note.