Karen Darrin

You’ve just landed a job interview for a position you really want. Congratulations! Now, you know you only get one chance to impress, but how exactly do you do that? Here are my top 5 ways to ace the interviewing process and stand out from other candidates.

1.  Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

The most important thing to remember for interviews is to prepare. Make sure you know the role and the company inside out.  Here are some ideas:

  • Find out as much as possible about the company’s structure, history, culture, and the interviewer(s).
  • Connect with someone in the company. Ask them about what working there is really like.
  • Research the industry (impact of economy, technology, legal, trade, for example).  Extrapolate what challenges you think they might be facing.
  • Now, take an educated guess at what the job challenges the position might have. Consider how you might solve those challenges. Have you had those challenges previously? What worked/didn’t work? Thinking strategically about the role and it’s deliverables will help you describe why you are a good fit for the company.
  • If you can, link the role’s deliverables to addressing a current company strategy or challenge. Connect the dots for the interviewer on why your talent portfolio is the one the company is seeking to solve those issues.
  • Prepare a response for “why should we hire you? Or, my personal favorite, “what makes you a better fit for this role than our other candidates?” Use your unique mix of skills, talents, tendencies, experiences, and values as the details for your answer.
  • Identify 2-3 competencies for the role. Then, develop examples (“stories”) of how you demonstrated those 2-3 competencies in previous roles or other experiences you can draw on. Stories are what people remember.
  • Video record yourself sharing your responses. Ask a friend or coach for feedback. Learn to insert appropriate tone and body language to emphasize key parts of your story. Practice your responses until it is like saying your name .

2.  Ace the first 30 seconds

First impressions matter. There is psychological research that shows that people form opinions about your personality and intelligence in the first 30 seconds of the interview. How you speak, how you enter the room, and how comfortable you look are really important. People who perform best in interviews start off by speaking clearly but slowly, walk with confidence, and think through what “props” they will carry so they don’t appear over-cluttered.

Rehearse your entrance several times. Again, record yourself on video and play it back without the sound so you can see precisely how you are presenting yourself. Then, make adjustments. The same applies to phone interviews. You need to use the first 30 seconds of the conversation to establish yourself as a confident, calm voice on the line.

3.  Demonstrate self-awareness

“Tell me about a weaknesses?” This can be difficult to answer, but if you think about what the interviewer is looking to get out of the question, it can help you give a response that makes you stand out. Interviewers do not want you to start listing all your weaknesses. What they are looking for is for you to show self-awareness and an ability to learn and develop. So pick a weakness where you know you have a strategy to overcome.

For example, let’s say you are a project manager and know, from all those college all-nighters, that you thrive on the last minute pressure of deadlines to get work done. Therefore, you know to build in more deadline dates than an “average” project plan.  Not only have these checkpoints proven successful, but you’ve been able to catch necessary “tweaks” early, too.

Additionally, for those 2-3 competency stories that you have prepared, add a “self-awareness” statement at the end. For example:  “If I had a project like that again, I would require the SME’s input at the project charter phase, instead of adding the SME during planning phase.”  Self-awareness statements will set you apart from the crowd because it demonstrates a higher level of emotional intelligence.

4.  Don’t ask your interviewer anything obvious

When asked if you have any questions, steer clear of anything you should already know the answer to (for example, anything that is on their website, career page, social media postings). Even though this is the end of the interview, this question is still an opportunity to sell yourself. Use questions that demonstrate intelligence or strategic thinking. For example: “how is the current (insert relevant issue) impacting the strategy of your business? How is the current economic climate affecting your client base/revenue streams/growth prospects?” Any general question you ask can be improved by tailoring it to the business you’re applying to.

5.  Show enthusiasm in all your communications

Showing genuine enthusiasm for the company and the role will increase your chances of being memorable. You do this, of course, throughout the interview. But, what about the post-interview details?

A great way to stand out is to personalize the thank you note with something specific you discussed during the interview. Here’s an example:

Thank you for meeting with me to discuss the Director, Sales role. I loved hearing that we both share a passion for collaboration and connection with the customers throughout the sales process. We both savor building long-term relationships with customers, instead of just the short-term sales focus.  My interest in the role skyrocketed even further when I heard this. Thank you!

Knowing how to be an engaging and memorable candidate for a job opening can make all the difference.  These ideas are ones that I have seen work over and over again. Give them a try with your next interview!

CALL TO ACTION:  Need help with nailing your interviews and getting that offer?  Schedule a complimentary 30-min consult or email me at karen@karendarrin.com.