by Mychal Ludwig, Head Editor, INALJ New Mexico
previously published on 4/4/13
Becoming Mnemonic: Sticking In Your Interviewers’ Minds
Clearly, standing out in an interview is the goal of most job seekers. By this stage (the interview), it’s likely, though not certain, that all candidates match to some extent what the employers are looking for in terms of skill sets and experience. Coming up with strategies and lists that promise to help you stand out though, I think, are not exactly helpful, as knowing what exactly stands out in a positive manner to an individual interviewer or committee isn’t particularly knowable. In this regard, doing your research on the institution, such as contacting someone you know with inside information, can give you the step up on crafting a successful strategy for being remembered positively.
I’d prefer anecdote as a preparatory strategy for the uninspired interviewee, and would like to share my experience and attempts to stand out during my (ultimately unsuccessful) interview for the position of Government Information Librarian at a university last summer. Again, as I wasn’t really worried, and couldn’t do anything concerning what skills and experience I came to this university with, many of my strategies for being memorable had nothing to do with the job I was interview with, or librarianship at all. This sounds strange, but I was looking to have them remember me, as a tangible person, not another list of classes or LIS skills.
The first thing I did specifically to leave an impression was to seem comfortable with myself. By this, I meant comportment. I dressed nicely, in a suit, but a suit I felt good in, that reflected my personality. I didn’t want to seem like a stiff, but like me, but well dressed for this important occasion. Maybe this seems simple, too obvious, but I think it’s really important to let them see your personality come through the formalities and suits.
My next strategy, building on the first, was to go paperless, and lightweight. I wore my personality-filled suit, and brought my iPad. This was both an attempt to illustrate my support of current technologies and knowledge of gadgets, as well as an attempt to not spend time fumbling around in a bag with papers. I wanted the process of interview after interview and presentations and so on, to go smoothly. Again, they’d remember me, not me dropping my papers everywhere.
The final strategy I’ll impart came after the two-day bonanza; as soon as I was dropped off back at my (very nice) hotel on the campus, instead of celebrating and relaxing or getting ready for my very early flight, I spent the next 3 or so hours writing emails. I had taken mental and written notes throughout the day, from each of my encounters with the various staff I had been introduced to, or interviewed by. With this information, I wrote every person (something like 20?) a personalized email, thanking him or her for discussing a particular topic, for interviewing me, and for giving me the chance to get the job. I hoped that this would show that I wasn’t just there for a job, but to become part of their library community.
In the end, I didn’t get the job, and although I have no idea whether this was due to some difference in skill or experience, or how wide the gulf was between myself and the successful candidate, I know I did everything I could to get and maintain the attention of the staff of that institution. And when your hiring committee is asking around and making their decision, you want those extra efforts to stick out in their mind, you want to become mnemonic.