Out of the Box Interviews—For Better or Worse

Standing out during interviews is typically viewed as a good move for job candidates, however, some miss the mark, leaving hiring managers with a negative, lasting impression.

Acing an interview may seem simple, from using positive body language to avoiding costly mistakes in virtual interviews. Hiring managers in America and Canada share their experiences with candidates who stand out for the right and wrong reasons during interviews in a recent Express Employment Professionals-Harris Poll survey.

Positive Ways to Stand Out

Beyond the basics of researching the company, asking questions, and dressing professionally, hiring managers say candidates can stand out by:

  • Demonstrating passion for the role (52% American, 54% Canadian)
  • Quantifying achievements (43% American, 41% Canadian)
  • Showing they’ve researched the company (43% American, 44% Canadian)

Having a personal referral from someone who works at the company, showing their creativity, and keeping the resume concise may also be beneficial, according to the Harris Poll. Harvard Business Review suggests job seekers avoid talking about what they’re not, allow vulnerability, and ask thoughtful questions as ways to set themselves apart.

Stories from Hiring Managers

Job candidates are entering interviews with various levels of experience and understanding of professionalism. These are a few of the unusual encounters experienced by American hiring managers:

  • “This one time during the interview, the candidate brought in their iguana (support animal) and asked if we would compensate the iguana for being with her at work every day.”
  • “A person came in for an interview half an hour late. He acted excited about the position and said he could start right away. Then he said ‘I have conditions though.’ He starts naming all of these things, pizza on Fridays, having off every other Friday. Then he walked out.”
  • “Answered a personal phone call mid-interview and proceeded to get into a fight with whoever was on the other end.”

Canadian hiring managers report a similar level of outlandish behavior exhibited by job candidates:

  • “Go through the entire job interview, answer and ask questions, then was offered the job only to tell us they didn’t want the job at all, just needed to show they were looking to continue to get money from the government.”
  • “I had a candidate show up late and look like they had crawled out of bed and came straight to the interview. Then at the end, he was very much thinking he had the job and decided he would tell me he couldn’t start for a few months because he has holidays planned and he doesn’t feel like working right away.”
  • “Someone once dressed up for an in-person interview as a pumpkin as the date was October 31.”

Have you had a unique interview experience? Share it in the comments!

To provide accurate and timely employment forecasts for business leaders, Express Employment Professionals commissions an ongoing Job Insights survey to track employment and hiring trends across a wide range of industries.  
The Job Insights survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals between Oct. 31 and Nov. 10, 2023, among 1,007 U.S. hiring decision-makers. The Job Insights survey was conducted online within Canada by The Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals between Oct. 31 and Nov. 10, 2023, among 504 Canadian hiring decision-makers.

Express Employment International supports the Express Employment Professionals franchise and affiliated brands, including Specialized Recruiting Group and Express Healthcare Staffing. The Express franchise brand is an industry-leading, international staffing company with franchise locations in the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.   

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