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How to stand out at a job interview

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

Attending job interviews can be nerve-racking, even for seasoned pros As a career coach, Eunice Asante shares five key principles to meet employer expectations and ensure you stand out.

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Key one: Be prepared

I'm always amazed by how little time people leave to prepare for job interviews. In my experience as a career coach, some people left only a few days prepare, while for others, the issue was not self-inflicted but rather due to their prospective employer given them little notice.

The best way to avoid both scenarios is to start preparing for an interview is when you are thinking about looking for another job. That way, regardless of what an employer does, you are prepared.

Being prepared means knowing how to answer key interview questions such as "tell me about yourself" and “why are you a suitable candidate for this position?”

The extra time you spend preparing for your interview will pay off. In my previous job, where I was responsible for hiring people, it was always obvious which candidates had spent extra time preparing. And we would usually hire well-prepared candidates.

Key two: Knowing what to expect

To find out what to expect before attending an interview, I always advise candidates to ask the following two questions: firstly, what type of interview will I be sitting in? and who will conduct the interview?

The reason for question one is that when you know ahead of time the type of interview you will have, you can prepare for this specific type of interview. For example, there are critical differences between how you structure answers to competency-based interview questions to how you answer strengths-based interview questions.

There are also difference between what to include in interview presentations versus how to conduct yourself in group interviews. And while it is necessary to know all the different types of interview structures, focusing on your specific type of interview means that you can be better prepared, which may help elevate your performance.

Photo by Nadine Wuchenauer from Pexels

The second question to ask before attending an interview is: who will conduct the interview? Knowing who will interview you is helpful as you can research this person's position and interest within the organisation and use this information as leverage to help answer questions more intelligently and intentionally.

By studying the company website, you should get a good idea of what the culture may be like.

This can also help you to better align yourself throughout the interview. I will talk more about aligning yourself in the fourth key.

It's important to note that your recruiting agent or company will not always tell you the type of interview you will have or who will be interviewing you. But asking these questions go hand in hand with being well prepared. If you cannot find out, there are usually multiple clues in the job description and advertisement, on the website, and if possible, by speaking to people who have been through the same interview process.

Key three: Understanding that you are not the focus of the interview

I know this may sound counterintuitive, but it is a common assumption people make. The job role and the organisation's needs are the focus of the interview.

Your prospective employer at this stage has not invested in you personally. They do not care about you outside of the role requirements Therefore, during the interview process, your job is to convince whoever's hiring that you are the right person to fulfil the needs of the role.

Any information you share about yourself, your career history or your experience has to relate to the needs of the role. But more importantly, how the information you provide demonstrates that you can fulfil the needs of the role is key.

This may sound simple, but many people make the mistake of just talking about themselves and what they have previously done and why they would like the job, without ever relating it to the needs of the organisation or the role.

When you are unable to connect what you are saying back to the needs of the role, it signifies to the employer that you are unfocused and do not fully understand the job requirements. To prevent this, only share information that relates to the needs of the role and demonstrates why you are the right candidate to deliver on the role's needs.

Key four: Understanding the culture of your prospective employer

There are two reasons why this is important. The first reason is that if you know your prospective employer's culture, you can mirror this during the interview process. Mirroring is essential because it helps to create the impression of familiarity and safety.

Photo by Nadine Wuchenauer from Pexels

We instantly feel more comfortable when we recognise and understand something as being the same or like us. The same is true for employers, and mirroring conveys that you understand the organisation's needs, which is what every employer wants to see. Therefore, by understanding the culture, you can use this information as leverage to help align yourself throughout the interview process.

The second reason why this is important is because you need to be sure before you attend an interview that this will be a suitable environment for you. It will also help you make an assessment of if whether you will feel welcomed and supported to do your best work. If you are picking up vibes that an organisation's culture may not be right for you, the interview process can help to confirm this. What you want is to walk into a new work environment knowing precisely what you have stepped into.

By studying the company website, social media, job description and or speaking to its staff, you should get a good idea of what the culture may be like.

Key five: Do your research

This may sound simple, but this is one thing that is either missed by interviewees or not done well. Most people consider do your research’ to mean reading the company mission statement, going over the role description, and looking through their social media and website.

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

But what I mean by ‘do your research’ is to understand the company’s position in the market and who its biggest competitors are. Researching what the market will be doing in the next three to five years and assess the potential impact on the business is also key, as well as analysing opportunities for growth within the company and what customers or clients are saying about their services.

Regardless of your industry, researching beyond the basic requirements is a must. If a candidate came into an interview with in-depth knowledge and insight into the role, the needs of the business and an understanding of the industry as a whole, I would be very impressed.

And if they were able to suggest solutions, options and new ideas, this candidate would be a likely fit for the role. This level of research says a lot about the candidate and what they could potentially offer as a new hire and that would make them stand out for all the right reasons.

There are many more that I could go on and say about how to prepare for job interviews effectively but I believe these five keys are fundamental to know and start practising because without good foundations, there's no structure.

If you want more information about how to be successful at job interviews, get my ebook here filled with in-depth knowledge and golden nuggets to help you ace your next job interview.

Until next time

Your Career Coach

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