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Being the Weird Job Candidate Has Its Advantages

How's this for a strategy in your next interview — be "the weird one."

We're not suggesting you show up in jorts or dye your hair pink, but think about this way — most hiring managers will have a stack of CVs on their desk from candidates that have largely identical qualifications. Plenty of people got great educations at respected schools, have their CPA (or CMA, CFE, [name your credential]), as well as the required years of experience necessary for the position.

Harvard Business Review recognized this and gives two excellent examples:

Oscar Wilde, speaking through the character Lord Henry in The Picture of Dorian Gray, understood this: “It is silly of you, for there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
In the pile your file is in, probably most people went to similar schools, have quite similar CVs, and so on. But what will make people remember and talk about you? How are you atypical? It’s not that you have 10 rather than 12 years experience. It’s not that you managed 32 rather than 16 people. How are you really atypical? How will you be remembered in that hiring meeting? Will you be remembered or just be one of those other guys?

Like Oscar, Lady Gaga gets this, and she’s been hugely successful as a consequence. In The Fame she tells us: “I’m obsessively opposed to the typical.” 

If you don't possess Lady Gaga's obsession with the unusual, that's fine, but focusing on what does make you unusual — or "strangely unique" if you prefer — will make you a more memorable candidate than your competition. Now, if you're not sure what makes you unusual or memorable, try a few of these ideas:

1. Do you run marathons or participate in any other sport that has "whoa, that's nuts" factor? We're thinking triathlons, skydiving, etc.
2. Have you been on a recent adventure that you can mention? An African safari or a backpacking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail?
3. Have any special talents? Singing, perhaps? Play an instrument? Moonlight as a comedian? It's worth bringing up (at an appropriate time, of course).

Remember, a lot of the people will be competing with you for a desired job and will have similar — and in some cases, better — qualifications as you. What they don't have is the weird factor that makes you memorable. Be sure to use it to your advantage.

The Value of Being the “Weird” Job Candidate [HBR]