Be good, be memorable or be gone

I could never count the number of people I have interviewed in my years of recruiting; many, many people. I've shaken many hands, caught many colds, asked many questions. Every once in a while, I have a candidate whom I've met in the past contact me again. Sometimes they start out with "I'm not sure if you remember me, but...". Based on pure numbers, the answer is usually no. I'm one of those people that can read a book and then read it again a few years later. I don't remember the details of the plot, but I remember if it was a good book or not. I really like F. Scott Fitzgerald, but The Great Gatsby, in my mind, is about a guy who lives someplace on Long Island named after an egg (am I right?..I don't remember). One of the better books I don't remember.

I think that sometimes it's the same with candidates. Last year, a candidate sent me an e-mail that asked if I was still recruiting at Microsoft. He shared his resume, which looked great. I forwarded it on to a hiring team (that I knew via their blog). After he was hired, he and I had lunch and I asked how we had originally met. He started to tell me about a conversation we had in 2001 that involved Afghanistan. I know, kind of a random thing. But when he said that, I remembered that conversation and I remember feeling positively about him as a candidate as we were speaking. The Afghanistan thing was just the trigger that helped me remember the conversation about his work experience.

This just made me think about how, as candidates, sharing some personal trivia can help you make an impression. You don't really have to share anything *really* personal. You might just tell your recruiter that you are a great flosser (hey, it could come up in conversation) or have a particular interest or had something funny happen to you on the way to the airport. I mean, stay away from religion, politics, anything that would be deemed inappropriate in the context of a work situation (like dating habits, or your collection of anything weird), but don't be afraid to relate to the interviewer. Recruiters might not remember your name at first glance but they might remember you as the guy who was in a documentary about a start-up (true story) or the person that is obsessed with college football as they are ( IF!).

There's someone out there that contacted me about my blog and we got to talking about cheese. Sure don't remember his name, but I remember the conversation. And when he contacts me, I'll think "oh yeah, you're the cheese guy!". I've had hundreds of these kinds of conversations. That type of interactions keep recruiters like me going; actually relating to people.

I think that there's a tendency for people to keep interviews all about business. But we know there's a person in there. Using good judgment is key, obviously, as are good interpersonal skills (jumping up and yelling "I like berry jam!" in an interview would leave an impression but not a good one) I guess my point is that injecting a little personality into the conversation can make your interviewers relate to you and remember you.

Comments (24)

  1. Deb says:

    This just made me laugh right out loud.  Working in HR, people at work make fun of me often because they think I’m terrible with names.  (OK.  I’m terrible with names.  I didn’t inheirit my mom’s gift for remembering names and every connection possibly associated with them.)  They think that being good with names should be a prerequisite in my job.  I think the fact that I remember "cheese guy" is good enough.  

    After all, how many times have I said something like, "Hey!  Who was that design guy?  You know, the one from back east who was seriously into cars?"    

    I’m with you.  I talk to entirely too many people to remember every name, or even to remember every passing conversation.  But make an impression?  And I’ll probably be searching everywhere possible for your resume when the time comes.  And I’ll find it.

    And honestly?  With me?  If I remember a name, it usually isn’t something good.  I remember names of people when they’ve walked out, when they’ve been one of those who ‘interviewed well’ but performed poorly, when they came across as ‘not right for the job’ for a serious reason.  

    By the way, I know you were a fan of Marty during last year’s Rockstar:  INXS….have you caught Supernova yet?  What’s your impression?  

    Hey!  Forgive me for trying to relate!


    All the best!


  2. jim s says:

    Afghanistan? Was this Colin Powell?

  3. Rujith says:


    I would say ‘it depends’…. some time you will remember people even if they didnt do extra ordinary things….

    anyways good one to think about… you should make a ‘mark’ to people to remember about you…


  4. MSDN Archive says:

    I’m totally agree with you! These small details leaves a big "footprint".

    I remember I was at an interview for one foreign company and they asked if I had a visa or something so I can stay in the country legally (it’s because they don’t want to bother themselves about it 🙁 ).  I said: "No, I don’t have one but it’s not a problem to make it." Anyway, the next call from another recruiter of the same company was after a month and a half or so inviting me to an interview for an another position.  Almost at the end of this second interview, a woman asked why I refused their first proposal?! And then another one said: "No, I remember him. He was good at that interview and actually he was accepted but he didn’t have a visa." I don’t know if I was accepted or not for this one; anyway I will refuse them if they ever call me again. Am I right?

  5. Christien says:

    Recently, I had an interview.  The man asked me to bring a brag book and another object that would make me stand out.  He was very vague in the request.  Long story short, I asked him what other people brought.  He said things like pictures of boats and houses.  I brought something that had personal value to me that couldn’t be bought.  He said it reminded him of his relationship with his father.  I don’t know about the job yet but I know I stood out on some level.

  6. Wine-Oh says:

    I had the reverse happen to me yesterday. A few years ago I had an informational interview at a company and was passed of to the head cheese’s underling. Well now the underling has moved up in the ranks.

    Flash forward to my meeting yesterday, he had no recollection of meeting me and I didnt take it personally to be honest. He is one of those naturally high strung nervous types. I tried to jog his memory of how I intially met him and it didnt resonate with him. Oh well.  The job wasnt the right fit and he had characteristics that I wouldnt want in a boss. IE nervous energy, short term memory, etc. But it was good to reconnect.

  7. Coleman says:

    So, am I the "coffee guy"?

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    Deb-me too! Remembering something is a step in the right direction. It could be the most random little factoid. i am watching RockStar: Supernova. Let’s just say that the contestants are no Marty!

    jim s- you didn’t know he’s a Microsoft employee?


    Vitalie- that’s your call. I’m not sure I understand what the issue is.

    Christien- that’s really odd for them to request that for an interview. Hmm.

    Wine-Oh- sometimes the personal details don’t stick. But his sure stuck with you!

    Coleman – Umm, I dunno. Did we talk about coffee or something? I live in the Seattle area so pretty much anyone here could be the coffee guy.

  9. Wine-Oh says:

    Wow. I like the experience Christen experienced. To be able to bring something personal that represents you. I am always intrigued by off the beaten path expereinces. However it all needs to tie into the type of gig it was for. I am assuming Christen that it was a creative type role?

    I was once asked in an interview (and it is very relevant here) "If you were a Microsoft Office product, what product would you be?" I answered " a little bit of both, because its a collaborative effort. Word allows you to detail experiences and ideas, Excel backs these thoughts up with data, Powerpoint allows you to share these ideas with others, Project lets you detail each step of the project, and Outlook lets you send it out to those who want to read it.  The guy was very impressed with my answer. However the company went into a hiring freeze and are no more.

    (Note: No offense or disrespect to Access, but I dont do database work)

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    I’m sure Access is not offended ; )

  11. Lauren Smith says:

    I am actually in town this week and was having dinner at Maggiano’s down in Bellevue and we were talking about this type of thing, actually. Not necessarily in the HR sense, but more about how important it is that your salespeople stand out from the crowd of other salespeople at other companies. Having a hobby that the customer can relate to and potentially share makes the job of selling a bit easier.

    Not that I’m in sales. I’m just a guy who posts comments on other people’s blogs.

    And I am also the coffee guy.

    And I like berry jam. A lot.

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Oooh, Maggiano’s…hope you had the stuffed mushrooms.

    Lauren…I hate to tell you but you are the guy who says he looks like Tom Cruise. Seriously, aren’t you the person who told me that or something like it? Am I remembering that correctly? And I remember that you live in Asia.

    Jam is good!

  13. Lauren Smith says:

    Dude, that’s such a weird thing to remember. Some pictures are on my blog about that whole thing back last year.

    But I suppose that could have been memorable. If you see someone that looks like Tom Cruise walking around Bellevue or Redmond without Katie and Suri, you may be looking at me.

    And holy cow, those mushrooms are really good. And the bottomless plate of filet mignon? By the time the tiramisu came around, I think I had eaten a whole cow.

    Followed that up last night with a half side of beef at Jak’s in Issaquah.

    I love Seattle. And coffee. And jam.

  14. Ed Kuryluk says:

    Good Topic and one of my big frustrations as a job candidate.

    It’s obvious the recruiters are talking to hundreds of people every week. I’ve gotten past the first interviews with several companies, but the offers have gone to someone else. Recruiters and hiring managers seem sincere when they offer an olive branch "I’ll keep you in mind for anything else that comes up in the future". But when I find an opportunity a month or so later and reach out, it’s rare to get a return phone call. Not their fault, but both sides invested a lot in the initial contacts, there must be an efficient way to "pick up where we left off".

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    I know, it’s the weird stuff that sticks in the mind! Come on, do you think Suri actually exists? I’m not sure ; )

    Make sure you eat some Pacific NW salmon while you are in town and make sure it’s wild, not farm raised. You need something light after all that beef!

  16. HeatherLeigh says:

    Ed-yes, indeed. I’m not sure what the right way is to stick in the mind but if you can pull it off, it’s good to do.

    Sometimes, though, the recruiters just don’t listen. I remember interviewing with Disney way back and I had told the recruiter that I had just been in the hospital for food poisoning (I think I had a mark on my arm from the IV or something). When we go to lunch, she asked why I wasn’t eating very much. Hello, honey!

  17. Ed Kuryluk says:

    Food poisoning, now that’s memorable! I won’t be trying that one. I’ll stick to anecdotes, thank you.

  18. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, and I was on my way to SE Asia the next day. Talk about being a nervous flyer!

  19. MSDN Archive says:

    The issue is that I would not like to work with somebody that don’t want to invest in somebody or something.

    "If you want your 20 years old child to come off well then teach him and not only require."

    Anyway, this one can be discussed for a long time..

  20. Jingying says:

    I’m bad at remembering names but i find it easier to remember the person by some form of connection:

    say a story the person shared, experience, looks, etc..

    And till today, i know that person by "he’s so-and-so fren" and not his name.. hmm.. maybe i make it a point to go find out n remember his name. =)

  21. Christien says:

    Wine-Oh/Heather: Actually, it was a spot in medical device sales.  It’s one of the fields outside of advertising I’m into.  The company is a great place to be too.  A headhunter put me in touch with them.  It was an interesting and odd process, but I didn’t get the job.  I have a feeling he will remember the ball though ;->.

  22. HeatherLeigh says:

    Jingying-me too

    Christien-that’s very interesting. I don’t imagine that will make it’s way into the Microsoft interview process.  I’d have no idea what I would bring…maybe my ridiculous home decorating notebook. What? You don’t have one too?

  23. martin snyder says:

    You see, when the other blokes need that extra push….they cant…..but we can just turn it up just that one louder…..

    but…… you see……….this one goes to eleven ?

  24. Wine-Oh says:

    Id bring my pez dispenser collection (or a picture of them), or I would bring a picture of my dog. Who doesnt love a cute black lab?

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