Hey we’re gonna hire the weird guy

Dan Miller —  November 27, 2013 — 11 Comments

In the 1930s, a German psychologist named Hedwig von Restorff documented that things that stand out are more easily remembered.  Yeah, that doesn’t seem like rocket science information but it does reinforce what we probably already believe.  So let’s say we read this list to a group and ask them to recall as many items as possible:

banana, car, apple, dog, rock, umbrella, fork, Mick Jagger, pen, paper, desk, gravel, tractor, soup.

Okay, it’s doesn’t take a scientist to recognize that you’d probably remember Mick Jagger more easily than dog or rock.  In the list, Mick Jagger is atypical and why it stands out.

Now think about a hiring situation.  A company is doing interviews and has 30 candidates to screen.  How does someone end up as a Lady Gagatop candidate?  Most job seekers are going to have similar GPAs, graduated from similar colleges, and have similar work experience.  In a crowded work environment, the candidates that are at the biggest disadvantage are the ones that don’t stand out.

I once interviewed for a position where they met with 64 guys over the course of two days.  I walked into a sea of black suits and realized the immense competition I faced.  However, I had worn a pink sport coat.  Guess who got hired?  Was I the smartest, most qualified candidate?  Probably not – but I was had to forget.

Lady Gaga gets this and she’s been hugely successful in her chosen profession.  In her album The Fame she tells us “I’m obsessively opposed to the typical.”  And she proves that time and again with the antics that make her unforgettable.

I once worked with an advertising guy who had been fired for some inappropriate behavior at his previous job.  But rather than seeing that as a deterrent, he jumped right in the job search, determined to make himself stand out.  He sent his resumes out, wrapped in corn husks.  Then he did a play on that image in his written material:

  • “I’m sure you think this is corny.”
  • “Ah shucks, just give me a minute of your time.”
  • “Hey can you lend me your ear?”

He had immediate and multiple job offers as companies ignored his checkered work history, enticed by the fact that he was remarkable, notable, unforgettable, and weird.

Are you being too careful in your presentation?  Are you blending in as just one of many “other guys?”  What could you do to make yourself stand out?  How can you leverage the Lady Gaga effect?  Can you simply claim the favor of God as you walk in the room?  Remember, the only thing worse than being remembered for being weird is not being remembered at all.

  • CraigGraves

    I think you meant “pink sport coat” and not “pick sport coat”?

    • 48DaysDan

      Good grief – you are so right. I just went in and changed it – thanks.

  • http://www.TheIronJen.com/ Jen McDonough “The Iron Jen”

    I love this story. Yes, I think we get so careful on playing by the rules sometimes that we forget to add a little of “us” that sets us a part.
    Great story!

  • PaulVandermill

    Yes, conformity can be taken to the extreme. Upon completion of graduate school, I recall my advisors being extremely well meaning while they scrutinized every detail of my resume’ and introduction letter. Encouraged was conformity down to the most minute detail. We give away so much of ourselves and our uniqueness when we accept such things. A very high price indeed. It is wonderful to have been exposed to a different way of thinking. We need to recognize the value of thinking differently and embrace rather than suppress this trait.

  • Pablo Ellsworth

    People used to tell me, “You are so weird.” I responded, “If you are not weird, you are not having fun.” They could never respond.

    I haven’t been called weird lately. Maybe I need to do something different….

  • Steve

    Thanks Dan,,,I have been feeling that my art has been too weird for most art patrons at art shows. At least I was juried in and fortunate enough to be included. I had more comments asking why I wasn’t in museums. Lately I have been dealing with rejection and thinking that it was because I was too weird. Thanks for the new perspective. I will be myself and if that is weird I’m ok with that.
    ( my art is photographing landscapes and finding faces in natural water reflections,,, vertizontalart)

    • 48DaysDan

      Steve – I checked out your website – wow, very cool stuff. I like that kind of weird.

  • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

    Love this, Dan!

    Personally, I don’t care for the obvious gimmicks (the corn husk) but I agree with the thought.

    All of us need to stand out to differentiate ourselves from the crowd.

    Zappos has a value of ‘creating a little weirdness’ and that makes the corporate culture stand out.

    It makes a difference.

    • 48DaysDan

      Yeah the gimmicks can be dangerous is someone is applying for an accounting position but it seems to work well in the more creative areas.

  • Paul Bonk

    Tastefully weird. I wonder if there is such a thing…

    • 48DaysDan

      Paul – there you go. That phrase is weird so it qualifies.