5 Tips to Stand Out at a Job Interview

Whether you are up against one or several candidates for the same job, standing out from the competition will give you the critical advantage. Zoom has replaced in-person job interviews, eliminating some traditional interview challenges, and presenting new ones. Ambitious candidates should consider these 5 tips to stay ahead of these changes and ace that interview.

1. Be Well Prepared for Zoom

A job interview on Zoom requires a different kind of preparation than an in-person interview. First, have what you need within your reach so you don’t have to stand up in the middle of your interview. Items to place within reach include a cup of water (in case your voice gets hoarse), a notepad and pen to take notes, a copy of your resume, and anything else you think you may need.

Do a test of yourself in a Zoom meeting. If possible, get your own Zoom account so you can use that meeting room as needed. Check for potential technical issues.

How is the lighting? Do you need to move yourself closer to a window or turn on a lamp? If the interview is in the morning, I do the lighting test in the morning so I’ll have the same lighting conditions. I also check the weather forecast. If it’s likely to be cloudy on my interview day, then I try to do a test on a cloudy day.

Look at how you appear on camera. If the camera is too far from you, you will look small on screen. If you are looking down at the camera, the audience will have a less flattering view of your chin folding up. Remedy this issue by placing the laptop higher up on another surface.

If the laptop camera is tilted too far back, the screen will show the top of your head and the ceiling of your room. Readjust your camera as needed to give the interviewer the best view of you.

Here’s a bonus tip: on the day of your interview, remember to look at the camera when you speak. It’s tempting to look at the people on the screen, but you will appear as if you are looking down! Looking directly at the camera will give you direct eye contact with the interviewer.

Wear the clothes you will wear to your interview. Certain colors looks different on camera. Pink, for example, appears red. Floral patterns against a virtual background will make parts of you disappear like you’ve been cut apart with scissors. Solid colors seem to work best if you’re using a virtual background.

Lastly, check your sound. Is your microphone working? Should you wear headphones to block out background noise? Doing these technical checks before your interview will make you look more prepared and professional on your interview day.

2. Share Stories to Bring Your Resume to Life

The day of your interview, they may start with that ubiquitous question: “Tell me about yourself,” or “Tell us about your experience with….” The purpose is to give them an overview about you, warm you up for the interview, and summarize some points from your resume.

If you’re up against several candidates, talking about your experiences and skills won’t make you stand out. Your interviewer will be hearing other candidates talk about their skills and eventually all these skills descriptions will blur together. If you want to stand out, don’t just talk about your resume.

Share a story.

Research the company ahead of time and find out what its mission and vision is. Understand what is important to the company, and pick anecdotes from your professional life that fit the company culture to share during the interview.

If you want to show how innovative you are, for example, don’t just talk about your skill. Share a story that demonstrates your creativity. How did your innovation result in a better project for the client?

If your skill is proficiency with a computer program, tell a story about what you did with the program. People don’t remember facts such as a listing of your experiences. People remember stories. Stories stick.

Did an interesting or funny moment occur while you were implementing the computer program? Talk about the moment as if you’re sharing a moment with a friend.

You will sound impressive talking about your achievements but showing your personal side will make you stand out. You can share how you improved the efficiency of your company by 15% with the new system that you implemented. But talk about it like it’s a scene from a novel, not a dry news story.

It’s the stories that people remember. These personalized stories are also a way for the interviewer to get to know you better as a person. You want them to see you as more than a skilled employee who lives to work.

3. Create an Emotional Impression

People don’t necessarily remember the details of what you talked about, but they will remember how you made them feel.

Ideally, you want them to associate you with happiness. I like to tell stories or jokes about my work experiences. They aren’t the type of joke with a punch line. They are more like jokes about awkward experiences that people can relate to, such as the challenges of navigating your way around a foreign city.

I treat certain moments of my interview like having coffee with friends or associates. When you use humor, people will remember how they felt. They will remember laughing and feeling at ease with you.

Tell a joke only if it fits the situation, and only if it sounds natural to you. If your jokes tend to be met with silence, jokes may not be the way to go. Also, tell jokes if you have a good feel of the situation.

Does the company culture seem to be casual and easygoing? Does the interviewer seem like someone who would appreciate your humour?

The joke should emerge naturally from the situation and not feel forced. I keep my humor professional yet casual, and if I have a hard time reading the other person, I tend to err on the side of caution and not share as much humour.

Creating an emotional impression is your goal.

At the end of one interview, the interviewer commented, “We had a lot of laughs.” She was in a good mood and my words had given her a sense of my personality. How you make someone feel is as important, if not more important, than your skillset and work experiences.

4. Ask Challenging Questions

Near the end of the interview, they may ask you if you have any questions. I usually have about five questions prepared, in case one of them gets answered during the interview.

I like to ask questions that are memorable. Choose questions that require a bit of thinking and aren’t asked often. As part of my preparation, I search for lists of commonly asked questions for interviewers and choose ones that would be interesting to share.

For instance, I’ve asked the interviewer what they like about their role at the company. It’s personal, gets them thinking, and gives you some insight about their company culture. Also, this question isn’t likely to be answered during an interview.

If your interview is conducted by a panel, you can also apply this same question to each person.

You can also ask about your prospective job. For example, inquire about what they consider to be a mark of success for the position that you are applying for. This question also gives you some insight into company culture as well as their expectations of what you will be doing.

Avoid asking questions that show you didn’t do your research about the company. For example, asking them who their typical customers are when the answer is provided on one of their webpages.

Don’t forget to ask them about next steps. I find that well-organized companies are clear about next steps and may even outline this for you before the interview. If you know the timeline or how you will be notified, you reduce your stress.

5. Take Mental Notes

Take notes during the call, either physically with your pencil and paper, or mentally. Could you have improved on your answers during the interview? Is there something you could have shared about your work experience that you didn’t?

I’ve frozen or drawn a blank when asked a question during an interview. I’ve been asked a “Tell me about a time when” question and it wasn’t until the interview was over that I remembered a great answer. You’ll have a chance to address these loose ends after the interview.

I write a thank you letter to each interviewer after the call. To do this, I refer to the notes I took during the call.

If possible, acknowledge something that each interviewer said in your email. Expand on a point that you spoke about to give more information if you feel it strengthens your candidacy. Reflecting on your answers by expanding on them in an email shows you take initiative for self improvement.

Conclusion

How do you stand out in an interview when there are multiple candidates who are just as qualified as you are? The key is to share stories because people remember stories better than facts. You also want them to feel good about speaking with you. When the interview ends, it’s your unique stories and questions that will linger in their minds.

Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio (feature image), Anna Shvets (second image), Mohammad Danish (thrid image)

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