Experience and work history aren’t the only things that can set you apart from the competition on your job hunt. Impeccable interview skills can be the winning attribute that you have that others don’t. And like the saying goes, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over.” That means you have many opportunities to show a recruiter or hiring manager that you’re the perfect candidate for the job.
Here are four signs that your interview skills are better than the rest:
1. You are proactive during each portion of the interview process.
Much like dating, the job search is now a mutual selection process, with both employers and candidates opting in when it comes time to sign an offer. You’ve got to be proactive every step of the way to ascertain whether this company and job is the right fit for your life. To do that, every interaction has to be useful and beneficial for you to make that ultimate decision.
Informed candidates are curious, so you’re asking any and all questions to get the best picture of the company, the team and the role. From inquiring about next steps, to team work styles, to transportation options, to asking for email addresses for thank you notes, these interactions show how engaged you are as a candidate and leave a lasting impression on employers.
Here are some unique ways to be proactive during each portion of the interview process:
- Initial phone screen: Ask about next steps & the overall process; Inquire about benefits; Discuss the recruiter’s career and pros/cons of the company; Send over additional materials and examples of work.
- First in-person interview: Bring copies of your resume and any samples of your work; Ask specific questions about compensation, company mission, and current goals; Be clear and honest about what you’re looking for in your next role; Ask about specific reviews on Glassdoor.
- Panel interview: Suggest ways you would improve/impact company culture and team productivity; Share specifics about projects you’d like to work on; Ask direct, specific questions to individual panelists; Follow up with thank you notes.
- Project/Skills assessment: Find ways to over-deliver in the project; Incorporate your research into the assessment; Ask pointed questions about the exercise to get clarity; Return the project under time.
- Offer: Negotiate by using salary information from Glassdoor; Explore the flexibility of vacation policies, health coverage, and travel; Ask questions about employee stock options; Consider circling back with one of your interviewers for any last curiosities.
2. You are equipped with anecdotes that “show instead of simply tell.”
One of the first things I learned in journalism school was “show don’t tell.” That means that it’s better to provide an anecdote or scenario to describe what I’m writing rather than just simply write about the action. Show your skills and experience through concise, clear and compelling anecdotes.
Instead of telling a hiring manager that you led a team of 4 in your last job, lend an anecdote or story about what you learned from leading that team or how you empowered them to contribute to the business’ bottom-line. Rehearse 3 or 4 good anecdotes about your past work or educational experience that “show not just tell” why you’re a uniquely informed candidate.
Anecdotes are the perfect way to answer prompts like:
- What is your greatest weakness?
- Describe your resume and work history.
- Tell me about a time that you put one of our company values to practice in your own life?
- How do you handle pressure?
3. Little, if anything, catches you off guard.
There’s a big difference between being a know-it-all and being prepared. Your goal in an interview is to appear confident in your skills and interest in the company, not to be cocky. Therefore, you should rarely be caught off guard by an interviewer and, thus, stand out from the crowd.
One employer said, “An informed candidate is someone that knows about the company — that’s done research and that has read the job description, [who] understands the opening so that when you’re contacting them, they’re essentially meeting you half way. It also shows me that that person is motivated because they are doing the work they need to do.”
Because you’ve browsed dozens of interview questions that are asked of candidates applying to the specific role that you are, you have prepared in advance and over time will prevent last-minute cramming. The result? A confident candidate.
4. The interviewer comments on how well-informed you are.
A recruiter or hiring manager paying you a compliment by noticing how well-researched and responsive you are is the ultimate sign that your interview skills are better than the rest. They’re impressed by your questions, amazed you caught that corporate announcement last month, wowed by what they’ve heard about you from your references and mentions that they want to introduce you to others that are not on the interview loop. All great signs.
Remember, it’s not only about what’s on the resume or cover letter that will land you a new gig. It’s about being proactive and engaged at every step of the job search process. Sure it’s time-consuming and it feels like a full-time job, but anything worth having is worth the energy.