Unconventional Job Interview Tips That Get Results

Drawing negative attention to yourself by employing unprofessional antics is the last thing you want to do. However, being a bit unconventional may just get you the job offer you're after and set you apart from the competition in a positive way. We'll explore how below.

Due The Research Others Don't
Research is arguably one of the most important things a job candidate can do to prepare for a interview. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to impressing an interviewer with intelligible, insightful answers. You should research the company, hiring manager, and position. But why stop there? Really want to impress an interviewer? Then take your research well beyond the company's homepage. Research earnings calls, quarterly reports, news releases, and blog posts. Go where other job candidates don't venture, and show the interviewer you mean business.

Suppose you're interviewing with Intel and the interviewer asks you the following question: "Where do you see the future for Intel?". Well, there are several ways to respond to this questions--and there's more than one right answer. If you're the traditional job candidate that performed some "traditional" research prior to the interview, you might answer this question as follows:

Most definitely in mobile computing technology. As the PC market continues to decline Intel will need to gain marketshare in mobile computing technology in order to survive.

Not a bad answer. Any good MBA should be able to come up with as much. However, if you're the job candidate that keeps up with Intel's blog posts, company releases and industry news, you might answer the same question in the following way:

The possibilities for mobile computing are seemingly endless. I know Intel was predicting some 500 million pieces of wearable technology will be sold globally on an annual basis by 2020, generating close to $2 trillion in value. Each of these products will required some degree of processing, storage, memory, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth technology. Intel is well positioned to establish a first mover advantage in many of these sectors. Each of the sectors will also drive the need for more and more data-crunching, which means more processing power, and more processors. In the past Intel was a PC company. It's now a PC, tablet and smartphone company. However, I believe the future for Intel is in becoming an intelligence company--a company that brings intelligence to anything, in both traditional and non-traditional computing markets.

So if you were the interviewer, which job candidate would you hire?

Stay Informed
Staying up to date on what's happening in the industry while you're searching for a job can be difficult--but it's not impossible. In fact, today's technology allows anyone who wants to stay abreast of new developments, news and stories to do so with little effort. How you say? It's easy. Let us introduce you to Google Alerts, a free service that emails you any time a new story appears online. All you have to do is go to www.google.com/alerts, type in a specific term (i.e., Investment Banking, Semiconductors, etc.), enter your google email address, and within no time you'll start getting updates for the term you typed in. Google alerts is also very useful for keeping track of company news, postings and events. If you want to follow Intel all you have to do is enter "Intel" when prompted to create an alert.

Cleanup Up Your Social Media Image
Over 90% of prospective employers will review your online social media accounts and profiles to learn more about you prior to extending a job offer. In fact, it's one of the first things they'll do after reviewing your resume. That's why it's so important you don't post anything about yourself on your Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts that could reflect poorly on your person or put into question your character.

But there's an easier way to clean up your social media image than reviewing all your previous posts and discussions--it's called Social Sweepster. Social Sweepster is an app that scours your social media accounts and detects any "red flags"--including appropriate pictures, suspicious objects, and even profane language. Once you know where the red flags are you can go back through your accounts and delete anything that would cast a shadow on your job candidacy.

Schedule Your Interview At The Correct Time
You receive a call from the hiring manager of a fashion design firm. She's reviewed your resume, likes what she's seen and wants to take the next step. She asks you, "When would be a good time to come in for an interview?" What should you say? Remember, you want to pick the time that is best for the interviewer, not the time that most convenient for you. Based on research performed by Kate Parham, an Altanta-based freelance writer, the best time to schedule a job interview is Tuesday morning around 10:30 a.m.

So why is Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. the best time? Consider the following tips presented by Glassdoor.com:

  • Avoid early mornings. While early mornings are the ideal time if you want to catch someone when they're alert and ready to get stuff done, it's also the time of day when they may be preoccupied with personal responsibilities at home and work related tasks that need to be accomplished throughout the day. Monday mornings--right after the weekend--are out of the question.

  • Avoid the last slot of the day. You don't want to be the last interview of the day, if you can help it. By the end of the day the interviewer is starting to think about going home, what they're going to do that evening and they've start to loose their concentration on work. For this same reason, Friday afternoon is one of the worst times to schedule a job interview.

  • Avoid right before or after lunch. Job interviews scheduled right before the lunch hour may be cut short or rushed. If you schedule you're interview right after lunch you may find yourself waiting.

  • Avoid weekend and holiday bookends. If you schedule your interview right before a holiday or right after a holiday you might find yourself being interviewed by a distracted, preoccupied interviewer. For the same reason you want to avoid Mondays and Fridays. Scheduling your interview on any of these days is likely to get you rescheduled, or you'll end up playing the waiting game.

  • Find out which day(s) works best for the interviewer. While this may be difficult, it's not impossible. Ask the interviewer a probing question that will give you a clue as to when the best interview time might be.

According to ScienceDaily, it's sometimes best to be the first one to interview. This is especially true when the firm you're interviewing with plans on making a hiring decision quickly. Research shows that people unconsciously tend to gravitate toward first options presented when decisions must be quickly or without much deliberation.

Lead With A Real Story
About ninety percent of all interviews start with the same question, "Tell me about yourself". About ninety percent of all interviewers serve up the same boring, cookie-cutter answer which goes something like this:

I studied [name of major] at [name of college] because I've always want to be a [name of profession]. At my last job with [name of last employer] I was responsible for...

Yes, this is answering the interviewer's question, but so what. How does this type of answer improve your chances of getting hired? It doesn't. The interviewer is probably going to interview at least a handful of candidates for the position and most are probably going to give a similar response. You need to provide the interviewer a reason to sit up and pay attention--a reason to remember you. You need to provide an answer that shows you're a real person, not just another run-of-the-mill job seeker looking for their next paycheck.

Respond to this question, and similar questions, with an answer that has a punch--something that inspires. Your answer should showcase who you real are, how you arrived at this point in your life, and why you're a natural fit for the position. Tell the interviewer your story.

The next time an interviewer asks the question "Tell me about yourself", maybe you can provide an answer like the one provided by the following professional seeking a position as a school psychologist within the Washington DC public school system with an inner city.

I grew up in a hispanic community in Laredo, Texas. Since neither of my parents spoke any English, my years of elementary and secondary education were trying. My father worked as a field laborer, and my mother worked alongside him. They had little time to focus on anything but providing the bare necessities for me and my two brothers. Getting an education without the support of my parents was difficult. In fact, I don't think I would have made it to where I am today if it were not for the support of dedicated teachers, administrators, and counselors.

I decided a long time ago that I owed it to myself, society, and my parents, to share the blessing of education with others--as it was shared with me. I've found that counseling and advising students, many of which face the same obstacles I did in my youth, is fulfilling and where I can make the biggest difference for good. That's why I'm so excited about the opportunity to interview for a job with your school. I'm confident that I'm the right person for the position you're looking to fill and I came today to see if I can convince you of the same.

Develop your own personal story that sets you apart from other candidates, that uniquely qualifies you for the position, and allows you to connect with the interviewer.

What's Your Greatest Weakness?
This is another popular question that interviewers like to ask. It's also one of those questions for which job candidates like to prepare a cookie-cutter response. All to often, candidates will provide a disingenuous, canned response to this question, or equally as bad, a geniune answer that falls far short of answering the really question interviewers are getting at. This question is not about admitting your weakness, it's about demonstrating your ability to overcome. What interviewers really want to know is how do you overcome obstacles in your path? And what steps do you take to make personal progress. The following are a few examples of both poor and strong answers to this question.

Poor Answer:
I struggle to delegate responsibility. I have to fight the desire to do everything myself, in order to make sure it's done right.

Strong Answer:
I sometimes struggle to delegate responsibility. However, I recognized a long time ago that delegation is a key quality of a good project manager--and an absolutely essential element of successful project management. In order to ensure projects are completed according to spec and on time, the first thing I always do is assemble a team with competent professionals that I can trust. I've found that when I trust each team member, I feel much more comfortable delegating.

Prepare a couple Powerful "STAR" Anecdotes
Even if you're the most qualified candidate on paper, truth be told, you're going to be no more memorable than the stories you share during your interview. There are two keys to being able to share powerful, memorable stories. First, prepare anecdotes to share ahead of time. If you don't, there's a high likelihood you'll forget them when put on the spot. Second, make sure your anecdotes follow the STAR format:

  • Situation, Task
  • Action
  • Result

STAR is a format for structuring and communicating information effectively and efficiently. Not only does it provide a powerful communication format, it will allow you to adapt your anecdotes to fit many of the questions an interviewer asks. Below is an example anecdote from a project manager seeking career opportunities in the aerospace engineering industry.

  • Situation/Task: While I was working for XYZ Aerospace Inc, the company was faced with the possibility of laying off a number of its engineers. Many of these engineers were key members of the project team I was heading. I knew that if I lost these engineers before the project was over, we'd have a difficult time completing the project as scheduled--if at all. I also knew that if I told my team that layoffs were looming, it was likely some would jump ship immediately or start looking for new opportunities. I didn't want my team to loose focus. Corporate left the decision of when to announce potential lay offs up to me.

  • Action: I decided that the correct course of action was to immediately announce that layoffs were looming. As I suspected, a few team members immediately jumped ship, however, many decided to stay on, finish out the project, and see what the future held for the company.

  • Result: Many of the team leaders approached me over the course of the next week and expressed their appreciation for my candor and for being up front. They said they had suspected that layoffs were coming and were curious if I was going to try hide the fact. They also told me their decision to stay on was due in large part to the level of trust I had established as project manager. Soon after, corporate announced that no layoffs would be made. The natural attrition we experienced as a result of announcing the layoffs freed up the cash necessarily to keep the layoffs from actually occurring. Even though we lost a few good engineers, the remaining team not only finished the project, they did so ahead of schedule.

Think Aloud
While not unconventional, thinking aloud is something that many job seekers neglect to do. Thinking aloud is a key element of effective interviewing, especially when it comes to answering questions that are analytical in nature. Whether you've been asked to estimate the number of car tires in the United Kingdom or calculate EBITDA for a publicly traded corporation, the key to a successful interview is to share your analysis, computations and thought process with the interviewer.

Consider the following market sizing case study question, "Estimate the market for light bulbs in Australia." Now consider the following answers.

You ask the interviewer a few clarifying questions, think to yourself for a minute or two, make a few calculations on the piece of paper and then shout "50 million!".

You ask the interviewer a few clarify questions, you share your assumptions with the interviewer, you talk the interviewer through your assumptions, logic and calculations before arriving at an estimate.

The following is an example of a good response to the above question.

You start off by asking the interviewer the following questions: "Do you want to look at all market segments including business/commercial, domestic and public lighting? Do you want to include all types of lights such as fluorescent and incadescent bulbs?" The interviewer clarifies that he wants you to estimate the market for domestic lightly in terms of revenue per year for traditional incadescent bulbs only.

You respond as follows:

Let's start from the top down. Australia has approximately 20 million people. Given that Australia is a westernized country it's most likely go to be similar to the other western countries include the US, UK and Canada in terms of culture, housing, and economics. Considering this, and the mix of large families, small families, singles, elderly and split families, there is probably about 3 people per household. If we divide 20 million (the total population) by 3 we find there are roughly 6.7 million households in Australia.

Based on the same assumption, that Australia is similar to other westernized culturs, we can also assume the typical house has 2-3 bedrooms, a kitchen, front room, dinning room, hallway, a staircase and garage large enough for 1-2 vehicles. This makes approximately 11 rooms per house where lights can be found.

A traditional incadescent bulb will put off enough light for a small room. Taking into account both small and large rooms, we can assume 1.5 light bulbs per room. Multiplying this figure by the number of 11 rooms you have approximately 17 light bulbs per household. Considering that most homes also have 2-3 exterior lights, we can reasonably increase the number of bulbs per household to 20.

Now we need to consider the average life of an incadescent bulb. My experience has been that a regular incadescent buld bulb will last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years depending on usage. Assuming that on average most light bulbs will burn out after about 1.5 years, we can estimate that the average household will go through about 13.3 bulbs a year by dividing the number of bulbs per household (20) by the average life of a bulb (1.5 years).

By multiplying 13.3 by the number of households in Australia (6.7 million) we can estimate that roughly 90 million light bulbs are purchased by domestic markets in Australia each year. Since we want to know what is the total market demand in terms of revenue, we'll now need to multiple 90 million by the cost of each light bulb. Once we've done that, we'll also need to take into considering that many domestic consumer now use energy saving fluorescent tubs instead of incadescent lights..."

For tough analytical questions, sometimes the answer is not as important as how you arrived at the answer. Talking through your thinking will show the interviewer how you process information and that you're a good communicator.

Ask Questions That Convey Something About You
It's important to have some back and forth between you and the interviewer--so ask some insightful questions if you can. Otherwise the interview becomes completely on-sided. Most interviewers also give candidates the opportunity to ask a few questions at the end of the interview. Take full advantage of this opportunity. The key to asking effective questions is to (1) ask genuine questions while (2) conveying something new about you.

At the end of the interview, the interviewer asks "Do you have any questions for me?" How do you best answer this question? Consider the following responses from candidates seeking the position of general manager with Walmart International.

  • Bad: No, not really. I think I know everything I want to know.

  • Weak: What division in your corporation is the fastest growing?

  • Strong: With a second quarter net sales increase of 9.1%, Brazil is now Walmart's fastest growing international market, out pacing the United Kingdom, Mexico and China. Do you think this growth was fueled by Easter and strong World Cup sales? Do you see Walmart being able to maintain this level of growth through next quarter?

Need we say more?

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