The CAN and WANT of the job interview

There are two things I want to learn about a candidate from a job interview…

The Want

I want to know why you WANT to work for us.  This may sound stupid but I get a lot of people applying that don’t actually WANT the position.  Yes, I am serious.  Oh, they may not come right out and say it but I can pick up what they are putting down.  Here is how candidates tell me they don’t WANT to work for us in this position.  These are answers to my first question in every interview…. Why do you want this position with us?

  • I have done this before.
  • I can do this with my eyes closed.
  • You all have great benefits.
  • I really like the culture at your company.
  • I was recently laid off.

You might be thinking that I am off my rocker.  You may think these are why someone wants the job.  Nope, this is why they are WILLING to work for us.  HUGE difference!  I want people that WANT to work here.  Their desire will get them over the hurdles and through the tough times.  Willing… not so much.

The Can

I also want to know if you CAN do the job.  This speaks to a candidate’s knowledge, skills and abilities.  It also depends on how much a company is willing to train you.  Some companies are willing to teach you everything you need to know while some need you to hit the ground running.

Unfortunately some people are unable or unwilling to do what it takes to be successful in a position.  That is also part of CAN you do the position.  This is where interviewers ask about past experience and situations you have been in.

One out of two?

All that being said, it is hard to find people that are at 100% in both areas.  If I have to gamble I will take someone with more desire over someone with more skill every day.  Desire gets you up in the morning and makes you push past where others quit.  Many of the ones that quit had the CAN, just not the WANT.

The starting point of all achievement is DESIRE. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat.
Napoleon Hill

Reference checks in your job search

Reference checksWhat will your references say about you?

Some companies still ask for references as a part of the interview process.  Think this is antiquated?  Think again.  A good reference can seal the deal with an employer or derail an impending job offer.

I just saw an ad for someone willing to check your references, for a price.  Really?  Did you know you can do it yourself or at worse, have a friend do it for you?  It is always a good idea in a job search to know what your past employers will share about you.  Contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal for employers to share information on past employees.  Most don’t because while it may be legal, it may also get them sued.  The sad part about this is that a truly bad employee can continue to jump from job to job with little information following them.  Now you know how that idiot next to you got hired!

When you check your own references you want to call the company’s main number, your local office’s number AND your supervisor.  You are probably fine calling the human resources departments unless they know you but you will want a friend to call your boss.  Some companies will ask for a signed background release form.  If so, just create your own.  Yes, you can pay for someone to do all this for you but if you are out of work, what do you have more of?  Time or money?

Reference check questions to ask

After you introduce yourself you will want to ask some of the generic questions that most companies ask to start with then move into the ones you want answers to.

"Hello, I am calling to check references on a previous employee of yours..."

OK, here is where the honesty line gets a little fuzzy…  What you wish you could do is call and ask “If a company calls you to ask about me, what will you tell them?”  But if you did that, what do you think they would say?  You think they would tell you everything?  Because of that, if you want to know what they will REALLY say you need to, or have someone else) play the role of a potential employer.  That means they need to have a story.  Name of the company, their name/position, a call back number, what position you are applying for, etc… Wait, maybe it is worth it to pay someone to do it for you.

But let’s assume you press on and save your money.  Here are some questions to ask.  The first two you should always receive answers to, the others… maybe not.

  • What was the position they last held at your company?
  • What were their dates of employment?
  • Are they eligible for re-hire?
  • How much was their salary and bonuses or commission?
  • Did they provide a 2-week notice when they resigned?
  • How would you rate their performance in the position?
  • What were their biggest strengths / weaknesses?

If they keep answering, you keep asking.  When someone calls your manager/supervisor they need to ask more direct questions.  Many managers will refer them back to human resources but not all.   Previous managers are sometimes the most damaging or helpful references.  It also helps if the person calling says they are your potential new manager.

At the end of the day, doing a little social engineering to check your own references might feel (is) a little dishonest but if you are worried that you will get a bad employment reference you are better off knowing ahead of time.

References Provided Upon Request

This one KILLS me!  In many of my past jobs we have requested that people provide us with references for us to call.  They are usually past supervisors or coworkers but the key here is that the candidate is providing us with the names and numbers of the people to call.  Think they are always good?  Think again.  Here are some of the funny comments I have gotten when calling references provided by candidates:

They put ME down as a reference? (laughing)
The only reason they didn't take anything is that it's all screwed down. (hotel manager)
They will be great for the first 30 days.

If you are providing references for a potential employer to call you better know what they will say about you!  You want to call each person and ASK them if you can use them as a reference before you start your job search.  Then once you submit their names to a potential employers contact them again and let them know a little about the position(s) you are applying for and what company it is with.  That way they can tailor their information about you to the specifics of the job.  It is very helpful to send them the job description.

At the end of the day references are not always a make or break part of the interviewing process but sometimes they are.  Do you want to risk it?

There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tell me about yourself

Tell me about yourself (or some other variation) is probably THE most common interview question but many people say it is one of the most difficult to answer.

Why should I hire you?

I recently read an article about rude recruiters.  The author went on to say that asking “Why should I hire you?” is rude.  My response was why is that rude?  That is what interviewers are asking when they ask “Tell me about yourself.”  They want to know what makes you different and a better match for them than all the other people that they are interviewing.  Here is a tip… most companies want to hire the best person for each and every opening and if they do not think you will be a good match, they don’t hire you.

This is the time for your elevator speech.  You want to tell them about yourself, but primarily the most relevant parts of yourself.  I also believe it is a good idea to weave information from your research on the company and the position into you monologue.

“I am a life long learner.  If I have any free time I spend it reading, listening to audio books, or podcasts around subjects I can benefit from.  That is one of the things that interested me about your company, I read how you all are always looking to improve your processes, procedures and people.”

One thing to be careful about here is not to lie.  Many people either lie in the interview or it becomes very apparent that they are telling me what they think I want to hear.  I want to hear about YOU.  But focus on the best YOU.  Think of this as a first date.  Do you show the REAL (unfiltered) you or the best you on a first date?  If you want a second date I bet you show the best you, which should also be the real you.

Why should someone hire me?

If you are having a tough time coming up with things to say about yourself, try asking others about you.  Ask some friends, coworkers or teachers “why would someone want to have me as an employee?  What are my strengths and weaknesses?”  They may be able to give you insight from a different perspective.  Start making a list that you can choose from when putting together your answer.  You don’t want to tell everyone everything about yourself, just what is most relevant.

Start thinking about who you want to be, then be.

Should you answer an illegal interview question?

If you have been on many interviews I bet you have encountered at least one illegal interview question.  There are three main ways to handle them and the choice is up to you.

That is an illegal question and I don’t have to answer it

While the above statement may be true if you respond with “That is an illegal question and I don’t have to answer it” you will likely not have another interview with that company.   While you don’t want to work for a company that is making illegal discriminatory hiring decisions, let’s not kid ourselves, all interviewing is discriminatory.



  1. the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.
    “victims of racial discrimination”
  2. recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.
    “discrimination between right and wrong”

I believe that any company making a decision based on race, gender, age or any other non-performance related reason will be less successful in the long run.  Diverse companies will perform better.  So if you feel that a company is being discriminatory on race, age, gender, religion or any other non-work related reason then I suggest you look elsewhere.

I think you misspoke

Sometimes the interviewer doesn’t know how to ask what they really mean.  Here are a few illegal questions followed by what they should have asked.  The idea is to answer the question they should have asked.

How does your husband other feel about you traveling overnight?

What they should have asked:  We have had some employees in the past where overnight travel has become an issue.  Tell me how you feel about extensive travel for work and how you maintain some work/life balance.

Do you have children?

What they should have asked:  We expect everyone to be at their desk working by 8am and work until 5pm at a minimum but we frequently work overtime during peak season.  Is that an issue?

Where are you from?

What they should have asked:  We like to get to know people in the interview process.  Tell me about yourself.

How old are you?

What they should have asked:  We use the latest software and programs here.  How do you stay up to date on the industry?

I fully admit that some people ask those questions for the very reason they are illegal but I make the argument that those people are the exception, rather than the rule.  Granted, there are some industries that are much more prone to sexism, racism, and many other ‘isms but I chose to believe that most people are trying to do the right thing for their company.

I also fully admit that my views are filtered through a white male christian lens.  Sorry, I can’t change that fact but I do my best to be aware of my blind spots and filters.

Why do you need to know that?

Ask for clarity.  You may be surprised by what is behind an illegal question.  If you are like some of my friends and you want to push back a little when confronted with an illegal question, you can do so with tact.

Do you have children?
What concerns you about employees with children?

How does your husband feel about your chosen profession?
I would think you would be more concerned about how I feel about my profession.

How old are you?
How does an applicant’s age factor into your hiring decision?

Are you single?
Do you discourage employees from having personal relationships?

Unfortunately we all have to deal with situations where we need to try and figure out how to react and interviews are no different.  In short, there is no one RIGHT way to handle any interview questions.

TACT – getting your point across without stabbing someone with it.
New York Daily Mirror

How much money are you worth?

I recently read an article that stated job seekers hate being asked what they made in their last or current job.  It went on to say that the question is “not relevant to the job interview and it’s impolite.”  The writer further throws fuel on the fire by saying “it is none of an interviewer’s business what you are earning now or what you’ve earned at any job.”

My Current Pay is None of Your Business

This style of writing is popular these days.  It fans the flames of dislike until they burn with disgust and hatred.  As was said in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing “Yo! Hold Up! Time Out! Time Out! Y’all Take a Chill!”  Anytime you are asked a question that you do not like or do not want to answer first chill out and ask yourself “why are they asking the question?”  If you do not want to discuss what you currently make you could always re-frame the question by answering it this way:

My current employer has very strict rules around sharing our compensation.  I am seeking a salary between $x and $y as part of the overall comp package.

As a recruiter I want to ask; why is this an issue?  Some interviewers ask what salary you are seeking rather than asking what you have been making but the fact of the matter is, money is an issue.  Usually, when someone asks about your current or past pay, they want to know if you are within the company’s price range for the position.

Many people talk about equal pay.  Is everyone’s work equal?  What if it takes you 20% longer to produce the same product as the person next to you, is that equal?  Or how about if you have a bad attitude and people do not like being around you?  I think we should re-frame the compensation discussion around what is fair.  I fully admit this is from the perspective of a white male but this will always be an issue when we have a free market.  There is an interesting perspective on the gender pay gap from Freakanomics.

Before you start talking comp with a company you need to be sure you do your research.   You want to research both the industry and your budget.  Both are important for different reasons.  You want to know the pay in the industry so you know where their salary range should be and you need to know your budget to have a minimum you need to make.  Just as a company may be willing to hire someone with a little less experience or skills if they cost less, you may be willing to take a position you are more interested in for less money.  But you still need to pay the bills.

Here are a few sources for compensation research: – You (supposedly) get the information from people who currently or previously worked at the company.  They also review companies. – You can do research on your current position, research another field or evaluate a job offer.

O*NET Your tax dollars at work.  You can see median wages, projected job growth and more.

The One Who Talks Compensation First Loses

I do not believe this statement.  In my interviews I always bring up compensation first and I tell people what our compensation range is before I ask about theirs.  After I tell them ours I do frequently ask what they have been making so I can tell them if that is possible here or how long it would take to get back in that range.  I hire sales people.  It is a real concern for employers if we are offering less money than you made at your last position.  Why?  Mainly, once you make a certain amount it is difficult to go backwards.  I know because I have done this twice personally and once as a family.  It sounds easier than it is.  Also, many people measure their value in dollars and cents.  Making less is possible but it is tough and leads many people to keep looking for more, which can lead to turnover.

As a candidate you need to understand that a company / department has a budget and they usually have a bean counter somewhere that has budgeted a certain amount of money for the position in question.  That means that if they offer at or below budget it is easier, above is more difficult.

I Changed My Mind

What to do if you tell the company a number then you change your mind?  You better have a good reason.  Is is VERY frustrating for a company if you tell me your number, then I offer that number only to have to say that is not enough.  Think of it like dating.  You ask someone out to lunch and ask where they would like to go.  They tell you tacos sound good and you name the local taqueria, they agree.  But when you all get there they say that they changed their mind and they want steak.  Frustrating?  You bet it is.

But it can be done with some tact and discretion.  There are a few guidelines  I suggest you follow:

Don’t ask for too much – If you first told them $50k and now you are asking for $60k that is a 20% jump.  Maybe a 5% – 10% ask is easier.

Why are you asking? – State a reason.  Maybe you are moving for the position and housing is more expensive than you thought or their insurance costs are higher than in your current position, which changed your personal budget.  Maybe the increase would allow you to move out of your parent’s house.

Ask the question – I encourage candidates to start by asking something like “I am excited about the position!  Since we last spoke I started looking at housing in the area and it is more expensive than I expected, is there any flexibility in the offer?”

Know your number – If their offer is below your bottom number and you know it won’t work, just tell them.  Be nice but be direct.  The earlier in the process the better.

Reiterate your interest – When renegotiating terms be sure to remind them why you are the right person and confirm your interest level.  “I really hope this can work.  I found the perfect place twenty minutes away and I am looking forward to starting next week!”

My salary situation at ‘Morning Joe’ wasn’t right. I made five attempts to fix it, then realized I’d made the same mistake every time: I apologized for asking.
Mika Brzezinski

Being told no is feedback you can use

Once again Question of the Day has provided a great perspective that you can use in life and more specifically, your job search.  Unfortunately, we usually take criticism personally.  There are many reasons that we take it personally:

We are too close to the event – After a public speaking engagement I like to get feedback from people on what I did well and what I can do better.  But I ask them to send me their feedback via email or tell me the next day.  Right after I talk I am still too close to the event to even be reasonably objective.

We are too close to the subject – Being in HR I write a good bit of what becomes “policy” that others need to be able to understand.  That means that there are usually 5 – 10 revisions with a lot of red ink on them.  I quickly learned that what I write is not me.  These people are not saying I am bad.  Although my writing has been aAnd I am sure it will be again 🙂

We think the person is criticizing us – OK, they may also think that they are criticizing us but they are also wrong.  You are NOT a sum of your actions / decisions… you just think you are.  You need to separate yourself from your work.  While your work does reflect on you it is not who you are.  Even if you still think it is, don’t you want to get better?  That takes the courage to be vulnerable and to accept criticism.

Rejection is a form of feedback

Stephen Dubner says that he looks at rejection as a form of feedback.  If you can make this leap to making rejection impersonal, you can learn from rejection and use it to your advantage.  If not, you shut down and it takes much longer to learn from your mistakes.

Rejections can be a positive thing.  Every time you are told no in your job search you then know something didn’t work.

You are the problem

I don’t mean this in a negative way but as my mother always says, “If I (you) are not part of the problem, then you cannot fix it.”  True, sometimes companies have a hiring process that is truly broken.  I even know some companies that are aware of this but sometimes it takes a long time to make changes.

Let’s look at an analogy… If you are like me, you know the rule for turning valves on / off; lefty loosy, righty tighty.  At my kid’s school some plumber either has a wicked sense of humor or they think it is opposite day.  The knobs on some of the sinks are backwards.  So, I could either focus my time and energy on trying to get them fixed or I can just change my behavior and get on with things.  Yes, there is an argument for taking the time to fix it, but let’s fix it after you reach your goal.

Ask for Feedback

When you get turned down for a position ALWAYS ask (politely) for feedback.  Most people will not give you feedback but some will.  Here are a few ways to ask for feedback in a positive way:

Thank you for letting me know you are no longer considering me for the XYZ position.  Are their any other positions at ABC company that you feel I may be a better match for?
Thank you for following up with me about my application.  I am really excited about starting a career in XYZ (marketing) but I realize that it takes experience.  What positions would you suggest I apply for that could lead to a position like the one I applied for?
I appreciate you updating me on my status as a candidate.  Any feedback from the interview process would be much appreciated.

Many people will not reply or will reply with something that says they do not give interview feedback.  If they don’t give feedback don’t get angry, there is usually a good reason.  In my experience I do not give feedback because I have had people get in arguments with me.  Remember, they are not saying YOU are a bad match, they are saying your KSAs, goals, or personality don’t fit.  Those you CAN change, if you want to.  When following up there are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Be Polite: No one likes a jerk.  Plus you never know when you will need to cross that bridge again or where that recruiter or hiring manager will work next.  Yes, we remember these things and those people.
  • Be Patient: Like most people, recruiters and hiring managers have more hours of work to do than a day will allow.
  • Be Persistent: Don’t just call / email once, but also don’t be a stalker.
  • Be Thankful: Always thank anyone for feedback and even when they tell you no.  At least you know where you stand with them.

Now get out there and get some feedback!

An inability to tolerate feedback is an inability to allow yourself personal growth.

You need to have a sense of entitlement to do well in your job search

I am reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  In the book he looks at what makes great people (outliers) great.  I HIGHLY recommend this book.  One of the things that he talks about that makes a dramatic difference in people’s lives is whether or not they have a sense of entitlement.

 the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something

This is NOT the definition that most of us use.  Most of us use it when people get special privileges or when we describe financial help from the government.  Gladwell says that people without entitlement will not stand up for themselves, people with it will.

This is VERY important in the interview process.  I fear that companies often times hire good interviewers, but not necessarily good candidates.  This is an important distinction for every applicant to understand.  Think of it in the dating analogy…  How many times have you been on a date that went great but you later found out the person is a horrible match for you.  Or sometimes the reverse happens, you think the person is a self-absorbed half-wit but you later find out that they just have a wicked sense of humor.  The interview process is no different.  Unfortunately most people do not believe that to be true.

Many people believe that you can interview people in such a way that it determines who will be successful and who will not.  Don’t get me wrong, interviews do help in increasing the odds that there will be a good match.  Interviews can assist in determining who CAN be a good match but not necessarily who WILL be a good match.

Let’s look at how this affects you, the candidate.

Entitled people ask questions

Many times the person that does well in the interview is the person who asks questions.  If the company asks you a scenario or hypothetical question you NEED to ask questions.

  • Interviewer: What would you do if a customer refuses to pay?
  • Candidate: Before I answer I would like to know some of our (assume you already work there) policies and procedures around non-payment.
  • Candidate: What is the normal process for billing and where in that process did the customer refuse to pay?
  • Candidate: Have we already delivered the product / service?
  • etc…

If you do not have a sense of entitlement you will not ask those questions.  It really helps if are the type of person who does not have a problem asking questions.  Keep in mind, you need to ask enough but not too many.

Entitled people believe what they say

One thing that will sink an interview very quickly is a being flip-flopper.  No, I don’t want someone so committed to a belief that they will pursue even in the face of evidence to the contrary.  I mean the people that change their answer because they think you have a different opinion.  In a HRGrapevine article  Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, it seems he wants people WITH different points of view.  The article talks about how Kalanick talked to a candidate (they call it a “30 hour interview”) off and on for weeks about a variety of topics.  My thought is that if the candidate had changed his answer when pressed, it would have been a MUCH shorter process with a very different outcome.

You need to be OK with having a different opinion and be able to back it up.  You need to defend your viewpoint and argue without being argumentative.  Many people cross the line and let their emotions rule them when confronted.  But entitled people don’t get emotional.

Entitled people are persistent

How many times have you been told “apply online” only to wait and wait and wait with no response?  If you are entitled you won’t just sit there, you reach out to people.  I see it all the time… the entitled candidate follows up with me.  They stop by my office.  They reach out to me via social media.  In short, they have the winning attitude of “if this company does not hire me, it is their loss but I want to show them how great I am.”  Again, this is confidence without arrogance.  It is persistence without nagging.  It is a fine line that is walked and it is not a straight line.  This takes what Gladwell calls “Practical Intelligence.”  What is Practical Intelligence?  Gladwell defines it as ““knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect.”

We all need to be a little bit better at being an advocate for ourselves, that is what Malcom is saying.  If you don’t believe in yourself, why should others?

Believing in yourself if the first secret to success.
Disti Amalia Pusparanti

There is no ONE right way to interview

Sorry to burst your bubble but everyone looks for something different.  I know this makes the job search infuriating but do you want the truth or do you want a nice story full of lies.  The truth is that there is no one short, easy way to get every job.

What do companies look for in a candidate?

Interviewing and the job search is a lot like dating and courtship.  Companies, and hopefully the candidates, are looking for a long term match.  Keep in mind this does not count for contract positions or gigs but there are still a lot of old fashioned companies looking for people to stay with them.

Do you think that there is just one right way to act with every person on a date? Sure, you know there is one right way to act on a date with you… but what about everyone else?  It works the same way with companies.  Each company and each hiring manager I have worked for, to some degree, have their own definition of “the right way.”

It really helps if you can read people and mirror them.  If someone is joking around a little then maybe you should too.  But not too much.  If someone is more terse and to the point then they may not appreciate your sarcasm as much as your current boss.  You can figure this out, you just need to pay attention.

Boy, you’re just full of good news for my job search!

Right about now you may be thinking “How in the hell do I get a job if everyone is looking for something different?”  First, you need to READ the job description.  I don’t just mean to read over it but be sure you understand what they want in a candidate.  If they look for years of experience you need to figure out what skills they want from those years of experience.  Personally I think strictly defining years of experience that are required is stupid.

Sure, there are some basics that companies look for but I will save that for the next posts…  But in general you need to address what they say they are looking for.  This goes first for your resume.  Remember, the resume gets you the interview.  The interviews get you the job.

Dating is about finding out who you are and who others are. If you show up in a masquerade outfit, neither is going to happen.
Henry Cloud

Want to improve your job search? Listen to a Monk.

Joe Desena on the Spartan Up Podcast @SpartanUpPod interviewed a Monk, Dandapani @DandapaniLLC.  He had some great tips on how to achieve your goals.

Happiness is not a goal

Dandapani talks about how you must know where you going or you won’t get there.  He says that happiness is a byproduct of achieving your goals.  I agree that happiness is not a goal that one can achieve by external means.  If you try it will only lead to frustration.  Don’t believe me?  Check out Shawn Achor’s TED Talk.  You will always push happiness over the cognitive horizon.

Do an energy audit

You need to learn how to manage your energy.  The first step is to figure out where, or more likely who, is sucking the energy out of you.  Dandapani goes on to say that the people in our life consume a huge amount of our energy.  People also give us energy.  The trick is to figure out who takes without giving.  Those are the people you want to separate from.

I don’t know if you have figured this out or not but a job search requires a HUGE amount of energy.  You need to identify what Dandapani calls energy vampires.  These are often times not only people but what about your favorite TV show?  Or how about music, books, blogs or heaven forbid… social media!  You need to be intentional where you spend your energy.

Preparation is key

Dandapani talks about how his Guru said that preparation is the key.  Of course his Guru was talking about meditation but this is also true in your job search.  If you do not prepare before applying for a position then you will not have a targeted resume.  If you do not prepare for the company to call you, they can catch you off guard and it might not go well.  If you do not prepare for the interview, you won’t have good answers or questions.  You MUST prepare.  If you prepare then the WORK of the job search is EASY.  As Joe Desena says, “if you are not prepared then you are just reacting.”


If you want to do something well, you need to focus.  Multitasking is a farce.  Multitasking just means you are doing several things poorly at the same time.  This goes back to where you are spending your energy.  When you are in your job search, focus on that.  That will free you up to have time OFF from your job search, which is very important.

This is especially true when it comes to interpersonal skills.  When you are talking with someone you need to FOCUS on them.  Turn off your endorphin device (aka your phone) when networking or interviewing.  How many times has someone introduced themselves and immediately after you do not remember their name?  It is like they said in Karate Kid… “Your focus needs more focus.”


Dandapani has affirmations and mantras that he uses ever day to shape his subconscious.  You need to use positive action phrases.  The words “want” or “like” do not belong here.  Think of Yoda or the Karate Kid.  There is no “try” or “want”.  Use words like “will.”  “I WILL find an HR position that I will love.”

If you want to be successful you need to surround yourself with like-minded people.  First, don’t forget to define success!  You must feel what it will be like when you achieve your goal.  Use the energy of your emotions.  Ever had an awesome interview?  Remember what that feels like?  THAT is what you want to harness.

Be sure you know what the end will look like.  In your job search it could the offer you receive, the first day at work, the first paycheck, etc… That can be and SHOULD be motivating stuff!  AWESOME!

If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.
Hanh Nhat Thich, Being Peace 

There is more than one way to stand out in your job search

Many times around the office talk turns to what one candidate or another has done to stand out of the crowd.  Sometimes good, sometimes not.  Both are memorable but only one gets a call back.

It depends

The way you SHOULD stand out really depends on a lot of factors:

  • Industry
  • Company culture
  • Profession
  • Position
  • Experience level

The list goes on.  People often ask “how can I stand out in the job search as a top candidate?”  I wish it was simple.  It is like asking “how can I stand out on a first date so they want to go out again?”  Not that easy, is it?  Everyone and every company looks for something a little different but I think there are some similarities.

Sales Jobs

If you are going for a sales position you can probably stand to be a bit more persistent than in other professions.  I have had people show up to the office and ask if I was available.  I love that!  Or at the very least just call and ask for me.  That IS what sales people do isn’t it?

Patiently Persistent

I think most companies want to be wanted.  You need to learn how to walk the line between being very interested and seeming like a desperate stalker.  That line can be crossed by one too many emails or calls.  Be sure to ask what the process is and follow up when you say you will.

Don’t get angry

Here is the deal, crap happens.  I have had people no-show their first day on the job or back out the day before they were going to start.  That is after months of me recruiting to fill that opening, us spending thousands of dollars in the process before hiring someone only to have them do an about face.  Do I get angry?  Sure I do.  But do I call them up, email them, or blast them online?  No way!  I get it.

In the same vane I expect people to deal with disappointment, frustration or even anger professionally.  I have had it happen a few times that we like a candidate at first but then decide they are not a fit.  But I have also had it happen where we don’t pursue a candidate only to have them follow up, show their continued interest in the position and get another chance at the job.  In the end, do your really want to work for a company that does not want you?  I don’t.  But I get it, we all have bills to pay.

Be Creative

I personally like people to be a little creative in their pursuit of a position.  Follow your target company on LinkedIn and Twitter.  Like some of the good posts and follow people at the company.  Mention them in your posts.  Follow up after you apply for a position.  I would rather feel like I did too much in my pursuit of a job I did not get than worry that I did not do enough.

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.
Joseph Chilton Pearce