In a crowded job market, everyone wants advice on how to be the best candidate. Strategies are offered, like going back to school, creating a unique resume, or networking with potential employers. But often times, the best way to land a great job is to simply be remembered. With hundreds of applicants, being the one name that sticks in an interviewers head can mean the difference between a job offer and a generic rejection email. The key, as it turns out, lies in simply harnessing your individuality and talent and presenting it in a comfortable, honest way.
Don’t Pander, Be Genuine
When applying for jobs, candidates have a tendency to look at the more analytical side of the process. Applying to a number of jobs in the right industry, acquiring education in burgeoning arenas, “playing the game” if you will. What’s lost in this conception of the job search process is the fact that, ultimately, your application is reviewed by a human, your interview is conducted by a human, and your job involves interacting with humans.
Countless books, speakers, and job-hunting websites will offer tips for interviewing etiquette. What’s forgotten is that these extra touches, handwritten follow-up notes, ready answers for common interview questions, and the like, are working to teach you how to be an approachable, friendly person, even when you’re nervous. A survey by Career Builder conducted in August of this year revealed that many of the techniques that did not land with interviewers were either silly, brown-nosing, or just plain strange.
What this means is that being the most “human” human being in your applicant pool will go a long way. Work on being genuine, exercising dignity and respect. Avoid trying to kiss up and show that you are confident and have a stake in the process. Think of your interviewer as a future co-worker. If you wouldn’t compliment the earrings or tie of a colleague, then don’t do the same to the individual vetting your qualifications and personality.
Be the “Right” Choice
You’ve applied for a job. You’ve checked the requirements, padded your resume with all the qualifications, honors, work experience, and personality you need to fit the bill. You walk into the interview, dressed well, confident, with rehearsed answers and some brilliant off-the-cuff responses that, by your reckoning, leave the interviewers star struck. You head for home, feeling excited, maybe even planning what to put on your new business cards.
And then the rejection email shows up.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. The seemingly mysterious decision-making processes of interviewers can leave even the most confident feeling a little befuddled. But this consternation arises from a misunderstanding of the intent of interviews. The fact is, vacancies don’t need the best candidate, they need the right candidate.
This is why you’ll frequently hear advice about tailoring your cover letter and your resume to the position in question. What matters isn’t having the most degrees, it’s having the right experience, education, and personality for the job and its workplace culture. Highlight your specific strengths and how you fit the bill, but also have an idea of what you would do to immediately influence the position. Bring a “project”, so to speak, and show that you not only have what it takes, but know what it entails, and have the motivation to make something special happen.
But even if you’re honest, have what it takes, and demonstrate that thoroughly, job searching is, once again, a human endeavor. The problem is, even your best efforts have to stay in the minds of your interviewers in order to make it to the decision-making table. Simply put, there is, perhaps, no tool on Earth more malleable, more impressionable, and more challenging, than human memory.
Fortunately, just like the other aspects of the process, it’s possible to put yourself in the best position to succeed. The key lies in a rather intuitive discovery by a German scientist named Hedwig von Restorff. In the 1930?s the psychologist discovered that (believe it or not) things that stood out were easier to remember. But what does “standing out” really mean?
Perhaps the most succinct way of putting it is “be yourself”. What makes people memorable is their unique, positive characteristics. Taste in music, humor, even an interesting fact, provided it’s relevant and not bizarre or awkward, will leave a lasting impression in an interviewers mind that, for better or worse, will have great bearing on the conversation when a decision is made. Again, be genuine. Simply focus on being comfortable and let your personality shine through.
When landing a great job, it pays to be remembered. The best candidates aren’t always remembered for their abilities, it’s what they do with those abilities that makes them stick. Be a genuine human being with your interviewers and avoid bootlicking. Focus on highlighting how you fit a position and bring some ideas to the table. Finally, be yourself and let your personality do the talking. Just remember, being memorable doesn’t mean being outrageous, it means finding that sweet spot between skill, sincerity, and sparkle.