How to Stand Out from Other Candidates at Your Interview

If you’ve ever walked out of a job interview sure you nailed it but didn’t get an offer, you’ve probably wondered, “What did I do wrong?”

The fact is, you may not have done anything wrong. It’s possible that another candidate was simply more memorable. Hiring managers make their decisions on lots of factors, but there are things you can do during the interview to make yourself stand out come offer time.

Show Your Value to the Entire Business

Let’s say that a hiring manager is interested in two candidates. Perhaps one candidate meets 7 out of 8 requirements for this particular role. The other only meets 4 requirements, but she has other skills that could benefit the company. Perhaps she has intimate domain knowledge, expertise using a difficult machine, or even willingness to travel. Some hiring managers will choose the less qualified candidate because her overall skills are a better match for business priorities.

Before you go in for your interview, do some recon. Find out everything you can about the team or company (depending on how large the company is.) What are their priorities for the next year? Which three biggest, immediate problems are they trying to solve? How have other people in similar roles been successful?

To find this out, you’ll want to work your networking skills. Reach out to people on LinkedIn. Check out Glassdoor. Ask the recruiter if it’s okay to contact the hiring manager before the interview. Sometimes, you can even pump the recruiter for this info. They want to hire great talent, and if they think you’re a fit, they’ll be happy to answer your questions if possible.

Once you have a list of priorities and challenges, make sure to address these in your interview. Remember—interviews are your time to show capabilities and skills that might not be listed on your resume. You’ll want to demonstrate how your skills and experiences can affect the whole team or company. You don’t know who else is interviewing for your position, but you can make sure that you’ve covered as many bases preemptively as you can.

Keep in mind: Posted job requirements just check a box demonstrating that you can do the job. Good hiring managers don’t just want someone who can do that job—they want someone who will be an asset.

Good hiring managers don’t just want someone who can do that job—they want someone who will be an asset. Click To Tweet

Demonstrate Strong Culture Add

In last week’s blog post, we mentioned that a big hiring trend is hiring not just for hard skills, but for soft skills and culture fit. Increasingly, companies are hiring people who they think will fit in. Research shows that positive teams tend to be more engaged and productive, so it’s in everyone’s best interest that coworkers get along well.

But being a great culture fit may not necessarily mean that you’re just like everybody else. Hiring managers are often wary of creating teams that are too homogenous, as that can create bias and lack of creativity. Instead, many hiring managers look for candidates that fit in but also bring something new to the table. This is called “culture add”.

Before your interview, find out who else is on your potential new team. This is pretty easy to do on LinkedIn, and of course you can always ask the recruiter or hiring manager. (You should always research your hiring manager before going to an interview!) What do these people have in common professionally? Have they all worked at the company for a long time? Are they all from the same industry? Do they work remotely? You can use this information to your advantage: figure out what you have in common with the current team, and what unique traits or abilities you can offer.

Good interviewees will ask a question or two about company culture during their interview. Great interviewees will find this out before the interview. What is the culture like at the company? What do they value? Where are they lacking? If you wait until the interview to discover this, it might help you decide whether to take a job. But if you bring this knowledge to the interview, you can use it to your advantage to encourage the hiring manager to make you an offer in the first place.

For example, if you know that a team is remote, it’s important to demonstrate that you understand how to be a successful member of such a team. Remote teams require concerted communication, regular updates, and patience. They require some skill with technology (perhaps Webex, email, chat, Google hangouts, etc.) and schedule flexibility. If you can bring examples of how you’ve made this work before, the hiring manager is more likely to see you as a culture fit for her remote team.

Good interviewees will ask a question or two about company culture during their interview. Great interviewees will find this out before the interview. Click To Tweet

Bring Good Stories

Storytelling is the most memorable way that we pass information to each other. If you want to stand out in a hiring manager’s mind, bring a story or two to the table.

A classic interview question is, “Tell me about a time when…” This is a perfect segue into storytelling, but you don’t have to wait for this prompt to tell a story. Especially if you have a particularly unbelievable or funny story, find a way to incorporate it into your interview. Make sure that it demonstrates your value: it needs to highlight a way you solved a problem, made the company look good, helped a coworker, thought quickly on your feet, etc. But it can also show positive personality traits, like humility, sense of humor, or flexibility. The key is to tell stories that are true and that you know well enough to tell in an engaging way. Rehearse one or two stories if you can. The more engaging you are as a person, the more likely you are to stand out as a candidate.