The modern interview process is incredibly competitive. The average job opening receives more than 100 applications, and this number can soar far higher for in-demand roles in the tech industry, which means you need to find ways to differentiate yourself from the crowd if you want to land a new job.
So, how do you make yourself stand out in a job interview? What are the best strategies to differentiate yourself from the competition? And are there any common missteps to look out for when preparing for your big day?
9 Ways To Stand Out In An Interview
Here are 9 strategies for standing out in interviews and landing a job in the competitive market:
1. Adequately research the company and culture.
Conducting adequate research before your interview is an important first step to differentiating yourself from your competition. While this initial tip may sound obvious, when done right, it can help you positively stand out in the competitive job market.
But what does effective interview preparation look like? A good place to start your research is by visiting Team Blind, Built In, Reddit, or a similar online platform to learn more about your target company and its culture. It’s helpful to be clear on why you’re really drawn to this specific company and position, rather than competitors (even if you happen to be equally interested in working for their competitors!).
2. Develop your interview talking points.
Next, identify and outline three to five key talking points you want to convey during your interview. Notably, you don’t want to pinpoint just any talking points, either, as this isn’t going to help you stand out from other candidates. Instead, you want to find those qualities that set you apart.
If you’re not sure where to start, you can use the job posting to guide you in developing interview talking points that align with the company’s needs.
Importantly, you want to ensure that these talking points are backed up by concrete career accomplishments, which I’ll dive into next.
3. Identify what sets you apart from other candidates.
As you develop your talking points and prepare holistically for your interview, be specific about your fabulousness (your Unique Value Proposition). You also want to practice articulating your fabulousness aloud without beating the around the bush. This might look like:
- “What sets me apart from other product leaders is…”
- “I’m different from other chief human resources officers in the way that I…”
- “My approach to team leadership is distinct because…”
4. Prepare memorable stories.
Now you want to identify specific examples and stories that back up your claims. These anecdotes are important because they make an impression and will help the interviewers remember you — and your answers — when making their hiring decision.
When possible, you also want to add relevant data to your stories. These numbers and metrics will help demonstrate the impact and value of your work and will support the interviewer in recalling your stories.
5. Master your elevator pitch.
Although preparation is key, it’s only one component of standing out in your job interview. Once the big day comes, how do you differentiate yourself from the crowd?
For starters, you only get one first impression, so make sure you have a memorable response to the tell me about yourself question. Moreover, you want to rehearse your responses to other common interview questions such as: “Walk me through your resume” and “What are your strengths?”
6. Handle curveball questions with grace.
While you can expect and prepare for typical questions, you also need to be ready for curveball interview questions. Knowing how to respond to these oddball questions can really help you stand out in the interview process.
An effective strategy for tackling these odd interview questions is to:
- Reference one of your key talking points from above.
- Remind the interviewer of your fabulousness and what sets you apart from other candidates.
7. Tie your answers back to the position.
Another effective strategy to positively stand out on your big day is to “close the loop” with each of your interview answers. A common mistake I see interviewees make is not connecting the dots between their answers and the company/position they’re interviewing for, which can make it difficult for the recruiter or hiring manager to understand the relevance of your experience.
Consequently, you want to clearly explain how each answer – and story – circles back to the company and position, even if it’s just adding a sentence or two that begins with something like:
- “I’m sharing this story because…”
- “This relates to X in the job posting…”
8. Practice your interview delivery.
Another way to stand out in the interview is to spend time practicing your delivery. As an interview coach, there are a few specific areas I often recommend focusing on when refining your delivery:
- Talking loud and clear enough for the interviewer to hear you, which can be a challenge if you struggle with confidence or imposter syndrome.
- Speaking at a conversational pace, particularly remembering not to talk too fast.
- Practicing adequate pacing and pausing between sentences.
One of my favorite strategies is to take a breath after every sentence, as this gets you in the habit of being mindful and in the moment during the interview. This technique also provides the interviewer an opportunity to really hear and absorb what you say, which is important when you’re trying to stand out.
9. Ask intentional questions of the interviewer.
You have another opportunity to differentiate yourself when deciding how to respond to the inquiry, “What questions do you have for us?” Your questions for the interviewer have a few main goals, which include:
- Enabling the interviewer to keep learning about you.
- Answering your questions about the company and/or position.
If I were interviewing for a job, I might ask, “As a career coach and mental health advocate, I’m passionate about worker mental health and frequently write and speak on the topic. Can you share an example of how your organization prioritized employee mental health during the Covid pandemic?”
Asking this question would allow the interviewer to continue learning about me (I’m a coach who is deeply committed to mental health) while also gleaning the information I truly want (the company’s level of commitment to mental health in the workplace).
Importantly, only pose questions that you genuinely want to know the answer to, rather than asking questions just for the sake of asking them, which will result in the most fruitful and memorable interview possible.
Conclusion: How To Stand Out In An Interview
These are just a handful of strategies to help you stand out in your next interview. On a final note, if you really want to differentiate yourself, challenge yourself to get creative and think of ideas beyond this list. You’ve got this!