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Ten Bold Interviewing Tactics to Make You Stand Out from the Crowd

The safest strategy to follow when you're being interviewed for a job is to play it conservatively and be careful not to do anything that might create concern in the mind of the person making the hiring decision. But if that strategy, sound as it is, isn't getting the results you want, here are ten steps to take that your competition won't be taking. Just bear in mind that none of these tactics will work if you try to implement them in a forced, unnatural way.

Excerpted from Job Hunting for Dummies (Wiley Publishing Inc., 1999), by Max Messmer. Used with permission.

Take Your Time When You Enter

Make a conscious effort when you first walk into the interviewer's office not to rush things. Pause at the door to make sure that the interviewer is ready for you before you walk in. Take a few seconds to look around and acclimate yourself when you enter the office. After you and the interviewer greet one another and shake hands, take your time when settling yourself into the chair. By taking things a little slower, you appear more poised and professional.

Ask the First Question

It's usually the interviewer's place to ask the first question during a job interview, but there's no law forbidding you to take the initiative. A simple question such as, "What's been the reaction to your new ad campaign?" establishes right from the start that you know something about the company, and it can get the interviewer to reveal needs and concerns that you can capitalize on later in the interview.

Don't Be Afraid to Be Yourself

Assuming for the moment that you have no blatant personality flaws that would knock you out of contention for most jobs, don't be afraid to let the "real you" shine through in interviews. If there's an offbeat side to your personality (and if that side of you doesn't suggest that you're an out-and-out "kook"), don't suppress it entirely. Most interviewers like to come away from an interview with at least a general sense of who you really are. Ironically, you often do yourself more harm than good when you go out of your way to play the part of the "ideal candidate."

Go Easy on the Charm

As important as it is to establish rapport with the person interviewing you, don't overdo a good thing. Your main task in a job interview is to draw a connection between what you have to offer in the way of skills and attributes and what the job requires. If you focus on that issue in an honest, enthusiastic way, the rapport will usually develop on its own. If you focus too much on winning the interviewer over, however, you begin to arouse suspicion. Your credibility suffers.

Show Candor

While it is not generally a good idea to volunteer any information that could call into question your ability to perform the job for which you are being interviewed, try not to respond too defensively to questions whose answers might bring to light certain "weaknesses" (with respect to the job at hand) in your background. The challenge here is to be aware, ahead of time, of those weaknesses so that you can admit to them but at the same time point to strengths that offset those weaknesses.

Don't Over-Answer

Keep your answers to interview questions as focused and brief as possible, and don't feel obliged to fill any silence that follows your answer with additional information. Let the silence work in your favor, giving the interviewer time to absorb what you've said. Pay attention to visual cues -- nodding, for example.

Make Your Case in Writing

Even though you can assume that your interviewer has seen your resume, there's nothing stopping you -- after you've done some research on the job and the company -- from preparing a short list that spells out the specific skills and attributes that you bring to this particular opportunity. The big advantage of handing the interviewer that list at the beginning of the interview: If, by some chance, the interviewer hasn't prepared a list of questions, that list will most likely serve as the focal point of the interview.

Make an Offer

If things go well in an interview and you're sure that you want the job, make the interviewer an offer. Offer to do something -- solve a problem, write a research report, spend two or three days on the job for no pay -- that will demonstrate to the interviewer that you have what it takes to do the job. You may get turned down, but the fact that you make the offer should favorably impress most interviewers.

Invite Yourself Back

The typical interview ends with the interviewer thanking you and telling you that they'll be getting in touch with you later, after the company has a chance to interview other applicants. Before the interviewer can give you that message, let him or her know that you would like to come back and talk more about the job. Here, again, the worst thing that can happen is that the interviewer will politely turn you down.

Leave Behind a Relevant Keepsake

Prepare ahead of time something you can leave behind (apart from your resume) that can enhance your chances of being hired. It could be a report that you did for your previous company (make sure, though, that you're not violating any confidentiality agreements) or even a research paper that you did at school that is relevant to the position for which you're interviewing.

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