Congratulations! If you’ve been scheduled for a job interview, it means that your resume has been selected from about 250 resumes that are usually received for each corporate job. Typically only four to six candidates will be seen in person, but all of them are highly qualified. So when you get to that interview chair, it’s not enough to just be polished, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic. You have to stand out — especially as a woman. Since scholarly research has proven that gender bias still persists in the interview process, for a woman who’s interviewing, it’s often imperative to distinguish yourself from the other candidates in a positive way. And that can be tricky, because it can be a slippery slope to walk between acknowledging bias and trying to defuse it. Here are some of my best interview tips to help women stand out on the big day:
Interview Tip #1: Open strong.
Your opening should be a clear statement about why this job is right for you. Don’t hesitate to lead the conversation — you can set the tone from the beginning. Signal from the very first sentence that you’ve done your research, you understand what the job is, and your particular background/skillset will make you a good contributor. For example: “Thanks for having me in today. I’m really excited about the things you’re doing at Acme Industries. Your recent out-of-home marketing program really stood out. I’ve worked on several new customer acquisition programs in the past and had strong results. Based on my experience, I’d have a lot to contribute to your next marketing effort.” Note: In order to be well prepared for your opening statement, it’s imperative that you do your research before the interview. Use tools such as Glassdoor, LinkedIN, and Fairygodboss to get an understanding for the culture and the experience of others in the job. Make sure you are intimately familiar with the job posting or job description. And of course — spend some quality time on the employer’s website.
Interview Tip #2: Pitch your vision for what you can contribute. And be specific.
Once you’ve asked questions to gather information from your interviewer about what his/her expectations of the role are, get specific about what you can contribute. There are a few ways to do this: 1) cite case studies from your past work; 2) pitch ideas or concepts for the future (“have you tried this?); or 3) if you have enough information or ideas to share, it is great to bring them in the form of a written presentation or strategic plan
. For example: “I see an opportunity for you to gain thousands of new customers through social outreach. Here’s a sample program I’d propose. I worked on a similar program recently in my currently role, and we saw our inbound leads grow by 200%.”
Interview tip #3: Brag.
Sadly, women generally have a harder time bragging about their accomplishments than men. But you better believe that every man sitting in that interview chair will be talking up his past accomplishments. Figure out a way to shine a spotlight on your past successes in a way that’s comfortable for you. And practice ahead of time! For example: “I excel at financial modeling. Recently, the CFO called my boss to compliment me on the business case I built.”
Interview Tip #4: Make an ally of your interviewer (who is also possibly your future boss).
More than anything, your boss and future co-workers are meeting you to get a flavor for what it’s like to work with you. So engage in conversation with them - especially about work. Create a rapport, and listen well. Cite examples of how well you’ve worked with your past colleagues, and praise your past boss. Gauge their style and personality, but it never hurts to try to be humorous and light. It’s not unlike a date...you want your interviewer to “want to see you again.” Don’t get personal (talking about family, etc) unless they bring it up. And even if they do, keep the conversation about family brief. For example: “It sounds like there is a very collaborative culture here. Teamwork was really important in my past job, where I worked on a cross-functional team on an accelerated project. Not only did we accomplish the task successfully and ahead of schedule, but we had a great time doing it and I’m still friendly with my team members today.”
Interview Tip #5: Throw in an interesting detail about you.
The best way to make sure you stand out in the interviewer’s mind is to throw in interesting and unusual personal details about your hobbies, interests and pursuits. Better still if it’s something you think the interviewer will connect with. Google your interviewers before you arrive, and read their Twitter feed if they have one, so you can get a better understanding of their personality and interests. For example: “I love to travel and have visited 48 out of 50 states,” or “you’re a Yankees fan? We have season tickets!”
Interview Tip #6: Ask provocative questions.
The interviewer is looking for someone who is going to be an asset to the team and your work. Show how you’d do that by asking provocative, pointed questions -- but stay away from ones that are critical or confrontational. Use this opportunity that you’ll add to the conversation by challenging the status quo, and keeping things spirited and fun. For example: “I noticed that as part of your recent product launch, you targeted your messaging at boomers. Did you consider that there might be an opportunity for younger customers as well?”
Interview Tip #7: Show you are a good listener.
Everybody likes to be heard. Listen well to what you’re interviewer says. Give him/her time to speak. Remark on or play back what they’ve said, and add to it. For example: “The project you worked on sounds complex, and it sounds like the team really came together to get it done.”
Interview Tip #8: Close strong.
Thank the interviewer for his/her time and summarize your points from your opening, adding in any additional thoughts. Emphasize why the role is a fit for you. For example: “It’s been great meeting you today. I think that because of my background and experience, this role would be a great fit for me. And it would be great to work with you.” By putting these interview tips into practice for your next interview, you should be able to stand out from a crowded field and compete on equal footing to men. With strong preparation, confidence and thoughtful participation, the job will be yours.