How to stand out in a job interview

Flickr user Josh Chandler

(MoneyWatch) If you still search for jobs in more or less the same way that your dad did -- submit an application, send a resume, go to the interview and answer questions, then go home and send a "thank you" note -- then you're not setting yourself apart from the crowd. And that obviously makes it much harder to get hired.

Recently, ZipRecruiter Blog cataloged some techniques for standing out in an interview -- in a good way. And I can confirm from 10 years as a hiring manager, that this advice works.

Specifically, ZipRecruiter recommends creating a personal presentation and delivering it during the interview. Instead of passively waiting for questions to come along that let you explain why you're the best candidate for the job, making your own presentation lets you set the narrative and emphasize those skills and experiences you think your hiring manager needs to hear. You can include examples from your portfolio and combine all the elements that also shows off your presentation and public speaking skills. Keep it short: 5 to 10 minutes is the longest it should run, or else run the danger of boring the hiring manager and monopolizing time that interviewers need to assess you.

Since the hiring manager probably isn't expecting you to have your own presentation and hasn't planned for the time it'll take you to deliver it, it's a good idea to mention early in the interview day that you brought a short presentation with you, and politely ask when would be a good time to show it. It's possible that the hiring manager will want to see it right away, or you'll be asked to deliver it to a group of interviewers later in the day.

This is a powerful way to stand out among the pool of candidates. ZipRecruiter claims that only 10 to 20 percent of candidates bring a presentation to the interview, and most hiring managers genuinely appreciate the effort, making you much more likely to get hired.

ZipRecruiter goes on to give some examples of good presentations, but here's where I part company with them. The blog describes one presentation in which the job seeker mocked up a Time Magazine cover with the candidate's picture and the text "Time Warner Foundation's Next Great Addition: Time Hires Jane Doe." Another example included giving an actual football to the hiring manager with the inscription, "I look forward to being your standout quarterback."

Ugh. Perhaps my tastes tend toward more conservative, professional lines, but these approaches would turn me off and result in a definite "no hire." My advice: Be professional and stick to the facts. Don't include cheesy graphics or make silly sports metaphors.

As long as your presentation follows those guidelines and you don't break out into song or recite poetry in the middle of the pitch (yes, I was a hiring manager in an interview when this really happened), a presentation can't help but improve your odds of getting hired.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Josh Chandler

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