5 Simple Ways To Impress Your Future Employer
Looking for a new job is tough business. In a sea of innovative, qualified candidates there is pressure to stand out from the rest. I’ve heard of, read about, and experienced some dramatic ways candidates have successfully captured the attention of their soon-to-be employer. I’ve also experienced the flip side — attention-seeking methods that backfired and resulted in a negative return on investment for the candidate.
There are simple actions to take as a candidate that are easy, have a high ROI, and consistently make a positive impact. The problem is that traditional advice to recruits, though well-intentioned, doesn’t work in execution. What’s a candidate to do?
Here are five ways you can take traditional advice, kick it up a notch, and impress your future company.
5. Schedule an Informational Interview.
Showing up unannounced to put a “face on your application” shows initiative and an ability to take risks. However, from a recruiter standpoint, this one is tough for a couple of reasons. At Metal Toad, we purposely conduct initial screenings over the phone to attempt to minimize bias at this early stage. And for most recruiters that I know, our schedules are C.R.A.Z.Y. Arriving when a recruiter is meant to be in a meeting, or with another candidate, puts the recruiter in a tough spot. I once had a candidate wait an hour to see me while I was giving a presentation, only to have me shake his hand and then run into a phone interview that was previously scheduled. I felt awful, and I’m assuming the candidate felt snubbed. It was a lose-lose situation. A situation that can be easily fixed!
Instead of showing up unannounced to a company, schedule an informational interview with a current member of the team where there’s a vacant position. Informational interviews are great, as you will learn invaluable information about the role you are applying for AND create an internal advocate if it goes well. You can use the company website or LinkedIn page to find the current team members you could reach out to.
4. Arrive On Time.
Arriving early demonstrates punctuality and eagerness to impress. At larger companies with a front desk and separate waiting space/lounge, this really isn’t an issue. But at a smaller company like Metal Toad, arriving too early can have the same effect as being late — schedules need to be rearranged, meetings get cut short to accommodate, and meeting rooms are re-booked.
The path of least frustration for the hiring team is showing up on time. Arrive early to the destination, find a coffee shop, collect your thoughts, and then walk in confident that your interviewers are ready and looking forward to meeting with you!
3. Be Professionally Comfortable.
Candidates who are calm, confident, and share information openly prove they can thrive in stressful situations — an asset for many positions. An interview is successful when an interviewer is able to have an authentic conversation with a candidate about their career goals, what they need from a company in order to feel successful, and their personal strengths that will set them up for success in the position. The effectiveness of an interview depends on both the candidate and the interviewer feeling comfortable.
That said, it is possible for an interview to get too comfortable. Preparing for an interview creates a lot of anxiety — and that moment when you realize you are connecting with the interviewer can be intoxicating. Guards are dropped and the conversation can quickly lose its professionalism. No matter how well you are vibing with the interviewer, remember that religious jokes and sharing confidential information about your current employer, inappropriate details about your love life, and/or that time you passed out at a company party and took three sick days afterwards to recover are not recommended.
It’s also important to remember that an interview doesn’t end with the actual interview. When I was a candidate early in my career, I had some downtime after two full days of interviewing with an organization when I casually struck up a conversation with an employee who appeared to be about my age. I was in my early 20s and this job would have required a move to another city. I took the opportunity to inappropriately ask her about the “scene” of this city, what it would be like to be a single gal in the smaller town, if there were good bars and restaurants, etc. I totally bombed my interview at that point — I got too comfortable and the questions I asked weren’t in line with the strong company culture.
2. Be Authentic.
The recruiting process is just as much for the candidate to conduct due diligence about the potential employer as is it for the potential employer to conduct due diligence about each candidate. I’ve had interviews that mirror this classic scene from "Coming to America". As a potential colleague, I want candidates to answer questions authentically, not agreeably. It demonstrates honesty, maturity, and that the candidate has a strong sense of self and what they need to be successful. Being authentic and clear about what you are looking for from a company, position, and/or experience will not only help weed out companies that aren’t a good fit, but will set both parties up for success for long-term employment.
1. Ask Strategic Questions.
Asking strategic questions aligns with the advice above about being authentic over agreeable. Not every question is created equally. Asking questions is an opportunity to be discerning about a potential new employer; do not waste this important time asking questions that are googleable or not significant to you when deciding whether or not to take the position if offered. Not only do you lose that opportunity to ask something strategic, your potential employer may find you unresourceful.
Prior to an interview, take a moment to reflect on your must-haves from an employer and position. For me, that would be autonomy to leverage my own personal strengths, mentorship and growth opportunities, ongoing constructive feedback, and a moderate amount of schedule flexibility. Create your list. What do you absolutely need to have in order to feel engaged and empowered to succeed? Take each must-have and come up with a couple different ways to ask questions about that must-have. For example:
Be prepared to use the information gathered from your strategic questions to really discern whether the potential employer is indeed a good fit for you.
A successful candidate is able to demonstrate predictors of the type of resourceful, communicative, open, and respectful employee they could become. It’s not about grand gestures, it’s about authenticity. Good luck finding your future company!