How to stand out in a job interview

One of the students in my Organizational Behavior class recently reached out to me for advice on how to stand out in a job interview. I quickly jotted down a handful of ideas and sent them off to her. Out of the blue, I received a thank you from her that she had received a job offer for a position she really wanted. She said she used all these tips and they helped her a lot. I thought I share with you what I sent her.

1. Prepare

Study the company and people you will be interviewing with in advance. You can glean tidbits about their priorities or likings and keep them in your back pocket to strategically drop into your answers.

Look for valuable information about a company by scouring their website and the web. Know their business, mission, and values. Press releases and the job description are good places to find salient information. Also, take time to read your interviewers’ LinkedIn profiles and web bios so you answer in ways that will connect with them.

Plan for and practice important points you want to bring up in the interview. This helps you clearly and concisely respond. Prepare and formulate answers you anticipate you will be asked in the interview. Your answers should show how you helped and contributed to your previous companies. Preparation allows you to easily tap into your mental repository of answers. Being polished and prepared will help you stand out with confidence.

2. Be nice and pay attention

Be nice to every single person and every time you interact with your prospective employer. Employers want team players. You negatively stand out if you’re only nice to who you perceive are the decision makers. An HR secret is that employers often confer with other employees like the receptionist or interview coordinator to see what you are like when your guard is down.

Pay attention during your visit. Make mental notes of your surroundings – the people, the environment, what’s important in that company. One of your interview goals should be to connect with your interviewers. When you have a chance to ask questions or talk more, you can tailor your remarks to what’s important to the company. This will help you stand out.

3. Ask this first question

At an opportune time, at the beginning of the interview say this: I am very happy to be asked to interview for this opportunity. I was curious to know what about my background and experience made you invite me in to interview?

Why do you ask this first? You do this to “pre-suade” your interviewer. Dr Robert Cialdini, the renowned expert on influence and persuasion, explains that you want to anchor your interviewer to start thinking immediately about your positive traits. You will prime him or her to be biased positively towards you from the start. I will add that it also reveals what the interviewer thinks is important. (People I’ve told this to have raved about this hack.)

4. It’s really about the manager and the company – not you

Even though the interview is centred on you, try to keep your answers focused on how you will add value to the manager, team or company. Unless you are asked directly, do not ask or talk too much about what’s in it for you. You can ask more questions when you get the offer.

Keep the interview discussion as positive as possible. Never speak ill about previous companies or management. That won’t necessarily make you stand out but if you speak ill about a previous employer, it will quickly kill your chances of moving forward.

5. Leave positive lasting impressions

Send a thank you email or note after you interview – especially if you want the job. Even better to send a thank you with something you learned in the interview and a subtle reminder of how you will help the manager or company. This is old school; however, it still works. It isn’t done as much anymore so it will make you stand out.

Good luck interviewing and landing your next great job!

Image by Ibrahim Adabara from Pixabay

Connie Wedel is a US-based global HR executive, leadership coach, equal rights advocate, global citizen, writer, speaker, and mom. Her background includes working with businesses, leadership, and employees over 6 continents across various industries.

Connie holds an Executive Masters in HR Management from Cornell University. She maintains SPHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP certifications and teaches Organizational Behavior at the University of California, San Diego., She is periodic contributor Business Insider, Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Ellevate Network.