How to send a thank-you card that beats out 1,500 other candidates

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In the lobby of kCura’s LaSalle office, there’s a big puffy green couch that serves as the firm’s mascot — a nod to humbler beginnings, when kCura’s founding circle called on the sofa to pull double duty as both a bed and an intern’s desk.

While touches like that are cute, kCura’s business isn’t. The firm specializes in e-discovery applications — the kind of software that large law firms and corporations use to make their case in court.

Dorie Blesoff, kCura’s Chief People Officer, and Chris Jenkins, its senior recruiter, are tasked with finding technologists and sales folks who can bridge the gap between the green couch and the buttoned-down arenas where their clients operate.

They need to find a lot of them, too. kCura’s been growing at an impressive clip, increasing its headcount from 58 employees in 2009 to more than 340 now, including 137 this year.

Having interviewed hundreds and hundreds of candidates and reviewed thousands of resumes — their marketing associate role has garnered upwards of 1,500 applications — Jenkins and Blesoff weigh in on their five ways to ace an interview.

Mirror the interviewer

Jenkins: Body language tells a lot. We want engagement. If you’re yawning, if you’re not making eye contact, if you’re leaning back or slouching in your chair, you’re not engaged. My suggestion is to mirror your interviewer. As you get excited and they get excied, sit up, move closer. People who are slouching in their chair, that says something.

Blesoff: Most people recognize that when you get passionate about something — even recognizing different kinds of people, and not everyone has huge facial expressions, — there’s a difference in how they talk, sit, point to their resume when they’re eager. How does the body language also get the message about what this person really cares about? We don’t have many hard rules about it. We would react better to someone who’s sitting comfortably and feels at home about themselves.

And people answer their cell phones in an interview, and that says a lot about how they’d treat people here. In my old job, [an interviewee] let us know ahead of time that his wife was pregnant, and that was fine of course. But give the interviewer a heads-up if that’s the situation.

Figure out a way to go the extra mile

Jenkins: We’ve received 1,000-1,500 resumes in the last six months and we’ve hired 7 marketing associates.

We had someone interview for a marketing position who wrote a thank-you note with our emblematic green couch on it. It was for a marketing role, and that stuck out as someone who’s passionate about our brand and researched us before coming in. We were taking the card, showing it to our CEO, he was really impressed. But there’s a risk there. You gotta be true to yourself when you do stuff like that. That’s who she was, that’s what she was like. We hire a lot of sales people, a lot of the time, they oversell themselves a little bit.

Answer that question

Blesoff: When you’re asked a question about a specific time that you did X, it’s really important to answer that question, not another question. The interviewer is asking it thoughtfully and purposefully. Did you not hear correctly? Are you dodging it? What’s going on in the communication right there? If you don’t have an example, say that. If you can’t think of an example, that’s okay because we have other questions that’ll reveal the same thing.

Think transparently

Blesoff: Innovation is all about questioning our assumptions. Who came up with the escalator? Why do stairs have to be static? So if you’re innovative and creative, then you’re not hiding, you allow your thoughts to be transparent as well. And then the community, the team can say, ‘Wow I never thought of it that way.’ There’s a collaborative way to thinking.

It’s just a little tweak of an assumption. Breakthrough thinking comes from combining things in new ways and asking deeper questions. Our interview process is about discovery and exploration.

What we’re not looking for are people who are information brokers because it makes them look better, who hide an issue because they think it’ll make them look bad. We’re open to inquiry, open to dialogue about stuff we haven’t figured out yet.

Keep your resume short, honest and formatted

Jenkins: You have 30 seconds to a minute to get a recruiter’s attention. The first thing we look at is formatting, content. So many times, they’ll just stack the last position on top, the font’s different, format’s different. We believe communication is important here, and someone who can’t articulate their experience on a resume, it’s a strike against them.

There’s no silver bullet as far as how to do a resume. Concise, bullet points — not everyone has time to read through paragraphs. I don’t like resumes over two pages long. I don’t care how much experience you have. If you can’t articulate your value prop in two pages, you won’t fit in here. And I don’t need to see a two-page resume for someone who’s graduating college.

We’re adamant that you are very clear on your resume that you don’t embellish your accomplishments. When we’re interviewing you, we’re going to dive deep, and exaggerating is a huge red flag. Frankly, it’s an ethics issue if you’re misrepresenting yourself.

Want more career advice? Look here.

ABOVE: kCura’s Chris Jenkins and Dorie Blesoff.

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