By Kristin Sherry
Simply put, the goal of an interview is to be selected. I emphasize to my clients that the most sure-fire way to be selected is to differentiate yourself from the competition. Here are seven ways to stand out:
#1: Seek to serve, not to get
Many candidates ask questions to discover what they’ll be getting out of the employment arrangement. Seeking to serve the employer is a refreshing posture that will set you apart from other candidates. Ask questions that demonstrate your desire to meet the needs of the employer, such as, “What is a problem you currently face that I could help you solve through this role?”
#2: Bring an idea to the interview
First, research the company by visiting their website, familiarize yourself with their social media presence, search for articles in the news, and connect with people who work in the company or department. Ask about key issues and trends, and look for opportunities to contribute ideas related to a problem they face, or to make an improvement. I recently had coffee with a woman who was one of the two finalists for a position she really wanted. Despite her fit for the role and excellent qualifications, they gave the position to the other candidate. The reason? The other candidate brought ideas on how to improve their social media presence to the interview.
#3: Be prepared to answer the question “What can you bring to this role that no one else can?” (e.g. Why should we hire you?)
You need to understand your strengths, how they work together, and how they will uniquely and directly contribute to your success in the job. I met a woman at a workshop for area job seekers where I was speaking on StrengthsFinder when I asked for a volunteer from the audience to share their top five strengths from the assessment. She shared with the workshop attendees that her strengths were Learner, Strategic, Intellection, Restorative, and WOO (Winning Others Over).
I told a quick narrative that went something like this: “When you enter into an environment or situation, you’re able to get up to speed very quickly on how things work, and the problems become very evident to you. You’re able to strategically identify only the most viable alternatives to solve those problems, and then use your ability to influence people to implement the strategy to solve the problem.” She looked at me and said, “That is spot on. That is what I do every day of my life at work.”
People can often recognize their strengths when they hear them from others, but you need to be able to express them clearly and succinctly when asked.
#4: Send an “old school” thank you note
Write a memorable Thank You letter and send it in the mail. Reference something the interviewer told you in your note to make a personal connection, instead of a generic or cliché note.
#5: Not only BE prepared, LOOK prepared
Print articles about the company, print the About Us page from their website, and print the job description. Write all over them as you do your research and put it all in a folder with the name of the department or company written prominently on the tab. Place it in front of you on the table when you interview to let the interviewer know you’re someone who does your homework.
#6: Bring a work sample
This won’t apply to everyone, but if a requirement of the job is creating project plans, writing proposals, designing training, architecting software, etc., bring a sample of your work that you’d be proud to leave with the interviewer. If strong written communication skills are required, bring a writing sample to demonstrate your skill.
NOTE: Be very careful not to violate privacy or disclose trade secrets of your current or previous employer. Redact sensitive information from the sample, if needed. The hiring employer will appreciate your discretion.
#7: Build rapport with the interviewer(s). People hire people they like.
- Greet the interviewer warmly, with a firm handshake and a smile.
- Make eye contact and tell them you’re glad to meet them.
- Before the formal interview starts, look around the office for clues about the person (e.g. photos, certificates, sports, or awards). Ask questions or make a comment on an object of mutual interest.
- Effective communication is only 7% words. The rest is your body language. Sit up and look interested. Walk with purpose. Smile with confidence. Look around with alertness.
- Speak clearly. Vary your pitch, pace, and tone – slow down and emphasize important words and phrases. Talk with interest, enthusiasm and passion.
These seven tips will ensure you leave a favorable impression.
What differentiation techniques have you used?
You can also read How to Wow Interviewers (Part 1)
Kristin Sherry is founder of Virtus Career Consulting
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn