How To Stand Out In An Interview

You’ve just received that exciting phone call or email requesting that you come in for an interview at a company where you’ve applied for a job. That’s a huge step toward getting your foot in the door. It also means a world of pressure, though, since this is the step that will make or break you. If you excel during the interview, you may be offered the job. If you do not, you will lose the opportunity and be passed over, and have to start the process of your job search all over again. How do you “wow” the interviewer and really make a solid impression?

Be prepared.

That means practicing answers to common questions, having a friend sit down and ask you random questions, researching to make sure your potential answers are appropriate (and that you really understand the questions), figuring out what you should wear, grooming yourself, knowing how to get to the interview location, and planning to arrive roughly five minutes early. Skipping any of these steps can mean disaster.

Have anecdotes ready.

Stories about times you concretely helped your previous employer are more valuable than simply listing your experience. You have to show that you are capable of going above and beyond the responsibilities you are assigned, that you’ve done so in the past, and are likely to do so again in the future.

Make an excellent first impression.

Have a firm, dry handshake, but not one that strangles the recipient. Speak clearly and not too quickly, carry yourself with confidence, and don’t carry a lot of stuff in with you that is going to make you look or feel cluttered. Learn how to pick up on patterns in others’ behavior, speech, and more, and then mirror those qualities in your interviewer. This is called “establishing rapport.” It makes the interviewer feel like he or she is talking to a kindred spirit. Just make sure you don’t overdo it to the point where it is comical. Figure out the interviewer’s tone and emulate it to a reasonable degree. If you have an interviewer who loves to talk, let him or her do it. It will make your interviewer comfortable, put information into your hands, and show that you are patient and respectful.

If you don’t have a lot of relevant experience, emphasize your adaptability and your ability to learn quickly on the job.

Sometimes, the direct approach works, especially if things are going south. If you think you may just be imagining it, you should probably ignore it and just press on through the interview. But if you are certain or nearly certain something is wrong, you might want to address it. If your interviewer is clearly flustered and distracted, you might look for a way to sympathize—without making the interviewer feel incompetent. If the interviewer doesn’t seem to believe you are capable of doing the job, when you are asked if you have any questions, you might actually ask, “Do you have any concerns about my ability to perform in this job?” Then address them directly.

After your interview is over, don’t forget to follow up in a positive, constructive manner. Send a thank-you note to your interviewer, and say how much you enjoyed learning about the company and how much you appreciated the opportunity. Make it obvious that you are still interested by inviting communication. Say that you are looking forward to hearing back soon about the job, and don’t be afraid to follow up again politely if you don’t hear back from the interviewer when you expect to.

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