The only thing more nerve-wracking than a job interview is walking into the waiting room and realizing that you’re in a sea of candidates. You know you’re a stellar hire, but how are you going to outshine the rest of them when it’s your turn to face the interviewer?
Your resume may have gotten you through the doors, but it’s your personality and communication skills that will keep you there. In fact, employers are looking for the story that your resume cannot tell, and it’s up to you to share it.
Here are five key ways to demonstrate in your interview that you, among the rest of the group, are the right one to hire.
1. Be a Referral
Needless to say, it’s a powerful position to be in when someone has referred you to a company. He or she thought highly enough of you to suggest you to an employer, and—if you’re offered an interview—the employer thought highly enough of the referrer’s opinion to call you in.
However, you don’t necessarily need contacts in order to be a referral. You can become a referral if you do a little legwork before the interview.
LinkedIn serves as powerful research tool to find other employees in a company whose experience aligns with your interests. Select one employee to email for an informational interview request, letting the person know that you’d love the benefit of his or her knowledge on how you could stand out as a candidate over a brief phone call or coffee. People generally respond well to a request for help, and if the person cares enough to accept your meeting request, he or she will absolutely care enough to follow up after your interview.
And the best part? You won’t even have to ask this person to follow up, because he or she will usually offer to do so.
2. Let Them Know You Get It
A friend of mine who works for a major social media company says, “Most interviewees aren’t prepared to put their experiences in context or explain how their capabilities will benefit the company.”
In other words, if you can talk about why you want to work for this company as opposed to any other and why your skills render you the best fit to advance the company’s goals, you’ll be one step ahead.
To do so, it’s key to have a strong understanding of the position and the performance that would be expected of you. This means not only reading through the job announcement with a fine-toothed comb, but also researching past and current employees on LinkedIn. Often, you will find that they describe their jobs in a way that is not disclosed in the official job description—and this unique understanding can really enrich your ability to converse about the role.
A client of mine recently used this strategy in preparation for an interview with a defense contractor, as the job announcement was vague. By researching past and present employees on LinkedIn, she got a better grasp on the exact projects they were working on and spent some time researching them before her interview. By the time she walked into the waiting room, she knew more about the company than the hiring team realized.
She got the job.
3. Have a Stunning Elevator Pitch
When the interviewer says, “tell me about yourself,” it’s tempting to regurgitate the job description, talking about the skills and attributes you know the employer is looking for. However, an authentic and compelling elevator pitch permits a deeper connection between you and the interviewer, and it can be a powerful tool in selling you for the job.
There are three parts to an effective elevator pitch: your story, your skill, and your goal. It’s effective to share a brief life story that is relevant to your career path and the company. For example, if you are interviewing for an engineering role, talk about how you disassembled the family computer and put it back together as a kid. Sharing a personal anecdote about who you are demonstrates that the opportunity is more than a job—it’s a critical piece of your life’s purpose.
Next, you undoubtedly have some great skills, so it’s important that you also think about which one is most needed in the position for which you are interviewing—a skill the company really, really needs. Finally, given that your goal is to get the job, it’s crucial your elevator pitch demonstrate why you want to work for this company, rather than any other.
4. Speak in Testimonials
Whether you’re looking for a new car or shopping for clothes on the internet, user testimonials and buyers’ reviews probably help guide you in the decision-making process. The workplace is not so different—in fact, it’s incredibly powerful to share your best attributes through the mouths of those who have noticed them.
So, instead of merely asserting your great qualities, cite the words of praise that you have received—particularly those that have come from your managers. For example, “My manager often tells me I’m always one step ahead of her due to my ability to anticipate issues before they happen.”
It makes a statement when others notice your skills.
5. Erase Their Doubts
At some point in the interview, the employer will inevitably ask you to talk about your weaknesses. Most candidates are not prepared to use this question to their advantage—they take the easy way out by claiming an ambiguous or humblebrag weakness (e.g., “I struggle with perfectionism!”).
A better approach? Talk about a time when your weakness was exposed in the workplace, then share the steps you took to overcome it. Doing so shows the employer that you recognized a gap in your abilities, corrected it, and left it in the past—and that you’ll do the same if faced with a challenge in the future.
Bottom line? You are more than a nameless face in a waiting room crowded with candidates, but it’s up to you to prove your worth to the potential employer. To truly stand out, set aside your resume, do your homework, and rehearse your pitch. Make the interviewer’s questions work for you—not against you—by sharing a clear and confident message about who you are, why you’re here, and what value you will bring to the employer.