Against all the odds, you’ve gotten an interview. A machine, an intern (or if you’re really lucky, your potential supervisor), read and did not immediately set your resume on fire or on the compost heap. The job is real and it looks like it pays actual money. The position is open and you’re both willing and able to do it. It’s all very shocking.
This freakish alignment of events means just one last hurdle stands between you and the job: the interview. Now what?
The Five Standard Ups
There are thousands of articles on interview techniques. Let me summarize them all for you rather tersely:
- Tidy up: use some soap and deodorant, and try not have a hair out of place.
- Dress up: wear something professional and inoffensive.
- Read up: know the job and the company.
- Show up: be present and attentive to your interviewer.
- Follow up: send a thank-you note or further questions to reiterate your interest.
These are the five standard "ups" of interviewing, the super-obvious things we all have to do. To reference "Wheel of Fortune," these are the RSTLNE of the interview game. They are the bare minimum requirements to get through your appointment.
So what can you do to stand out from all the other clean, professional, qualified, capable, and committed applicants? Just one thing: be interesting. How to do that? Take each of the ordinary ups, and spin it.
Let yourself be little rough around the edges.
Perfection is for robots. Imperfection is human. Maybe you bite your nails. Maybe you have an interesting scar. Maybe you have a foreign-in-this-corner-of-the-world accent. Talk about what makes you, well, you—you’ll feel less tense and your interviewer will appreciate your authenticity (that’s corporate code for humanity).
Be a little unprofessional.
You know what is the least professional thing in the world? Emotion. For all the talk in the business realm about passion and dedication and grit, showing any of those emotions as anything more than a bullet point is frowned upon. So let some emotion out. Admit you care about something beyond your job description, or that you’re working for something bigger than your paycheck. Your interviewers have feelings, too (and if they don’t, you should not accept any job or piece of candy they offer you).
Read about anything other than the job.
The most awkward of all silences is the silence between sentences of an uncomfortable interview. Being able to change the subject, to interject an anecdote, or to break the silence with a bit of random information is a magnificent skill. Scan the headlines before your interview. Your ability to change subjects might just be the difference between an offer letter and perpetual HR silence.
Pay attention to the other people in the company.
Sure, you’re there to see someone specifically, but you need to observe and talk to others in the building while you’re there. Is anyone crying behind the dumpster? Are people laughing without fear of reprimand? Is the receptionist giving you a real or forced smile? You can learn a lot about a company by reading the body language of the people who work in it—then ask your interviewer about what you see. Your perceptiveness will be appreciated, especially when you comment on the positives.
Follow up, honestly, with yourself.
Now, the hardest question: Do you still want that job? Be honest. Be real. You may have impressed everyone you met and made a magnificent impression. You may get an offer, but is it still right for you? Are the people you met actually people you want to spend any more time with? Are you really ready to trade your time for what they are offering you? Sit with these questions before you send your thank you note. It might just be a "thanks, but no thanks," letter.