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How to Stand Out in the Eleventh Hour of the Hiring Process

Hannah Morgan

What can you do to stand out during the interview process? First, you want to stand out for the right reasons. Consider the results of a CareerBuilder and Harris Interactive survey from 2013, involving more than 2,000 hiring managers and HR professionals who were asked which factors would make them more likely to favor one candidate over another. Twenty-seven percent of respondents would favor the candidate with the better sense of humor, 26 percent would consider the candidate who is involved in his or her community, 22 percent would favor the better-dressed candidate and 21 percent would like the candidate with whom they had more in common.

Here are some ways to be a standout candidate.

Use mutual professional and personal interests. Instead of testing new jokes out on your interviewer, look to build rapport by asking questions about his or her professional interests. Also, watch the body language of your interviewer to gauge level of interest in your responses, especially to questions about community activities and professional interests, like conferences, books, publications or professional associations. If the conversation and body language is positive, you should be sure to reference that topic in your follow-up with him or her.

Follow up is in your court.Should you follow up again after you send your thank you? Yes, you want to stay in front of the hiring decision-makers as they interview and consider more candidates. The hiring process will take longer than either of you expect. About two weeks after you send your thank you, plan on touching base with the recruiter again. Liz Ryan, CEO and founder of the publishing firm, think tank and coaching and consulting business Human Workplace, wrote a Forbes article on writing a post thank you follow-up, where she recommends you ask a friend to debrief the interview with you. The logic is that in recounting blow by blow with someone else you may reveal things you missed. "You'll be amazed how your friend, simply by virtue of not being you, can call your attention to issues that deserve your attention," Ryan writes. "They could be odd or concerning things that happened at the interview." Use these insights when you write your next email to the interviewer.

Connect with interviewers on LinkedIn. Once you have interviewed with someone, is it all right to send an invite to connect on LinkedIn? The jury is still out on this question, but most recruiters agree that you should ask your interviewer during the interview if he or she would be willing to accept your initiation to connect. Provide the interviewer with a reason you'd like to build a relationship and stay connected. Some recruiters say it may be awkward if the candidate is no longer in the running, but others suggest you base your decision on how well the interview went and the level of rapport established. The worst thing he or she could say is no, so why not ask? With more recruiters relying on LinkedIn to source candidates, it is no longer wise to assume an answer.

Build your 30/60/90-day plan. What is this? It's a written document explaining how you will transition and excel and provide value to your future employer within those periods. It can be as specific or general as you want. When shared during a second or third interview, it is one way to differentiate yourself and show interest in the company and job.

Peggy McGee of Career Confidential is an advocate of a 30/60/90 day plan. She says it serves two purposes: It's an outline of your intentions for the first three months at work, plus "it's also a goal-setting document that shows you understand the job and you know what it takes to be successful at it. It covers everything from your training to your efforts to help grow the business."

The 30-day section of your plan is usually about how you will learn the company's systems, procedures, people, customers/clients and overall culture.

The 60-day section outlines how you plan to continue to assess the company and begin to use your strengths.

The 90-day section shows how you will take what you've learned and begin to put it into action. How will you meet some of the goals stated in the job description?

If you can't answer these questions, you will need to get the information, either through informational meetings with company insiders or during your next interview. Another reason to think about creating a plan is that it will help you envision your first 90 days for a better job match.

Take some risks to stand out. Standing out requires you take calculated risks. Use your best judgment and remember, if you play by the same rules as every other job seeker, you'll look the same.

Hannah Morgan writes and speaks on career topics and job search trends on her blog Career Sherpa. She co-authored "Social Networking for Business Success," and has developed and delivered programs to help job seekers understand how to look for work better.

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