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How to Stand Out in an Interview: Expert Advice

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Believe me, I know how an interview can keep you up at night worrying about how it’ll go. I also know that once you discover the tricks and techniques for acing interviews, the stress accompanying them starts to fade.

This is because the more you learn about how to stand out in an interview, the more confident you’ll be in your abilities. That’s exactly what I’ll explain in this article, so put on your game face and let’s get you that dream job!

What Does It Mean to Stand Out During an Interview?

You probably hear this advice about standing out during interviews all the time, so let me do the honor of explaining it to you.

Standing out means highlighting your skills and experience to the hiring manager to make a lasting impression. Remember that you’re not the only candidate applying for this position; on average, there are 250 other applicants.

You need to show this wow factor to be considered for a second interview. To avoid confusion, you don’t need to have worked at the White House to dazzle the interviewer. Mentioning how your experience is relevant to the position is enough to pique his interest.

Emphasize how you can help the company and mention specific accomplishments. While doing so, make sure to express genuine interest in the organization and the position you’re applying for. 

How to Stand Out in an Interview

You have approximately 7 seconds to make a good first impression. Make the most of this fact by making the first few seconds you have with the interviewer count. Greet, make eye contact, smile, and shake hands confidently. 

After nailing those initial seconds, the real work begins. Since there are several interview contexts, I’ve listed the most common ones below, along with tips on how to ace them:

How to Stand Out in a Group Interview

Group interviews can be more challenging and intimidating than other types, so here’s what you should do if you find yourself in one:

Show Up Early

This advice applies to all interview types; always arrive early to prepare and prove professionalism. Being punctual is a requirement for almost all employers, so arriving late won’t work in your favor.

Arrive about 15 minutes early to familiarize yourself with the place and prepare your answers. You can even use this time to get to know the other candidates outside of the formal context to alleviate some of the intimidation.

Be Yourself

Don’t pretend to have skills you don’t have or to be someone you aren’t. Hiring managers can easily detect signs that someone is lying, and the more questions they ask, the more certain they’ll be.

Make yourself distinguishable with your personality and real skill set; they’ve already gotten you this interview!

Provide Unique Examples

It’s crucial to provide relevant examples when showcasing your knowledge and skills. You can draw these examples from previous professional or personal experiences.

Say you want to talk about your leadership abilities. Mention times when you acted as a leader and succeeded; if you received positive feedback from superiors or team members, mention it as well.

Ask Questions

Before the interview, carefully read the job description to prepare some questions for the interviewer. Inquiring about the company and the position you’re interested in will help you in two ways. 

The first is that as you learn more about the company culture, you’ll be able to determine whether or not this role is a good fit for you. At the same time, asking questions demonstrates to the hiring manager that you’re eager to find out more about the role.

Great questions include:

  • How do people on this team provide feedback to one another?
  • What do you expect me to achieve in the first six months?
  • What are the expectations for managing the workflow?

Don’t Dominate the Conversation

Dominating the conversation reflects the exact opposite of what hiring managers want to see. In group interviews, you’re not only interviewed about your qualifications but also observed for your behaviors.

The interviewer wants to know if you value teamwork and have leadership qualities. Speaking over and not listening to others shows that you lack both.

Instead, be polite to everyone, actively listen to what they say, and even compliment their experiences when you have the opportunity.

How to Stand Out in an Interview With No Experience

You can still shine in an interview, even if you don’t have prior work experience. Here are four tips to help you have a successful interview even if you’ve never worked before:

Do Your Research

Interviewers appreciate it when candidates do their homework. Research the company, its industry, and your potential role. This is to arm yourself with enough information to answer most interview questions efficiently.

This kind of knowledge will also give you the confidence to keep the conversation going with the hiring manager.

Show Your Enthusiasm

While being interviewed, show your enthusiasm for the opportunity. Avoid displaying either no or intense enthusiasm, as both can be perceived as unprofessional

What can you do to reach the desired level?

  • Wear a cheerful expression
  • Inquire about the company and your role
  • Nod when the interviewer is speaking
  • Send a thank you note after the interview

Make Your Past Experience Relevant

If you have any achievements in your academic or personal life, try to make them relevant to the position you’re applying for. 

For instance, you could discuss how participating in specific student activities during college helped you take more initiative. You could also mention a project you worked on that taught you the value of teamwork and improved your problem-solving abilities.

Dress and Act Professionally

Make sure to familiarize yourself and follow interview etiquette. Arrive on time and in professional business attire. Avoid wearing anything popping in color/design, or too revealing.

Don’t interrupt the interviewer, use swear words, or overshare. Sit with good posture, a smile on your face, as well as a positive attitude, and everything will fall into place.

How to Stand Out in a Zoom Interview

If you have a virtual interview coming up, here’s what you’ll need to do:

Make Sure You’re Prepared

According to a recent survey, 82% of employers use virtual interviews, and 93% intend to continue doing so.

This means that Zoom interviews are increasingly becoming a vital part of the hiring process. In fact, because employers offer them to more applicants, this type is more competitive than in-person interviews.

Therefore, don’t take this interview for granted; do your homework, dress appropriately, and, most importantly, remember to charge your laptop!

Have a Plan B for Bad Internet

Having internet issues during the video call will be pretty distracting for both you and the hiring manager. Prepare a backup internet connection in case the primary one didn’t cooperate on that day.

Alternatively, make sure you’re close to another location with a stable internet connection so you can relocate quickly. 

Look Right Into the Camera

Remember to fix your gaze on your webcam. This is critical during a Zoom interview for two reasons.

The first is that this is equivalent to making eye contact during face-to-face interviews. Eye contact shows the interviewer that you’re professional, confident, and enthusiastic about the opportunity.

The second reason is that you’ll prove that you’re paying attention and concentrating. Scanning the screen or your surroundings will imply that you’re distracted, which is inappropriate during an interview.

Have Good Lighting and a Neutral Background

Prepare for the virtual call setup ahead of time. Look for a spot with good lighting and a clean, neutral background. Lots of colors or patterns in the frame might distract the interviewer.

If you’ll have this interview in a low-light environment, use Zoom’s “adjust for low light” feature to boost brightness.

How to Stand Out in an In-Person Interview

There are three essential tips to keep in mind when it comes to in-person interviews:

Showcase Your Strengths

In-person interviews, as opposed to group interviews, will allow you to speak more broadly about what makes you unique.

Therefore, you should take advantage of it by spending some time before the interview listing your strengths and finding interesting stories to back them up. 

Showcase your qualities confidently during the interview, and don’t downplay any of them. If possible, you can print out samples of your previous work for the interviewer to check out.

Show Off Your Personality

The hiring manager will closely monitor your personality. Consequently, you need to let it shine in a way that reflects your character and impresses the interviewer.

In interviews, your body language can reveal a lot about you, so try to relax and control it. Don’t exhibit nervous behaviors such as shaking your leg or biting your lips/nails. Instead, sit up straight, be positive, engage, smile, and use humor when appropriate.

Present a Plan

Typically, hiring managers will ask you about your plans for the company if you get hired. It’s sometimes asked, “What do you intend to do within the first 30-60-90 days of getting the job?”

Learn the fundamentals of answering this question and be prepared with a PowerPoint presentation or a hard copy of your answer, a.k.a the plan.

Even if the interviewer didn’t ask you this question, take the initiative to offer your suggestions.

How to Stand Out in a Second Interview

Congratulations on passing your first interview! Now it’s time to step up your game in the second one, and here’s how:

Don’t Drop the Ball

Remember that progressing to the second stage of the hiring process doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the job. Second interviews vary by company, but in all cases, you must prepare as well as, if not better than, your first interview.

The hiring manager will most probably go into great detail about the role you’re applying for to ensure that you’re a good fit. Thus, recollect the majority of your strengths and expertise because they’ll want to hear more from you.

Back-Up Answers With Examples

As you go over your qualifications, use specific examples to support each point. This is the time to share your career success stories to reassure the interviewer that you’re qualified for this position.

Using the STAR method will allow you to give more effective examples. Here’s a quick explanation:

  • Summarize the overall “Situation”
  • Specify the “Task” that you were given
  • Describe your “Actions” in detail
  • Present your methods’ “Results”

Reiterate Your Enthusiasm

Summon your enthusiasm before the second interview, even if it’s with the same hiring manager. This valuable skill reveals to interviewers that you’re dedicated, passionate, and genuinely interested in the position. 

As previously mentioned, being overly enthusiastic can backfire; too much of anything is bad.

Go Over Points With New Interviewer

If you have a different interviewer, discuss with him aspects of your role and ask him thoughtful questions. 

Don’t limit that to the first interview as the final decision will almost certainly be based on the feedback of both interviewers. Thus, you want to leave a lasting impression on both.

Inquire about the company’s working environment, future plans, responsibilities, and so on. Anything related to money, such as salary and benefits, is an example of what not to say. This can create an unfavorable impression, so postpone the monetary discussion until you receive the official offer.

All in All

I’d like to remind you that practice makes perfect. Yes, you now have several effective tools for how to stand out in an interview. Yet, don’t be hard on yourself if everything didn’t go as planned.

Learn to be compassionate toward your mistakes today so that they can help you grow tomorrow!

Finally, always prepare for the interview and plan your outfit in advance so that your body and mind can relax on the big day. This will help alleviate the stress and allow you to focus on maintaining positive body language.

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