Out of Sight…Out of Mind

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5 Ways To Stand Out In Your Job Interviews

by Jessica Crossley

Job Interview

“Don’t Be Like The Rest Of Them, Darling.” – Eudora Welty

Time and time again throughout my job search, I’ve been faced with the cold, hard truth that the job seeker’s world is a cutthroat one. I’m sure that many of you, much like me, have applied for positions that you are easily qualified for, only to never hear back (or, at best, receive an email that basically says “thanks, but no thanks.”). It’s so darn frustrating!

Lucky for me, I’ve been able to eliminate a lot of that frustration by adopting the Find Hidden Jobs method. As I’ve mentioned before, I get to skip that painful part of the process by strategically developing relationships with decision makers and well-networked professionals in my industry. I was surprised to find that with very little effort, you can win them over with passion, confidence, and an eagerness to learn and grow, and these people have a tendency to steer you into a seat directly across from a hiring manager.

That said, I quickly realized after my first set of interviews (chronicled on the What’s For Work? forum and my personal blog on the site) that standing out isn’t just a suggestion – it’s a necessity. Think about it: these people are interviewing candidates right and left. And to them, we probably all seem a lot alike. We’re all taught to upsell ourselves, and we’ve all somehow been trained to think and feel as if we should only speak when spoken to in an interview. You know what’s funny about that? We’re all doing it the same… and we’re all doing it wrong.

So, how do you successfully stand out as a superior candidate when everyone else is trying to accomplish the very same thing?

Do your homework. Use your [Interview Worksheet on What’s For Work?] to research the decision maker, the company, the competitors, the industry, and the position. Be sure to pay special attention to the strategy section of the Interview Worksheet, which offers extremely helpful tips for how to relate to the hiring manager and build a relationship with them.

Don’t be afraid to play the part. One strategy that I’ve found really pleases the hiring manager is that which involves showing the hiring manager that you aren’t afraid to do the job. The best way to do this is to ask what the challenges of the position have been or might be. Asking a question like this usually gets the hiring manager talking about problems that need solving, and creates the opportunity for you to dive in and start brainstorming potential solutions during your interview. This is an excellent way to prove yourself as a worthy candidate because it showcases your ability to solve the problem, your confidence, and an investment in the company’s success.

Ask unique questions. To successfully demonstrate your interest in a company, you should ask questions that other candidates probably don’t think to ask. The better your questions, the more clear it will be to the hiring manager that you a) care not only about the position, but about the fit and b) think on a critical level. Some good questions to ask:

Questions that address the company’s culture

  • “How would you describe the culture here in 3 words?”
  • “What do you think is the company’s best practice for maintaining employee satisfaction and good performance?”

Questions that address the position

  • “What are the challenges of the position?”
  • “What were the major strengths and weaknesses of the last person who held this job?”
  • “How would you describe your ideal candidate?”
  • “Do you think I am a good fit for the position?”

Questions that address the company’s goals

  • “What are your goals for the company?”
  • “Where do you see this specific project in one year?”
  • “Which problems need to be addressed most immediately?”

Cultivate your relationship. I have found through my own interview process that it really pays to build not just a professional rapport with the hiring manager, but also a friendly one. I mean, the goal is to get them to like you, isn’t it? What I’ve learned from people throughout my college career as a psychology major is that treating someone like a friend is a pretty sure-fire way to get them to like you. Now, don’t lose perspective here: this is still a professional relationship. I’m not suggesting that you ask the hiring manager to lunch or ice cream. I’m simply saying that having the confidence to engage them in a friendly manner will not only make them like you more, but also make it more likely that you will be seen as a peer rather than a subordinate. Send them a tweet with a link to an article of mutual interest, or crack an appropriate joke during an email exchange. You might be surprised at how quickly your rapport grows!

Take initiative. Often times, prospective employers will put your skills to the test by asking that you complete a task. I, for example, was asked to edit a guest blogger’s entry for a company’s website after kicking butt in my second interview with them. I waited out the rest of the day to give the hiring manager time to email me the document. When I still had not received it by the following morning, I immediately sent him a message requesting the materials. He complimented me on “always being one step ahead” (sweet!), and we went on exchange a couple of friendly emails about the piece. The opportunity may not always present itself the way that it did with me, but you should keep an eye out for other types of opportunity to show initiative: offering to meet in person rather than speaking over the phone; promptly sending a thank-you email to your interviewer; bringing up ideas for a project or company in your second interview; etc.

I exercised all of these tactics throughout my interview process with the company I hope to work for, and honestly, I think it really worked! I’m not sure how fierce my competition is, but I’m really confident that I’m a frontrunning candidate for the position! I feel like following the steps in the Interview Worksheet and using the strategies I’ve listed above made an incredible difference in how I portrayed myself to the hiring manager and in how I felt about myself as a candidate. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

About the Author

Jessica Crossley

Jessica is a passionate word nerd and graduate of the University of Oregon. She is excited to embark on a career in marketing and copywriting, and is overwhelmingly eager to begin working as a part-time Copywriter for Ruby Porter Marketing + Design. In her free time, Jessica enjoys blogging and watching HGTV, though the recent mishap of a small oven fire indicates that perhaps her time would be better spent improving her culinary skills. For more from Jessica, follow her on Twitter: @itsjcross14

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