Master the Interview: Stand out among your competing candidates

August 28, 2018

So you look good on paper, but do you in person?

Congratulations! The employer likes the credentials on your resume. You’re moving on to the next round. Many people assume the interview is the easy part. It’s just talking after all, right? Wrong.

An interview is more than simply talking about yourself. It’s also about how you engage in conversation, interact with others, care about the company, convey your professionalism and balance it with your personality. It’s easy to underestimate the difficulty of an interview if you approach it with the mindset that little outside research and preparation is required.  

To make yourself a memorable and competitive candidate, avoid common misconceptions and try following these tips.

Dress with a Purpose

Your appearance is the first thing an interviewer will notice. It speaks volumes before you even introduce yourself. If you dress with confidence and professionalism, it will radiate. Nice slacks, a blouse or button-down with a blazer or cardigan, close-toed shoes, and clean, styled hair goes a long way. Try to avoid flashy makeup, jewelry, and clothes (and ladies, stay away from the perfume). Consider your appearance an accessory and your voice the main event! Your goal is for the employer to be attentive to what you have to say and they cannot do that if they are distracted.

If you are unsure about what to wear to your specific interview check out What to wear for different job interviews based on the company. Not all work environments require a blazer and tailored suit. However, if you are second-guessing yourself, it’s always safer to dress up than to dress down. Another way to look prepared is to bring a hard copy of your resume as well as a small notebook and pen in case you’d like to write down any information an interviewer might offer you.  

Curveballs? Can’t fool me.

If you are truly prepared for an interview, there really should be no curveball questions that catch you off guard. You might think you know yourself and what makes you great, but do you have specific examples you can recall? Interview preparation helps to reduce the amount of silence or the amount of time you spend filling that silence with “ummm” and “hmmm”. An interviewer aims to pinpoint what kind of employee you are in a short amount of time. They want to skip past the generalities and get down to the nitty-gritty. Plenty of candidates might say they’re great communicators or excel in conflict-resolution, but showing them how that’s true with stories and examples can help you stand out.

Always be prepared to explain every answer you give. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? How do you explain the gaps in your career history? Why should we hire you (hint: that’s an important one)?

Know what questions to expect and prepare your answers ahead of time by checking out How to Answer the 31 Most Common Interview Questions.

Yes, I Have a Question

Just because the interviewer has finished asking questions doesn’t mean the interview’s done! The end of the interview is your time to shine and show that you’ve given the position and company much thought.

Preparing questions not only helps you earn bonus points with the interviewer, but it is also a good opportunity for you to receive some more information about the position and company. Depending on your questions, you may receive insight into the company’s culture, history, goals, growth, and others’ experiences within the company.

Always have at least two or three questions prepared! Find some impressive and beneficial suggestions at Top12 Best Questions to Ask at the End of the Job Interview.

Practice Makes Perfect

Okay so you’ve set aside and ironed your outfit, you prepared your answers to all the common questions, and you know what you’re going to ask at the end. You’re still not done! A little practice never hurt anyone.

To get in some early (or last minute) interview preparation, try performing a mock interview. Get a friend or relative to play the role of the interviewer and practice your answers without looking at your notes. This not only will help you memorize what you’ve studied, but hearing it out loud may help you adjust your wording and timing. You might even realize how many times you say “like” or “um”.

One tool you can utilize is your phone! Try recording yourself during your mock interview. You might end up noticing things you wouldn’t have otherwise. Maybe you sit a little slouched, make a funny face, move your hands too much or speak too loud or soft. Observing how you interact with your interviewer ahead of time can help you later on.

So, good luck acing the interview! With the help of these tricks, you will be the best fish in a sea of candidates.