We concluded another session of On-Campus Interviews last week, and I wanted to take the opportunity to visit with you about the one big takeaway I got from employers that will help you improve your interviewing skills. This is not a new concept; we’ve talked about it before on this blog and in our in-person presentations. But the message needs repeating: YOU HAVE TO STAND OUT!
Picture this. You are a talent scout for the NBA. You walk into a gym to watch an all-star game with 20 of the best college and amateur basketball players in the world, and you are trying to decide which one you will select. Now imagine all 20 are identical. They are each 6’8″. Each weigh 245 lbs of pure muscle. Each can jump the same height. Each can shoot with the same skill. Each have the same ability to handle the ball. Each have the same basketball IQ. The only difference between any of them (that you can see) is that one of the 20 is wearing a green wrist band, while the other 19 are wearing red.
How do you determine who to select? Simple. The player with the green wrist band. Why? Because he was the only player you could distinguish from the rest.
Obviously this never actually happens. Players are all heights, all builds, all levels of shooting skill, ball-handling skill and IQ. But in that example, the scout couldn’t see any of that.
Likewise, it is apparent that in interview situations many of you are looking the same to employers. They are not able to distinguish one from the other, and at the end of the day feel that they saw the same person 10 times. This leaves them in the position of not making a choice at all, or going through another round of interviews (i.e. more cost/time) to look for the differences they need to see in order to make choices.
Just as in the basketball example, you are not at all like the others! So the problem is you are not showcasing what makes you unique in the interview. Okay so to get in the door you need to have a few basics that are similar such as academic record. But after that you need to showcase your unique value proposition. What will the employer gain if they hire you that they won’t if they hire someone else?
It’s hard sometimes to think about it in those terms, because you care about your classmates and don’t want to come across as arrogant, proud or even back-stabbing, and to be clear that’s not what we’re talking about here. I’m not saying you need to prove you are BETTER than the other candidates; I’m saying you need to prove you are DIFFERENT from the other candidates. Demonstrate the uniqueness that each of you were blessed with. The employer will make the determination as to whether your different is better for them than another’s different.
So practically what does this look like? My suggestion is to sit down right now and write one to three things about you that (as best you know or can guess) nobody else in your class can say. It might be where you are from or where you have lived. It might be a special skill or talent. It might be a hobby. It might be a period in your life of great challenge that you have fought through.
Whatever it is, figure out how to weave those things into your cover letters, resume and interview answers. If you want the job, you have to stand out. You have to.