It’s interview day. You’ve prepped, you’ve planned, and you’re doing your best to keep your nerves in check. You’re ready to stand out and get the attention of the hiring manager.
While you already know that you should research the company, practice answering common questions, and arrive on time—you might not know the importance of making it clear you’re a culture fit.
In a May 2014 survey of 2,978 job seekers and HR professionals by Millennial Branding and Beyond.com, 43% of hiring managers ranked “cultural fit” as the most important thing when hiring a candidate.
So, the interview’s your ideal chance to show that you understand the company’s core values and would fit in perfectly.
But here’s the catch: Trying too hard can do the exact opposite. And many people make this mistake when interviewing. So, how do you walk that line without crossing it?
Here are three strategies to keep in mind.
1. Make it Clear That You Have the Same Values, in Addition to the Same Passion
In a CareerBuilder survey about the strangest interview stunts, it says a candidate once got on the floor during the interview and asked the hiring manager to take a picture of him with the company mascot. Presumably he was trying to express just how much he loved the brand.
But keep in mind, professing your undying love for a company doesn’t tell the interviewer much about whether you’ll actually fit in with the rest of the team and the workplace environment. Passion doesn’t always equal someone you’d want to be working next to every day.
Take the time to research the company’s core values by reading its mission statement, about us page, and social media updates. Determine what it cares about and how it overlaps with your own career experience.
Once you know that, you can stand out by making your value add clear. So, it’s OK to lead with “I love your products and use them all the time,” so long as you follow up with, “I noticed on your company’s site, you mentioned the importance of not just loving what the company sells, but also embracing what the lifestyle involves. And that really rung true to me because I don’t just love your camping gear, but I also truly love unplugging and embracing the simpler side of life. That’s why at my last company I initiated an ‘unplug for the day’ marketing campaign.”
2. Look Knowledgeable, Not Obsessed
It’s true: To succeed, you’ll have to believe in the company’s mission and values. So, you might think showing a burning passion for the organization will help set you apart from the competition. However, showing extreme interest is just as bad as displaying little interest at all.
For example, Let’s say you’re interviewing for a job with Disney. Although you may love the company, the job interview isn’t the place to go on about how many times you’ve watched Frozen and give your best rendition of “Let it Go.”
You should make sure you get noticed for your passion in a positive, less in-your-face way. Show your desire for the job by creating a plan for what you would do if you got it. Discuss the challenges the employer faces, how you plan to meet those challenges, and your goals for the position.
Doing this shows the hiring manager you’re interested in not only the brand, but also working for the brand. You understand the problems, needs, and voice, and you have the skills needed to turn that knowledge into results. Not only that, you know how to implement it in a way that works for the teams involved.
This goes for things outside of the open position, too, if you think it makes you look like more of a culture fit. Does the company support a cause or charity that’s near and dear to your own heart? Propose a plan to get more of the employees involved—and then intertwine your own experience to drive home the idea that you get it.
3. Follow Up Correctly
When you’re searching for a job, you can get a little desperate for news and status updates—especially if you love the company. So, even if you know too much follow-up is usually a no-no, you might think it’s OK to ping the interviewer and others you met every few days or so, so long as you are mentioning relevant things.
I get it: Especially if your interview included something like drinks with the team, it’s easy to feel like you’re already one of them. And you want to show just how well you’d fit in by starting the email exchange now.
But believe me, it’s too soon, and you want to avoid coming off as someone who’d be annoying to working with.
Start with a thank you note right away. You always want to thank the interviewer for his or her time and emphasize how much you enjoyed meeting everyone, and then—this is where most people fail to earn bonus points—offer more. Maybe it’s a line following up on something you discussed, or positive feedback about recent news you read about its growth. Whatever it is, make sure it shows that you’re excited about the company.
By mentioning all of this, you’re reinforcing the idea that you’re interested in becoming a part of the team and helping the company push ahead.
Everyone wants to join a company with a culture that’s right for them. And so, if you land an interview with one, it’s natural to feel pretty excited. Just remember to combine your enthusiasm with research: You’ll make a stronger impression and increase the likelihood you’ll get to work at that cool organization.