Standing Out in Interviews

In a given month, there are 25,000 interviews taking place across the country. If you are in an active job search, eventually you will become part of this statistic. Some people are naturals at selling themselves. Others, not so much. Either way, the more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll become. Follow the suggestions below to nail your next interview.

Do Your Research
Start by researching the company. More often than not, if a candidate fails to show he or she has done their due diligence, then he or she will be eliminated. I recently worked with a new grad who went to interview for a sales role with a technology company. Their first question to him was: describe our product. Luckily, he was prepared!

Know Your Story
Reflect on your career so far and appropriately frame your story. To determine what is most relevant in your background, get a handle on the core competencies and capabilities required for the job. Analyze the job description and review what you learned in your informational interviews. You should notice there are key words and phrases that repeat. Identify those words and phrases and then identify past experiences that match up to those core competencies. For example, if cross-functional collaboration, communication, team leadership and program development are listed as core competencies, then you want to think about how you’ve demonstrated these skills in your past roles and start to outline specific examples.

Slow Down
During the interview, try to take your time. If you get a question you are not prepared for, it is okay to ask for a minute. This will keep you from talking in circles and shows the interviewer you’re confident enough to handle the pauses and engaged enough to carefully consider each answer. If you rush through your conversation, you risk sounding incoherent and nervous.

Be Ready to Talk Salary
Be prepared to talk salary. While not the most comfortable topic, it comes up quite early these days. Doing your homework is key to avoiding an awkward exchange. Know your worth. Know the market. When salary comes up, try to frame it so the interviewer throws out the first number. Asking for a range is totally appropriate and remember to remain flexible and honest throughout the discussion.

Ask Good Questions
Be prepared to ask good questions. This shows genuine interest and, at the same time, allows you to show off the research you have done. Potential questions include: When you think about people who have been successful in this role, what skills do they have in common? Could you tell me more about how this role fits in with the team? Through my conversations with people at the company it seems the culture is quite (i.e collaborative and civic-oriented)… I’d love to hear what you enjoy most about working for the organization.

Assume Positive Intent
Job interviews can be nerve-wracking and our emotions can get the best of us. It is important to remember that the interviewers are not there to be judgmental or mean. They are simply wanting to get to know you better and are probably hoping to have a good connection. You were invited to the interview because the employer has shown a genuine interest. Remember, your interviewers are people just like you!

For more information on interviewing, including a more detailed review of sample questions and feedback from professional recruiters, Carolina Alumni members can view our recorded webinar.