Ironic isn’t it that heading into a job interview you try to find ways to stand apart from the competition, yet at the same time try to fit in with the people currently working there. Let’s look at what these two mean and how you can accomplish both, thereby increasing the odds of receiving a job offer in the process.
Let’s first look at this idea of fitting in. Your goal is to convince the people in hiring positions that by bringing you onboard, you’ll reinforce whatever values and beliefs they uphold. From the moment an organization comes into contact with you, they initiate a process of assessment; determining if you’ll complement or contrast with others, upset or add to existing team chemistry. In short, do you look, think, behave and act like the people who currently work in the organization or do you present as different; the square peg trying to fit in a round hole.
So the question for many is how to possibly know what the team chemistry is or how the people look, think, behave and act if you don’t work there. The answer lies in the research you do. Many people don’t do any research whatsoever. They reason that the effort required is wasted time when there are other jobs to apply to; a better use of their time. If the organization doesn’t accept them for the person they are upon meeting them, then they don’t want to work there anyhow; no conforming for them!
Some others of course do believe in the value of research, but they don’t know how to research people and workplace culture. They may visit a website; memorize values, mission statements and some history of the company instead. This shows more effort than those doing no research at all, but this basic research doesn’t overly impress company personnel.
If you really want to work for a company, you need to do more than just state your strong interest. Investing your time so you project an image that is similar to those working there will make it easier for them to visualize you as one of them. You can watch people ahead of your initial contact walking in and out of the workplace, observing how they dress, speak, move, and groom themselves. Do you see buttoned shirts, ties and suit jackets, or do you see polo shirts, khakis, wild beards and sneakers? Do the people stride purposefully with strained faces, carrying briefcases or do they move at a leisurely pace, joining up with others, smiling and laughing with their pees?
This is only one of many ways you can assess the people and infer the culture. There are social media profiles of the people who work at the company you could look at too. How and what are people saying? What’s their career path leading up to where they are? What causes do they care about and how do these align with your own views?
However, at the outset I also mentioned the irony of doing your best to stand out from the competition; in other words, come across as uniquely memorable. Remember that when things are different and stand out, they can stand out in either a pleasing way or an unwanted peculiar way. Just about everyone can easily imagine how to stand out in a odd way, but it is harder to imagine for many how to stand out and be unique in a positive way when your competition is simultaneously trying to achieve the exact same thing. Questions interviewers ask that give you the opportunity to demonstrate your uniqueness by the way can include:
- Why should I hire you?
- What did you do to prepare for this interview?
- What do you know about us?
- Why do you want to work here?
These questions are designed to assess your motivation and interest; steps you’ve taken to determine if the fit is good for you and most importantly they give you a chance to impress or flat line. If you haven’t researched the job, company, culture or climate and don’t know their product or service, interviewers will infer that if hired, you won’t invest yourself in what is important to the company; the job they hire you to do. Rest assured that at least some of your competition is doing their homework and will come across as wanting it more than you.
Another key to standing out positively is looking at your skills, experiences and education and determining how your past – unique for every applicant of course – can be leveraged to appeal to the interviewer(s). Your research might reveal some issue that you are uniquely positioned to address. Perhaps you’re a customer yourself and bring the consumer perspective, or your contacts and connections will follow you to the new employer thus boosting their business.
To wrap up, invest yourself in learning about the opportunity you are pursuing. Ask questions of people, make exploratory phones, set up an information gathering meeting, drop in ahead of an application and observe, listen and take the pulse of the workplace. Not only does this help you get a job, it helps you land the right job with the right employer; in short, find the right fit.
At the end of a job interview, summarize your key values; leave a lasting impression of how your research has uniquely positioned you as meeting their stated needs.