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Stand Out in a Rough Job Market: Part II - Interviewing

Stand OutThere are two things every job seeker must do to secure a great job: Create an interview-winning resume, and nail the interview. The first blog post in this series, “Stand Out in a Rough Job Market: Part I - Your Resume”, covered the first part. This post tackles how you can nail the interview by standing out from the competition.

First, interviewing is more than answering questions. It’s the most important moment in your job search and your opportunity to present what you can do for the employer and who you are as a person. During the interview, your mission is to be your professional self and be memorable in the process. Here are several ways to accomplish that.

Tell Stories

Interviewers want to learn details of your work and life experience that prove you have what it takes to do the job. Use the stories of your experience to provide evidence of each of your talents. For example, don’t just say you are a quick learner (everybody says this). Instead, tell a story of when you had to learn a new skill rapidly and got the result desired. If you tell the interviewer you learn quickly, they may not believe you. But if you tell them a compelling story that proves it, then you’re believable.

How do you choose your stories? Make a list of the position requirements. For every skill required, write down a story you can share that demonstrates you have that talent. Interviewers remember the stories.

For example, several years ago I was recruiting director for a large investment company. Twelve candidates were interviewed by eight interviewers during one intense day. But only three would get offers. Each candidate was pre-screened and equally qualified on paper. The candidates who got the offers were the ones who told compelling stories about their work, life, and academic experiences. The stories helped convey who they were as people and demonstrated their abilities.

Do Your Homework

Invest two days preparing for your interview:

  1. Read the company web site, press releases and annual report (if the company’s stock is publicly traded). Also, read the web sites of their competitors.
  2. Review the position requirements.
  3. Prepare your responses to the most common interview questions and the questions you fear, like “Why did you leave your last position?” and “What are your weaknesses?”
  4. Research the industry at Hoovers.com, Bnet.com, and industry association web sites.
  5. Learn about the interviewers by searching for their names on web sites like ZoomInfo and LinkedIn.

Ask Questions

Having no questions at the end of the interview is the worst thing you can do. It implies you’re either not interested or not prepared. Write down a list of five or more business-focused questions you will ask during the interview. Examples:

  1. What business changes created the need for this position?
  2. What are the most important results I would need to achieve in the first 3 to 6 months?
  3. What are the top three challenges I’ll face in this position?
  4. What must occur for you to be certain you hired the right person for this job?
  5. What are the characteristics top performers possess in your organization?

Dress Professionally

First impressions are lasting impressions. If you want to be remembered for being professional, then dress conservatively in business attire. If you want to be remembered as someone who doesn’t know or doesn’t respect business protocol, then wear your everyday clothes. The bottom line is that you’re representing yourself, not trying to match the dress code of the company. If you’re not sure what to wear, sit outside the company's building for several days before your interview and observe how people are dressed, then dress a little bit better than they do.

Ask For the Job

Interviewers can't read your mind. If you don’t express interest at the end of the interview, they might assume you no longer want the job. As the interview comes to a close, make sure each interviewer gets the clear message that you feel qualified to do the job, and that you’re very interested in the opportunity. As long as these are true, then say something like: “Based on our discussion today, I feel I have exceptionally strong qualifications and could do this job well. I am definitely interested in pursuing this opportunity."

Finally, ask them what the next steps in the hiring process will be, and when you can expect to hear from them again. And before you leave, make sure you have each interviewer's business
card for writing thank you notes and following up!

What additional advice would you give someone who wants to make a strong impression in a job interview? Add your views below.

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