I have spent over 7 years providing career coaching to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as alumni. Now, I serve as a Recruitment & Onboarding Specialist at a national nonprofit. Being on the other side of the table allows me to see candidates in a different light. Based on my observations of candidates, I am providing tips on ways to stand out during an interview:
Research the company
This is a critical first step. During an interview, you will be asked why you are interested in the company. From the interviewer’s perspective, they need to know that you are passionate about the company and a strong fit. To help you formulate your response, researching the company beforehand is key.
Companies spend significant time and resources to communicate their brand on their website, social media, blogs and more. Using these outlets will allow you to learn more about the company and help you discover the reasons you are attracted to them. Then, you can identify words or phrases that resonate with you and connect how your values align with theirs. Below is an example of a response a candidate provided during an interview:
Question: “Tell us why you are interested in our company?”
Answer: “ I admire that your company values collaboration among its employees. During my time in college, I have strengthened my ability to work on teams, and have truly enjoyed working with others. For example, I was Vice-President of the Student Activities club where I collaborated with the executive board on our organization’s goal, and worked with a team of 5 members to plan and coordinate our annual spring concert. This experience allowed me to lean on my personal strengths, as well as leverage the strengths of others in order to execute an event with an attendance of 5,000 students. I believe my experience being a strong team player aligns with your company’s values.”
According to Investopedia.com, value proposition is defined as, “…the value a company promises to deliver to customers should they choose to buy their product.” Although it’s a marketing term, it’s applicable when it comes to interviewing because all candidates have a value proposition.
Interviewing is competitive. There are many candidates interviewing for the same position and it’s imperative that you stand out. During an interview, if you are struggling to articulate how you will be a valuable asset in this position, this is troubling and the interviewers are unable to see you in this role. To help you identify your value proposition and connect it to the position, I have outlined an exercise below:
Using the job description as a guide, begin taking an inventory of your skills, experiences, education and accomplishments you possess. Then, connect your achievements to the qualifications the employer is seeking. For example, if the job description states: “Proficient in Microsoft Excel” and “Strong Presentation skills” begin connecting experiences in your professional or academic careers where you used Excel and delivered presentations. This exercise will help you communicate your value to the employer during the interview.
Don’t forget that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you! When the employer opens up the floor for questions, have questions prepared. If you don’t, it’s a red flag and the interviewer may question your interest in the role and company.
Questions can center around the role, company, culture and next steps in the process. Sample questions include:
What do you enjoy most about working here?
Can you tell more more about the projects I’ll be working on?
Can you tell me more about the onboarding process?
Where do you see the department’s or company’s goal in the next 5 years?
My last piece of advice is to remember that the interviewer wants you to do well. They have a vacancy and are taking time out of their day to meet with you, hoping you are the candidate to fill this position. I wish you much success on your interview and good luck!
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