Woman eating a hot dog

The career lesson you can learn from a hot dog eating champion

Elizabeth Bromstein|

Going through today’s headlines, I came across an interview in Bloomberg Business Week with Meredith Boxberger.

Boxberger, a native of Barrie, Ontario, is a champion competitive eater – her record is 26 hot dogs in 10 minutes – who calls herself the “Deep Fried Diva.” She is also an MBA student at Michigan State’s Broad College of Business, and a marketing intern for Mars Chocolate North America.

I guess eating is a hobby. Even the top prizes don’t pay much.

In the interview she was asked about the sort of things she tells employers in an interview. Boxberger said:

    “When I was interviewing in the fall for internships [at food companies], at first I wasn’t sure whether to bring up the competitive eating thing. I talked to professors at the business schools, and they said: “If you want to get into food, that’s super-distinctive.” Instead of trying to hide it, I’d bring it up in interviews, and it was memorable.”

Of course it was.

While it does help that Boxberger was interviewing with food companies*, as long as her skills and qualifications were up to par, I can’t imagine revealing her hobby would have hurt her chances at a lot of companies – Jenny Craig notwithstanding. What matters is that nobody is going to forget her in a hurry.

After the interview, when the hiring manager is trying to recall people’s responses and personalities, it’s a pretty fair guarantee that Boxberger is going to be top of mind, every time.

I thought I would share this with you, because it’s a great lesson: Be memorable. Take this to heart and start planning how to be memorable in your next job interview.

Some suggestions:

    Have a cool hobby: Even better if the hobby has some connection to the job you’re looking for, like Boxberger’s. If you’re interviewing for a position at a company that makes bicycles, it’s not going to hurt if you’re a long-distance cyclist. Don’t have a cool hobby? Take one up.

    Have a story: Have an anecdote ready, preferably one that is about you, is extremely interesting, is mildly amusing (but not, in your opinion, hilarious. It’s too risky to rely entirely on humour as that could fall flat), and has an outcome that makes you look good.

    Make a personal connection. Find something you have in common with the interviewer and work it. If you both ride motorcycles**, for example, that’s something you can talk about and that they aren’t going to forget.

I might also suggest that you have a conversation piece on you, but be careful of what you choose. Walking into the interview carrying your motorcycle helmet could be good, for example, but you probably don’t want to bring a hat and pull a rabbit out of it (unless the interview is for a position as a children’s entertainer).

You might choose a fascinating book that makes you look smart to be reading and is also a potential conversation piece because it’s on the NYT bestseller list. Then you have to hope the interviewer brings it up, since you can’t say “Hey, look what I’m reading!”

It could be a fashion choice, but, again, you have to be careful. Nobody is going to forget me because I am a fairly young woman with a head of long gray hair. I count this as a plus. It works for me. But you don’t want to be the guy in the duck tie. It’s a fine line.

A 2013 suyrvey asked hiring managers and HR professionals to share the most memorable methods candidates have employed to stand out, and whether those tactics got them hired.

The techniques that worked include:

    • Candidate contracted a billboard outside of employer’s office.
    • Candidate gave a resume on a chocolate bar.
    • Candidate asked to be interviewed in Spanish to showcase his skills.
    • Candidate performed a musical number on the guitar about why he was the best candidate.
    • Candidate volunteered to help out with making copies when he saw interviewer’s assistant was getting frazzled.
    • Candidate repaired a piece of company’s equipment during the first interview.

Techniques that didn’t work include:

    • Candidate back-flipped into the room.
    • Candidate brought items from interviewer’s online shopping wish list.
    • Candidate did a tarot reading for the interviewer.
    • Candidate dressed as a clown.
    • Candidate placed a timer on interviewer’s desk, started it, and told interviewer he would explain in 3 minutes why he was the perfect candidate.
    • Candidate wore a florescent suit.

It seems a bit random. Who wouldn’t be impressed with someone who back flipped into the room? I would beBut I work in editorial, so it might not get you the job. It might have worked if the job involved athletics.

What you do to be memorable depends on you and the industry in which you’re seeking work. What works for one person might not work for another.

You have to be careful and you have to take a chance. That’s life.
 

*Jobs with food companies on Workopolis

**Jobs at Honda, Canada on Workopolis


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