If candidates were hired on resumes and work history alone, there would be no need for interviews. Since that’s not the case, the best thing to do is make sure you’re as prepared for the interview process as possible. The interview is your time to shine and set yourself apart from the rest of the applicant pool. How do you do that? It all comes down to communication.
A recent study declared verbal communication the top skill employers value in recent college grads. But honestly, possessing strong communication skills is perhaps the most effective advantage candidates at all levels can hope to leverage during the interview process.
Here are 12 ways to do just that.
How to Stand Out in an Interview
1. Make your excitement about the opportunity obvious.
Companies want to hire people who are eager to work for them, so express enthusiasm while you’re answering interview questions. Oddly enough, candidates don’t always realize that they aren’t fully expressing their interest. More often than we want to admit, recruiters get the following feedback from clients, “I like this candidate but s/he didn’t really seem excited about the position.”
Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. Wouldn’t you pick the candidate who showed more excitement about the opportunity, assuming all the skills were there?
2. Leave the generic responses at home.
Great candidates usually have a unique point of view and thoughtful answers to questions asked. Don't be afraid to gather your thoughts in front of the interviewer before responding to a question, rather than rushing to give the generic answer that the interviewer has probably heard a hundred times. The interviewer will appreciate that you've taken the time to craft a well-thought-out response.
3. Don’t make the interviewer dig for answers.
Solid candidates recognize what the interviewer is trying to uncover based on the line of questioning and respond accordingly. This means they don’t just say, “Oh, I have great organizational skills,” but they actually offer unprompted examples of how they organize their priorities and how their organizational skills positively impacted the outcome of a certain project.
4. Use humor whenever you can.
This doesn’t mean it’s open mic time at the comedy cellar. But we all respond well to humor. It makes us relatable. So when it makes sense to infuse your answer with a bit of humor, take the opportunity to do so. If you can get a good chuckle out of the interviewer, it may be the thing that sets you apart from other similarly qualified candidates.
5. Convey flexibility.
It’s wonderful to be committed to a five-year plan or to have a clear, professional goal in mind. But you don’t want to come across as rigid, especially since your specific goals may limit you from opportunities and or direction that only become apparent with a new position. That doesn't mean you should be vague in your response, but you should demonstrate that you can be flexible.
6. Command the convo regarding your previous experience.
When responding to questions, you are either in control of the answer, or the answer is like a runaway train. Candidates with excellent communication skills talk about their past experience in precise terms with specificity. Prior to an interview, brush up on the details of your work history and the progression of your career so that you can talk about any aspect with ease, and use it to your advantage when needed.
7. Quantify your value.
If you have numbers to back up your experience, use them. Whether it's dollars saved or earned for a company, time-saving efficiencies you introduced or other quantifiable successes, be sure to articulate them during the interview process. This will show the interviewer that you get real results. #humblebrag
8. Show that you can take initiative.
Effectively communicate that you're the type of employee who takes initiative. Even at the entry-level, companies hire individuals who will evolve into leaders, and those employees must demonstrate their ability to self-start early on. Convey this during the interview by providing an example of a project where you self-started or went above and beyond.
9. Talk about being growth-oriented, without talking about future positions.
Great candidates are able to express a desire to grow within a position for their own betterment and to add to their own skill set, not necessarily to climb the ranks. The interviewer knows that you want to be promoted down the line, so you don't need to say it aloud; instead, focus on how you hope to gain skills and experience.
10. Be genuine in your delivery and comfortable in your own skin.
An interview can put people on edge and make them tense. Although easier said than done, be yourself. It's critical that you come across as genuine and authentic in order to build rapport with the interviewer. If you do this well, the interviewer will come away with an idea of what it would be like to have you on his/her team.
11. Keep the conversation fluid.
Make the interview enjoyable for the interviewer! Ask questions that engage the interviewer and facilitate a back-and-forth dialogue. This will make the conversation more comfortable for both of you, which will create an overall better impression of your candidacy for the role. If you're in a panel interview, try to engage every member of the panel, not just the leader or hiring manager.
12. Say thank you.
Your follow up to the interview is just as important as the actual face-to-face. Thank you notes not only show you’re polite but also give you an extra opportunity to show off your writing skills. If done properly, it could be the thing that pushes you ahead of the pack. Make sure it’s personalized, bring up a point you and the interviewer connected on in person and keep it brief! While handwritten notes are always appreciated, an email is just as effective and is sure to get to the interviewer in a more timely manner.
In addition to following these tips, you can watch this video to hear what real recruiters (from staffing firm Atrium Recruiters) have to say about standing out in a job interview.
Michele Mavi has nearly 15 years of experience as a recruiter, interview coach, and resume writer. She is Atrium Staffing’s resident career expert, as well as director of internal recruiting and content development. She also founded Angel Films, a division of Atrium Staffing focused on the creation of recruiting and training videos.