One of the students in my Organizational Behavior class recently reached out to me for advice on how to stand out in a job interview. I jotted down a handful of ideas and sent them off to her. Out of the blue, I received a thank you that she had received a job offer for a position she really wanted. She said she used all these tips and they helped her a lot. I hope they help you too.
You think this would be a given, yet I am often surprised by how many candidates I have interviewed who come to their interview unprepared. Being prepared and practice allows you to easily tap into your mental repository of great answers.
Here are some things you can do in advance. Study the company and people you will be interviewing with. You can glean tidbits about their priorities or likings and keep them in your back pocket to strategically drop into your answers.
Know their business, mission, and values. Their website, press releases, Google searches, and the job description are other good places to find salient information. Talk to people you trust who have insights into the company. Take the time to read your interviewers’ LinkedIn profiles and web bios so you answer in ways that will connect with them.
Plan and practice the key points you want to bring up in the interview. This helps you clearly and concisely respond to questions. Your answers should show how you contributed and made a difference in your previous companies. Being polished and prepared will help you stand out with confidence.
2. Be nice and pay attention.
Be nice to every single person and every time you interact with your prospective employer. Employers want team players. You negatively stand out if you’re only nice to whom you perceive are the decision makers. A little HR secret is that employers often confer with other employees like the receptionist or interview coordinator to see what you are like when your guard is down.
Pay attention during your visit. Make mental notes of your surroundings – the people, the environment, what’s important in that company. One of your interview goals is to connect with your interviewers. When you have a chance to ask questions or talk more, you can tailor your remarks to what’s important to the company. This will help you stand out.
3. Ask this question first.
At an opportune time and preferably the beginning of the interview, say this: “I am very happy to be asked to interview for this opportunity. I was curious to know what about my background and experience made you invite me in to interview?”
Why ask this first? You do this to “pre-suade” your interviewer. Dr. Robert Cialdini, the worldwide expert on influence and persuasion, explains that you want to anchor your interviewer to start thinking immediately about your positive traits. You will prime him or her to be biased positively towards you from the start. I will add that it also reveals what the interviewer thinks is important. (People I’ve shared this with have raved about this hack.)
4. It’s really about the manager and the company – not you.
Even though the interview is centered on you, keep your answers focused on how you will add value to the manager, team or company. The reality is that they are thinking about themselves and if you can help them or solve their problems. Unless you are asked directly, do not ask or talk too much about what’s in it for you. You can ask more questions when you get the offer.
Keep the interview discussion as positive as possible. Never speak ill about previous companies or management. This won’t necessarily make you stand out but if you speak ill about a previous employer, it will quickly kill your chances of moving forward.
5. Leave positive lasting impressions.
Be as nice and courteous leaving as you were coming in. Send a thank you email or note after you interview – especially if you want the job. Even better if you send the follow-up with something you learned in the interview and a subtle reminder of how you will help the manager. This is old school; however, it still works. It isn’t done as much anymore so it will make you stand out.
Good luck with your interview and landing your next great job!