4 Master Tactics That Make You Stand out at Your Job Interview
How to Ace your job interview
If you are not acing your job interviews, there is a good chance you are not preparing right. Maybe you have the usual good answers to strengths and weaknesses and know the position and your resume by heart. That is not enough to stand out. You need to prepare the things that will make you special — to make you the most memorable candidate.
- Focus on building a relationship
- Pitch yourself like a pro
- Tell the perfect story
- Showcase your hip pocket skill
- Use the 4 bonus minutes wisely
A successful interview has two main components and it is easy to forget to prepare for one of them. First, you need to build a relationship with the interviewer to gain their trust and to build a personal connection. Second, you need to show your value by focusing on the things that are important to the interviewer.
#1 Stalking Light — How to Prepare for the Interview
There are two things you need to research before the interview: The company and the person you are interviewing with.
The person is as important to understand as the company. To quickly build a relationship, you need to get to know a little about their background. You should check out your interviewer or interviewers online.
Take a good look at their LinkedIn and other SoMe channels and look for anything that you have in common. Maybe you have gone to the same school, have taken the same training course, worked with some of the same people, or any other small fact that you can use to create a bond with the person.
Having something in common is a quick way to create a shared understanding and maybe even an inside joke “Wasn’t this guy just fun”.
Building a relationship with the interviewer will help you become memorable.
If you get to establish that relationship early in the conversation, that favorable light may affect everything you say afterward.
This effect is similar to the school teacher bias that Rosenthal studied back in the 60'es where students whom the teacher had high expectations of, would perform and grow more than the others.
Understanding the company is always important. You will likely be asked questions about why you want to work for the company and it is good to have strong answers that are specific and tell a story.
Maybe you remember how this company did special relief aid after Katrina or that they have released a particularly innovative product that changed some aspect of your life. Make sure you have some knowledge of their strategy, culture, and understand the role you are applying to well.
#2 Pitch Perfect — How You Position Yourself
There is probably nothing more boring as a hiring manager to hear a recital of your resume from your first high school diploma to whatever position you have now. Hey, they read it already! So you need to do something else, you need to prepare a real pitch, where you tell a compelling story of why you are a great fit.
The best introduction I have found has been this 15-minute course on LinkedIn by Jodi Glickman. In her course, she goes through the 3 elements a good pitch should include.
- Your destination. Where do you want to go? Why do you want to go there?
- Your backstory. Not your resume, but relevant highlights of what you have done.
- Connecting the dots. How do your destination and backstory come together?
And remember, even if you don’t have an impressive resume you still have transferable skills. And since you are now at the interview, then your resume is good enough. Now you have to go from a good enough resume to a really interesting person.
#3 Answer Interview Questions with a Story
There is nothing better than a concrete story. The more you can show what you have done and not just talk about your qualities, the stronger you will come through.
Read the job ad again and highlight what seems most important to the hiring manager. Then prepare a few stories from your professional or personal life that will show how you are good at this. Make sure you have an arsenal of stories that you can pull out when the time is right.
Telling a good and relevant story of success must show that you understand what the company is doing and how you would fit in.
The most important story is the one that relates to the challenges the company has and that you will solve in that new role.
- What you have done that relates directly to that job?
- What actions did you take?
- What results did you achieve?
Remember a success story is not about how you shined, but how you did something of value to the company, your colleagues, or the world.
“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” Albert Einstein
You can read more about collecting success stories and building your confidence in this previous article of mine.
4# Use Your Hip-Pocket Skill
Closely linked to telling success stories is your hip pocket skill. This is great for answering the often-used question on strengths and a good possibility to go a little outside of your resume and talk about yourself from another angle.
Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsico talks about this as one of the 3 things that made her career. A Hip-pocket skill is
“A skill you become so good at, you are seen across the organization as the expert at it.” Indra Nooyi
Ideally, this should be a human skill. Oftentimes this is not directly related to your role, but a somewhat adjacent skill. For me, it is processes. Somehow I have become the guy who does processes, even if it isn’t my job. For Indra Nooyi, it is the ability to make the complicated simple.
5# Using Your Bonus 4 Minutes
There will be two sessions that I bet you don’t prepare for. The walk from the reception to the interviewing room and the walk back to the reception where you say your farewells. These two sessions have huge potential! This is where you have a chance to start building that crucial relationship.
The first walk is the first impression. According to Forbes, it is within the first 7 seconds the interviewer will start to form an opinion of you. You have 7 seconds to gain an advantage that may last the rest of the interview.
“The first opinion is formed in 7 seconds. Make them count.”
It goes without saying that you need to dress and groom. But it matters a lot how you dress. You should not necessarily go all-in on the suit and tie for any occasion but rather see if you can get some insights into how they are dressing and go just a tad more conservative.
The “consultant rule” I learned as a junior consultant was: If they wear dress pants and shirt, then wear a jacket. If they wear a jacket too, then wear a tie.
And don’t be afraid to dress down at the meeting if you are overdressed. If no one is wearing a tie, then ask if they mind that you remove the tie. That will show that you are comfortable in the situation and will be a sign of confidence.
Now you have 2 minutes, or so, to have a short conversation before the interview starts. What do you talk about? the weather? No these first minutes may be your chance to use some of the knowledge you researched on the interviewer.
This could be where you casually mention, that you saw on Linkedin that you both went to the same school and if he remembers the professor who taught “The most relevant to the job” course. Don’t overdo it. It should come naturally. But prepare.
Then you have the last two minutes of walking out. You can thank the person for the interview and all that, but you should also think about saying something they will remember you for. Give them one last bit of your resume or a short funny story that would fit the occasion. Most importantly is to think about it in advance and have some options.
You will land this next job. Say it with confidence. Believe it! And make the preparations that will make it happen.
#1 Stalking light — prepare for the person and company
#2 Pitch Perfect — Tell you story, not recite your resume
#3 Answer interview questions with an authentic and concrete story
4# Use your Hip-pocket skill to stand out. You got more than the relevant skills.
5# Using your bonus 4 minutes — they can mean all the difference
And don’t forget the standards: Preparing questions for the interviewer and preparing a strong answer for Strengths and weaknesses.