I sit on a nonprofit board. As part of my duties, I recently participated in group interviews for a high-level executive position. We interviewed three candidates.

I’ve always had my own ideas about how to effectively interview for a job. I rarely find myself in a position to assess what will actually impress me in a real live job interview setting, however. Now that I have had the opportunity, though, I want to share what I learned.

Make an Impression

I, like most legal career counselors, advise job candidates to go above and beyond when asked to perform a special task for an interview. For this particular position, the three candidates were asked to review some internal information and then give a ten-minute presentation at the interview. It was revealing to observe how the three handled this specific request.

One candidate simply took the four-page document, made sure we each had a copy to follow, and then provided us with her impressions as she walked us through it. This was adequate, but hardly impressive.

The next candidate requested that we make available a projector and screen so he could project the document from his laptop onto a large screen. He walked us through his impressions as he navigated through the document. This was a little better than the first, but still not particularly impressive.

The final candidate had asked for a projector and screen, but he had something different in mind. Not only did he project the document on the screen, he also added a few PowerPoint slides summarizing his impressions. Now this was beyond adequate; it was quite impressive.

A Little Can Go a Long Way

Not surprisingly, the reaction from others in the group was similar to mine. Also unsurprisingly, the last candidate’s presentation provided a significant boost to his chances of earning the position.

What was surprising was that the first two candidates did not take the approach of the third. Instead, they clearly took the easier way out, thinking it unnecessary to go the “extra mile.”

When you think about, going the “extra mile” in the scenario here likely did not require an extraordinary amount of time and effort. I suspect the third candidate spent about 3-5 hours of “extra” preparations compared to the other two. Seems like a reasonable ROI for a good job.

Key Takeaway: Pull Out All of the Stops

The biggest takeaway here is that you should absolutely pull out all of the stops when you are a finalist for a job. This doesn’t necessarily require a herculean effort to impress; just a reasonable effort that will hardly throw your life out of kilter. This will show that you have initiative, which will help set you apart from your competition. And, it is likely that your competition will take the easier way out. Their lack of initiative will provide you with an even greater edge, leading you closer to securing the job that you want.