Want to get hired? Then stand out from the crowd (and I don’t mean by dying your hair purple)
- Dress for success. To me, it doesn’t matter if you are applying for a job as a cashier at a big box store or as the CEO of a major corporation. I always make note of how the candidate is dressed. Dress smartly and conservatively. To me, how you are dressed is an indication of your attitude. Casual dress indicates a casual attitude to work habits. When my daughter was fourteen years old, she was going for an interview for a student job as a cashier at a hardware store. I told her she had to wear a skirt and blouse. She protested but complied, and she got the job.When an employer is interviewing multiple candidates, they all become a blur after a while. You have to be distinctive – in a good way.
- “I’m on it!” I look for people with a positive can-do attitude. They tell me not only what they have done and what experience they have, but also how that experience will benefit my company. They will have done their research (easy these days with Mr. Google) and will know about the company and what function or service the company does. I will discount almost immediately any candidate who has not bothered to research and find out about the organization. That is one of my first interview questions. If you do well at conveying your positive attitude and your desire to work and benefit the organization, you will stand out well above other candidates.
- Ask not what you can do… Many candidates come in with a great resume, but can’t or don’t tell me how that applies specifically to the organization. Or they become so involved in talking about what they did at their previous jobs that they forget to say how that experience will apply in the job they are interviewing for. Candidates need to tell me what they have that will contribute to the organization at which they are seeking employment. You can be quite specific here: “I read on your website that the company is diversifying and is now going to make widgets in addition to window frames. I worked for two years making widgets at company X, and because of that, I have some great ideas for making better widgets. I think this will benefit you in your new initiative. May I share some of my ideas with you?”
- Creative thinking. I like to see how well candidates can think on the spot. If they are successful at this, it shows that they are bright and innovative, which usually goes hand-in-hand with being hard-working. If the candidate can come up on-the-spot answers to questions about a hypothetical problem they might encounter at work, that is a sign of an outstanding candidate. Once I asked job candidates, “Our town puts on a music festival in the park downtown each summer, but downtown merchants always complain that no one leaves the festival area to shop in their stores. How would you create better links between the festival and the downtown merchants?” The candidate with an immediate, practical answer to that question got the job.
- Volunteer work. To me, someone who volunteers in their community is going to be a far better employee than someone who spends most of their spare time sitting at home watching TV. It indicates a passion in their lives and a willingness to think beyond their immediate sphere.This is something you should definitely put in your resume, and say not only what you did, but what you learned from it. For example, a stay-at home mom could say, “I tended my neighbor’s kids after school when she returned to work, even though she couldn’t afford to pay me. It was a real challenge to handle her three kids plus mine; they are all really active kids. But I created educational games to keep them occupied, since I didn’t want to just park them in front of the TV. It was really hard at first, but it added to my creative skills – and my patience.”
It is characteristic of women in particular to downplay their attributes. Humility is great, and I’m sure you will be blessed for it, but it won’t help you land that job you want. An employment interview is your opportunity to sell yourself and your abilities, and you must stand out from the crowd to succeed.