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

The one on one interview

interviewOne on one interviews are the mainstay of corporate America.  Here are a few things you can use to your advantage in a one on one interview.

Stereotypes: All us have stereotypes.  They are not always true but there are stereotypes for a reason. Use them to your advantage.  If someone went to the University of Alabama, they probably follow Alabama football.  It really helps to be observant and do your research ahead of time.  If you know who you interviewing with ahead of time be sure to look them up.  Where did they go to school, what is their work history, etc…  This will also help with the small talk part of any interview.  Just keep in mind that you are walking the line between confident and cocky / interested in them and stalking them.  Saying something like “I bet things were exciting at Countrywide Financial Corporation back in 2007” sounds a lot better than “How do you feel about being part of the real estate bubble popping in 07-08?”

Horns or Halo:  There is something called the horns or halo effect.  You want to make the best impression as soon as possible in the interview.  If they like you right off the bat the interview will likely be better for you.  A seasoned interviewer may know how to mitigate this effect but the fact is that an interviewer is much more likely to hire someone they like.

Follow up:  You only have to write one follow-up/thank you email so you can spend more time crafting it.  ALWAYS follow-up!  As I write this there are candidates whose interview outcome hinges on whether or not they follow-up with their interviewers.  A well crafted email definitely helps.

Connect with them: Find some common ground; school they attended, sports teams, fashion, technology, etc… This is where it really helps to be observant especially if you are interviewing in their office.  Be inquisitive: “I see you have a variable height desk, do you use it standing very often?”  not “Wow, those are expensive shoes, you must do pretty well around here.”

Body language: Mirror (but not exactly) their body language.  If they are sitting up straight and more formal you want to do the same.  If they are more casual, then you might want to cross your legs. It is also a good suggestion to match the cadence of their speech.  Don’t talk fast to a slow talker.

Ask for feedback: An interviewer is much more likely to give you some direct feedback when it is just you two in the room.  Many interviewers are worried about being judged by others just like you are as a candidate.  But if it is just you two, then they may be more forthcoming with information.

If you are prepared, interviews can actually be fun.  Where else in life are you encouraged to talk about yourself?


All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.
Mark Twain

Questions for candidates to ask in an interview

questionA lot of people ask “what are good questions to ask as a candidate?”  I am sure there are position, field and industry questions that are specific to each interview so I am not going there.  But I will touch on some good general questions you can ask.

First, think of your questions as ingredients.  Did you know that in the states the ingredients on food are listed in order of quantity from greatest to least.  Yep, shampoo is usually mostly water.  You questions are usually viewed the same way be recruiters and hiring managers.  Ask about benefits first and it seems that benefits are the most important thing to you.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think benefits are important but not more important than other things to consider.

Also, tweak your questions so they show you have done your research on the company.  Let’s look at these two examples if you happen to be interviewing with the largest recruiter of recent college graduates in the U.S., Enterprise Holdings, Inc.

General culture question:  What is the culture like at Enterprise?

Targeted culture question:  I have read that you only promote from within, how does that shape and affect your company culture?

Here are some areas to ask about for two reasons: 1. They give you a chance to show you have done your homework and 2. They give you good information that you can use to determine if you want to work there.

Culture: Company culture and make or break a job.  You want to find out what they REALLY value, not just what they say they value.  If the value something, they will measure it.  “A lot of the pictures I have seen of your employees are at what look like volunteer opportunities, is that an integral part of your culture?”

The Good:  What do people like about the company?  “I have read a lot about how the company has low turnover.  What keeps people here?”

The Bad:  You want to see what they think is bad, you might think it is good.  “Looking on LinkedIn I see where there are a lot of people who have worked here for 2 years or less.  What is the most challenging part of the job?”

The Ugly:  You need to know why others have failed.  “All companies have people that have not worked out.  What are the critical performance metrics for this position?”

Career Path:  Do they provide what you want in a career and/or can they provide the opportunity to expand your skills? “If you don’t mind, tell me about your career here and what has made you successful.”

Competitors:  How do they see themselves in the marketplace?  “I know xyz  company is also in this industry. Who is your biggest competitor and what sets you apart in the market place?”

The Muse has a lot more questions to ask.  Just be sure to personalize them where you can.

Stay positive.  Don’t ask about lawsuits, stock drops or anything that seems negative.  That is not to say you should stay away from challenging questions.  For instance if you were interviewing with a major retailer a good question might be “how do you think the FLSA exempt definition change by the DOL taking effect in 2016 is going to change the company and retail in general?”


If there are no stupid questions, then what kind of questions do stupid people ask? Do they get smart just in time to ask questions?
Scott Adams