There are two times in my career where leaders interviewed me for a job and couldn’t wait to hire me. It’s surprising because I generally don’t enjoy job interviews and can often feel nervous beforehand.
A discussion with a graduate about job interviews revealed a few of the reasons why these leaders may have gone a little insane after the interview and wanted to hire me as quickly as possible. These strategies are also based on being a people leader myself and going insane, and hiring a few people that demonstrated some of these skills you’re about to read.
These are the counter-intuitive strategies I gave that graduate and they may help you get your next career opportunity.
Show your personality in your resume
Do you know how boring it is to read resumes? Ask any recruiter or hiring manager. People say the same stuff on repeat that they read from a resume guide or online business publication.
With so many resumes to read, your best bet is to stand out. You do this by showing your personality. Try the following:
- Show what you do outside of work
- Highlight any work you’ve done in the community
- Link to any work you’ve published on social media
- Replace dry business vocabulary in your resume with sentences that show a touch of personality
Personality helps you stand out and that is exactly what you need when going through the application phase.
The best interview is a conversation
Forbes Writer, Chris Westfall, says the best interview is a conversation. I couldn’t agree more. A conversation is informal and that’s where relationships are built. As soon as you get all structured and overly polite, you kill the chance to build a relationship.
Forming a relationship with a leader is how you ultimately get hired.
Go beyond plain facts and achievements
Everyone will tell a prospective leader how good they are and all their wonderful achievements. It’s so boring and fairytale-like.
Go beyond all that nonsense. Share your achievements that aren’t like everybody else’s. Share how you helped a graduate get their first job or helped the person who was on the bottom of the sales board and nearly got fired. Tell them how you stepped up and gave up your time to help out.
Share 1–2 stories of how you helped customers or stakeholders beyond your job description. I don’t mean in a way where you upsold them or got them to spend more money in the dry business talk kind of way. I mean how you really helped them. Share the facts on how their business increased, or they avoided bankruptcy or were able to hire more people because of the work you did.
Share your achievements in the human form that shows who you are, rather than how good you are at hitting a fixed KPI that may involve you walking over the top of everybody to get there.
Great leaders are not looking for individual contributors that can help themselves to bonuses and hit their KPIs; they’re looking for people who can deliver and at the same time help the entire team rise up with them.
Spend just as much time talking about your losses as your wins
Leaders love it when you can talk about what you did well just as much as you can talk about what went wrong.
Too many people make the mistake of walking into an interview and highlighting everything that’s amazing about them as though they’ve never made a mistake and never will. Leaders don’t fall for that.
I go out of my way to mention startup failures, the time I was fired, a struggle with mental illness, the challenges with working in a family business, and when I nearly got an HR complaint against my name and ended up becoming friends with the guy because of it. That’s the real story. Highlight reels aren’t fooling anyone.
Add in your losses while focusing on what you learned from them.
Wins balanced out with losses show the real you and it’s rare, which is what will help make a leader go nuts and want to hire you.
Focus on what they say
Rather than talking the whole way through, listen to what the leader says.
Be genuinely interested when they talk. You’ll find the leader will want to add in their own stories and share specific details about the company. Let them talk and ask clarifying questions.
Try to balance the time you talk and the time they talk to be about half-half.
Listen carefully to the question
When the leader asks you a question, listen carefully. Don’t rush it and clarify the question if you need to. Try to understand what it is they are searching for before you answer.
Use calculated pauses
Before answering their question, pause. In fact the longer you pause, the more they’ll be intrigued with what you’re going to say. It creates suspense. People who are well-articulated and good at what they do think before speaking.
Blank moments inserted throughout the conversation allow the leader to think about what you’ve said.
The goal is not to fill up the allocated time with lots of talking.
Your aim should be to fill up the time with a few meaningful stories and a handful of examples that show who you are as a person.
Show how you work with other people
The hardest part of any business is getting people to work together. A leader’s biggest worry when considering you for a role is whether you’ll get on with the team and work with them, not against them.
Remove this uncertainty for the leader by showing how you work with teams, partners, other stakeholders, and customers.
If you can — highlight humility, respect, passion, and resilience.
List areas you need to improve
Don’t wait to be asked. During one of your answers, that points out a win in your career, balance it with an area you need to improve. Pick an area like public speaking and then show them how you’re already improving in that area without anyone forcing you to.
Nobody is good at everything in their career, so you may as well answer the question before you’re asked.
Mention mutual connections and tell them to call
We all know the references you provide as part of the hiring process are a joke. All we do is pick 2–3 people who we know will say nice things about us and then offer up their names and phone numbers as though we didn’t call them beforehand and tell them what to say.
Be different and make life easy for the leader. Proactively look up their LinkedIn profile and see if you have any mutual connections with them. Chances are you will. If so, mention that they can contact your mutual connections as a further background check.
Trust your reputation and understand that the leader will probably do this anyway so by you being on the front foot, you continue to show honesty. And honesty is rare in the hiring process.
Don’t give them false compliments
You don’t need to suck up during the interview and give the leader false compliments. This is fakery, and it will get you nowhere.
It’s not your job to kiss ass; it’s your job to be yourself.
Leave your ego outside
Flexing too much ego is an easy trap to fall into.
The sort of leader you want to work for, who will respect you, typically looks for humility. It’s not uncommon to be asked questions that are designed to demonstrate whether you’re humble or some self-obsessed knob jock looking for their next trophy to put on display in the foyer at home with spotlights shining bright so any visitor may see it as they walk into your home.
Too much ego is your enemy both in life and your career.
Back up your claims with facts
Job interviews can quickly get out of control. Before you know it you’re quoting every success you’ve had in your career and the leader you’re chatting to can’t get a word in — especially true for sales roles.
What is rare is to back up your claims with data. It’s easy to say you sold the most in your team or hit all of your KPIs. A leader will be far more interested if you give them more than that. Don’t just give them the headlines; give them the precise facts.
Dress slightly below formal
How you dress is important when meeting a leader. The typical advice says to wear your best suit or outfit. I disagree. The dress code for workplaces is changing. The days of being too formal, in most industries, are changing.
With tech sweeping the business world, jeans and a t-shirt are quite common. Think about dressing a touch below formal. This way you appear presentable without looking pretentious. The leader is trying to picture you working in their team and that may be hard to comprehend if you’re in your best suit and holding a briefcase with your hair all dolled up.
Leaders go insane when you’re yourself
That’s the common theme in each of these points. Leaders are looking for people that appear human and make mistakes as normal people do.
A great leader is looking for how you treat others, what you do outside of work, how transparent you are, what you’ve learned so far in your career, and how you can help each other enjoy coming to work each day.
Drop the traditional hiring advice and the use of business cliches to look smart, and replace them with a sense of humor and a touch of personality.