The older I get, the smaller the world gets. What used to be six degrees of separation now feels like three. Sometimes less. A few weeks ago, Bob and I ran into two couples on the beach (parents, daughter and son-in-law, we soon learned) and upon making introductions, I instantly I recognized the mom as a free-lance writer who had come to me 20 years ago seeking career placement help.
I remembered her name, her career history, even where and what she was writing at the time. This surprised her; it surprised me, too.
And it got me thinking: I’ve interviewed literally thousands of people over my long career. Most I forget over time. Some I forget the next day.
What was it about Bernadette that made her memorable?
What makes ANY candidate memorable?
I think it boils down to seven things. Keep them in mind the next time you interview:
Be Authentic – Recruiters and hiring managers hear a lot of the same answers in slightly varied ‘packaging’. So your honest, spontaneous answer, rather than the scripted answer you think we want to hear, will stand out and be remembered. Be bold and answer confidently. WHAT you say is often less important than HOW you say it.
Challenge Me – Despite what I tell my children, I’m not always right. You may know more about a subject than I, or you may simply have a different opinion. A little good-natured disagreement backed up by well-articulated facts will make you stand out as knowledgeable and self-assured. It gets old having people agree with you all day.
Tell A Good Story – “Show don’t tell” is how my kids’ second grade teacher, Nancy Usich, explained it. This advice extends beyond classroom writing into corporate interviewing, too. Don’t tell me you’re a good crisis manager, show me, with a colorful story. Extra credit if it’s funny.
Recover from Mistakes – You are going to be nervous and, most likely, you’re going to stumble at some point in the interview: you got stuck in security and you’re a few minutes late; you forgot the question mid-way through your answer; you answered the question poorly and I have to re-ask it … Whatever the case, apologize once (only once) and move on. Chances are I won’t remember your mistake but, if you can’t shake it off, it’s all I’ll remember. You are going to make mistakes as my employee. I need to know you are resilient and can recover from them. Show me.
Ask Me A Question (or two) – This fact is lost on most interviewees: YOU are interviewing ME, too. Turn the table and ask me a question that you genuinely want answered; something specific that shows your interest in, and knowledge of, the position. Some of my favorites include: How is success measured in this role? What do your clients (or competitors) say about your product? How do your employees evaluate you as a manager? Asking me a question also gives you the chance to show off your good listening skills. Those are really important, too.
Close For Something – I’m shocked at how many people invest time and money to prepare for and attend an interview, and then allow themselves to walk out the door with nothing. You must close for something: feedback, a recommendation – or the job! The close is your due. By asking me for something, you’re reminding me that you and your time are valuable, too. And, because so few people do it, I’ll remember you as the one who did.
Thank Me Sincerely – Most people send thank you emails. The good ones mention something specific about our interactions and reiterate their interest in the job. The better ones do all of that and then close for an action. The best ones do all of that – by hand, with a pen, on stationery. Unless the job is going to be filled in less time than you can write, stamp and mail a letter, you should write your thank you note by hand. It will stand out. It will be memorable. Some of the favorites I’ve received over the years are in a folder on my desk; they’re that special.
(By the way, you deserve thanks, too. if a recruiter or hiring manager doesn’t thank you for your time and interest either a) you didn’t impress upon him/her your worth or b) s/he is ill-mannered, and do you even want to work with someone like that?!)
At the end of the day, after the algorithmic calculations, the behavioral assessments, the panel interviews, the background checks, the drug tests … what every hiring decision boils down to is this:
– Will this person enhance our culture and advance our business?
– Is this person someone I want to see every day?
The interview is your chance to show yourself as that person.
You just have to make sure the interviewer remembers you when you leave.