In a competitive market it’s the small things job seekers do that pack the biggest punch; okay it’s not only the small things–it’s the big things too. Hey, it can be tough out there. Time to pull out all the stops.

A recent survey conducted by staffing firm OfficeTeam asked HR managers what impressive actions they’ve witnessed an applicant take in order to help land them a position. The survey revealed some unusual and slightly extreme measures such as:

  • Arriving with coffee and doughnuts.
  • Offering to work a day for free.
  • Hauling in a “suitcase full of binders containing letters of reference, certificates of achievement and other accolades.”

(Apparently Mitt Romney isn’t the only person still making use of binders)

These types of actions weren’t the only things that got people noticed. Thankful, HR managers were also impressed with candidates who had done their homework, knew about the company and came prepared. This ‘back to basics’ approach seems like a common and necessary course action when readying yourself for an interview. OfficeTeam spokesperson Shelley Robinson further emphasized this point by stating “candidates should always do their research, review the company website, and bring questions.” In Robinson’s opinion bringing questions to an interview is one of the most important steps an applicant can take. “Questions show that you are actually interested in the position and company.  It means you’ve put thought into the role and have done your research,” she says.

Robinson also pointed out that in fact the small things go a long way–simple actions such as smiling when entering an office and meeting the receptionist, being polite, having a positive attitude and dressing appropriately. She makes a good point. Common courtesies can often be overlooked, and are not always top of mind when prepping for or arriving to an interview. But, they often have a huge impact on how a potential employer or hiring manager reacts to you when you sit down at the table. Body language and first impressions speak volumes.

Common courtesy aside, these findings do beg the question: when is it ok to go out on a limb and bring in a box of donuts, and when should you stick to a more traditional approach? Robinson says, “you can never go wrong by sticking to tradition and being conscious of your body language.” Doing something more creative really depends on the type of company and position you’re applying to. If you’re going to be working in a creative environment, more out of the box thinking will probably be more accepted and possibly even welcomed. Standing out with a unique resume might be exactly what the employer is looking for. On the other hand, a creative approach to an interview wouldn’t fly in a more conservative or traditional environment. Your actions have to fit with the potential workplace. 

OfficeTeam offers a few other tips to help you impress:

  1. Instead of just “creating a flawless resume,” also “create a professional website showcasing your expertise, qualifications and work samples.” Creating a website/blog doesn’t have to be expensive. You can sign up for a number of online applications that allow you to create a professional looking site for free.
  2. Don’t just talk about your experience, give a potential employer specific examples that show you’ve made positive changes in previous roles. Also highlight your potential, which can be based on your pervious experience.
  3. Prepare a list of questions, but go one step further and–prior to the interview–ask the hiring manager to “identify a challenge the company is facing and then bring proposed solutions” to the interview.

Remember the small things will always help you give a positive impression, but it may be worthwhile to go the extra mile.

Our chief editor at Workopolis Peter recently took to the streets to ask Canadians how they felt about the job market and what they were doing to stand out from the crowd. You can watch that video here.