You are off to your initial employment interview with a recruiter or manager for an exciting position with a new prospective organization. Personally, you feel very confident, upbeat and positive about your resumé, your professional qualifications for the job, your ability to perform, and making a new transition. However, you wonder of the various competition for the same opportunity and you definitely want to make a positive and unforgettable first impression. You deeply desire to emphatically distinguish yourself from all the other qualified candidates and internally, you seek an edge that will help you land the job with this particular employer. You eagerly want to connect with the recruiter in an significant and intangible way that will make a profound statement that you are the 'best person' for the job.
As a business owner, I have a great deal of experience with the process of advertising, locating and identifying highly coveted new talent, interviewing prospective candidates and ultimately making key business decisions for securing people who have served on my rank and file staff, as well as in senior management positions with my firm. Like all decisions, some have been great, while others still leave me scratching my head and wondering "what was I thinking?" As I can personally attest, as well as the collective opinions of many of my colleagues in similar situations for themselves, or those at other firms - it is never an exact science. Generally speaking, it is extremely difficult to provide any guarantees towards any specific formulas that will always translate into success with hiring people.
In some cases, individuals that have provided stellar resumés, have sometimes lacked the personal motivation and necessary drive to succeed once hired. Many of these folks would often feel particularly entitled and deserving of substantial titles, benefits, perks and salaries, while simply viewing expected performance as more of my organization's risk. In contrast, some prospective candidates that may have lacked the ideal professional experience and/or specific qualifications, easily made up for the lacking in their credentials with spirited enthusiasm, professionalism, consistent punctuality, an astonishing ability to learn on the fly and a strong, unyielding dedication to achieve. As mentioned, these decision are proven to never be an exact science.
The corporate recruiter
The corporate recruiter is widely regarded as one of the most important persons at most firms. They typically perform a critical role as they consistently provide the talent, or life blood of an organization. They are usually the first face of the organization a prospective employee sees when considering a career decision and are primarily responsible for locating, identifying and securing the talent that will help the organization grow and maintain its competitive edge while moving forward.
The corporate recruiter is certainly no stranger to receiving tons of resumes from numerous interested job candidates and is very accustomed to meeting people from all backgrounds, of all demographics and various personality types. When asked, most will tell you that beyond the typical resume, it is the intangible things that often make the most impactful impression when interviewing with a job candidate.
I spoke with four corporate recruiters that individually represented four distinctive industries. One represented a reputable firm in the financial industry, another worked for a large hospital organization. One recruited for a governing municipal administration and the last recruited for a well known IT firm. The following is a consensus of their suggestions, of what would make an indelible and positive impression on them that goes well beyond the typical resumé or application.
Five ways to make a strong and impactful impression on a corporate recruiter
- Engaging small talk. Many recruiters will often marvel at a person's natural ability to ease the tension in a room and make any group of people or person (even an interviewer) feel more comfortable. Most recruiters often hear all of the typical 'ice-breaking' weather related comments, or sports references. Being able to gauge something unique about the interviewers office, dress, pictures or other intangibles regarding his or hers inherent surroundings is a good prelude to a conversation. Then presenting that observation as something that you can relate to or something that generally makes a relatable impression on you as the candidate, can easily produce some very interesting conversation. It also communicates that the candidate is somewhat attentive and astute for noticing some of the small and intangible things that would allow him or her to adapt to different personality types as customers or management.
The small talk should remain short, respectful, positive and complimentary and soon return to serious, as demonstrating respect for the interviewer's time. Parenting and pets are often good and engaging 'ice breaker' subjects, and may present certain commonalities with your interviewer, but try not to get too personal. Any discussions or sharp opinions regarding religion, certain media topics and politics could easily step on someone's toes and cause them to instantly hold a grudge against you. Be careful.
- Tell interesting professional anecdotes. Always definitively answer questions and tell a good short story. Relate personal and professional attributes to ways you have been able 'put out fires' and resolve work related problems. Try not to sound like you are bragging, but discussing innovative and practical methodologies to solve personal and professional problems, communicates that you are resilient and will not easily be defeated without trying something different or unconventional. This can make a very positive impression.
- Give credit. Often give credit to having a good manager and/or good co-workers as part of your own personal success and other professional achievements. This conveys that you are a humble (likable) person and a team player. It also states that you retain good and valued relationships with people, past and present.
- Come prepared with your own questions. Have a list of questions already printed out for your interviewer. Present questions that are related to the organizations performance in a challenging economy, as well as how possible new or established leadership is making an impact on operations. Questions should steer away from bad press, but be insightful enough to mildly test your interviewers knowledge of the organizations recent business operations. Most interviewers will be impressed that you are prepared and see the opportunity as more than just an available job - and you are strongly considering the organization for a long term career.
- Ask the interviewer about moving up in the firm beyond the initial position. Respectfully inquire about the necessary career-path and expected level of success to reach the next internal advancement opportunity. Always take copious notes and ask how aggressively the firm is for promoting from within. This communicates that you have no intention of being a turnover statistic and that you are willing to apply yourself to reach a stellar level of success within the organization.
Lastly, always thank the interviewer for their time - and don't be too shy to ask for the job. Don't make excuses of any kind and be assertive. Good luck!
Ed Crenshaw is a US Navy veteran, diversity practitioner, disability subject matter expert and creator of the innovative “Preparing Employers to Reintegrate Combat Exposed Veterans with Disabilities” (P.E.R.C.E.V.D.) diversity training program. He is also the author of the books, “The P.E.R.C.E.V.D. Principles” and “The Employers Guide to Understanding Hidden Conditions Related to Suicide.” As a well-renown professional speaker, Ed is a passionate champion and respected advocate for people with disabilities.