How to Stand Out During an Interview

Building a personal brand can help you secure your next job. It can be leveraged so that you stand out during an interview. When you have a personal brand, you can present yourself in an interview with confidence and consistency. To stand out during an interview, you must be able to clearly articulate your skills and abilities. Before your interview, ask yourself, “What makes me different from other candidates?” and “How do I want to present myself?”.

Building a personal brand

In an article published by Forbes, Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success, says, “the best way to get a job is to build a strong, appealing brand that attracts new opportunities”. Your personal brand includes how you present yourself on your resumé and Linkedin profile, but also extends to how you hold yourself during an interview.

Mike Fenlon, PwC’s U.S. and global talent leader, goes on to say that, “each interaction you have with others enables you to make a mark on those around you. When you’re consistent in delivering those experiences, you build a strong personal brand that’s authentic, differentiated, and memorable.” A personal brand can give prospective employers insight into who you are even before you get into the interview with them. Additionally, it can provide you clarity so you know exactly who you are which allows you to show up intentionally and authentically during an interview.

When conceptualizing your personal brand, ask yourself:

  1. Who am I on a personal level and how does it relates to me professionally?
  2. What do I bring to the table (i.e., experience, skill set, values)?
  3. How do I separate myself from others? What is unique about me that makes me do my job well? Do I have an area of expertise? Am I distinctively passionate about something?
  4. What value do I bring to my coworkers or the organization as a whole?
  5. What do I want to be known for? How would I like to be described within my organization?

So how do you showcase your personal brand so you can stand out during the interview?

Before the Interview: Do your research

1. Come prepared

It may sound obvious, but hiring managers will be able to distinguish between candidates who briefly reviewed the company website versus those who took the time to dive deeper.

Here are some suggestions for what you should look into before an interview:

  1. Identify how the company is different from their competitors
  2. Understand the clientele and target market
  3. Think about the company’s mission and values. Ask yourself if they match your values or skill set
  4. Browse through their LinkedIn page to see what they share

2. Compile a list of questions

From your research, you can compile a list of questions to ask during the interview. A good question to ask an interviewer is, “I noticed you have been with [company name] for X amount of years. What factors have contributed to your retention?”. This question is not generic and thus can help you stand out during the interview. It shows that you took the time to thoroughly research the company. Additionally, you can use the response to gauge whether you share the same values and can see yourself staying at a company long-term.

During the Interview: Answering Questions

1. Don’t simply repeat your resumé when answering questions

A common first interview question is, “So tell me about yourself?”. This is an intentionally open-ended question. If answered intentionally, you can use your response to help you stand out from other applicants. The issue with this question is that it is easy for your answer to blend into every candidate’s response. As the interviewer already has your resumé, you don’t need to provide a thorough overview of everything they already know. This is an amazing opportunity to stand out during the interview. Tell the interview panel a story beyond where you graduated and what most recent job titles you have held. Answer this question in a similar way to how you answer other standard interview questions. That is, telling a story that answers the question “Why should we hire you?”. It’s the perfect opportunity to highlight your uniqueness and showcase your personal brand.

2. How to answer, “Tell Me About Yourself”

So how do you answer “Tell me about yourself…”? If you want to stand out during an interview, your response should depend on the type of role you are interviewing for. For example, in a short-term contract role, the employer needs somebody with a specific skill set. The interviewer is looking for the strongest candidate to assist with what they need and is less focused on finding someone that fits into their organizational culture. Therefore, focus on your specific area of expertise and what you bring to the table. It’s likely less effective to discuss your passions outside the area of work as it’s not necessarily applicable to the role you are applying for.

In a full-time role, you should answer this more strategically. The interviewer is looking for someone who will be a valuable member of the team and who can help the organization grow. To answer questions for a full-time role, consider the below points:

  1. Think back to when you were researching the company. Take note of the company values. Can you make a connection between the company’s values and your strengths?
  2. Tailor your experience to the skills outlined in the job description. If you have a unique skill that separates you from other candidates, highlight that in your answer. In the Forbes article, Schawbel notes that “while job seekers brand themselves as generalists, companies want to hire specialists. By pushing your top skill, as it applies to the job, you can stand out.”
  3. Speak clearly and concisely. Practice answering the question. These skills are valuable to a company if they plan for you to stay with the organization for a full-time position.
  4. To establish a connection with the hiring manager, try to show your personality more by mentioning a couple of your interests outside of work.

During the Interview: Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”

Most people want to avoid admitting they don’t know something. However, saying “I don’t know” can make you stand out during an interview. Candidates that admit that they don’t know something are often memorable for a good reason. Before the interview, review the skill set and required experience listed in the job description. If there is something you don’t have experience in, practice answering a question about it by admitting you aren’t familiar with it. Then, propose a solution or reinforce your interest in building your knowledge in that domain.

For example, if you are asked, “Tell me about your experience and skills using software X”, you may respond, “I don’t have extensive experience using that software. However, it’s something I always wanted to learn. I’m really quick to pick up on new programs and am confident I’ll be able to get the hang of it in no time.” Candidates that admit they aren’t familiar with or very knowledgeable about something are more likely to stand out during an interview as they answer the question with a higher degree of confidence.

During the Interview: Asking Questions

their company; likewise, you are trying to find the best company for your career growth. The interviewer only knows you based on your resumé and LinkedIn, and similarly, you only know the company based on the company website and social profiles. Depending on the type of role (contract or full-time), the questions you ask will be different. By doing your research, you’ll be able to identify questions you have for the interviewers. Others may arise during the interview. It’s good practice to ask at least one thoughtful and intentional question to help you stand out during an interview.

Here are some questions you may ask depending on the type of job you are interviewing for:

QUESTIONS FOR FULL-TIME OPPORTUNITIES

  • Can you list a few challenges a candidate may face in this position?
  • What is expected from me after my first 30 days versus after 3 months in the role?
  • What sets apart top performers at your company from the others; what do they do differently that contributes to their success?
  • What training opportunities do you offer to employees?
  • How does the company evaluate the performance of employees?
  • Can you discuss how your role has changed since you started working for the organization?

QUESTIONS FOR CONTRACT OPPORTUNITIES

  • Can you list a few challenges a candidate may face in this position?
  • What is the expected duration of the project?
  • Is there a possibility of an extension?
  • What should I know in order to work effectively with you and/or the team?
  • What’s the difference between doing a “good” job in this role versus doing an excellent job?
  • Is there an opportunity to convert from a contract to a full-time position? 
Questions for Full-Time OpportunitiesQuestions For Contract Opportunities
Can you list a few challenges a candidate may face in this position?Can you list a few challenges a candidate may face in this position?
What is expected from me after my first 30 days versus after 3 months in the role?What is the expected duration of the project?
What sets apart top performers at your company from the others; what do they do differently that contributes to their success?Is there a possibility of an extension? 
What training opportunities do you offer to employees?What should I know in order to work effectively with you and/or the team? 
How does the company evaluate the performance of employees?What’s the difference between doing a “good” job in this role versus doing an excellent job?
Can you discuss how your role has changed since you started working for the organization?Is there an opportunity to convert from a contract to a full-time position? 

During the Interview: Speech and body language

Your personal brand is not just related to what you bring to the table, it is also how you present yourself. This includes both how you speak and how you carry yourself.

Your body language can give the interviewer insight into who you are. You want to carry yourself in a way that aligns with your personal brand (e.g., confident, focused, and goal-oriented). Avoid rambling when answering questions. Speak confidently, clearly, and concisely when engaging with interviewers. This requires a high level of self-awareness. A great way to feel more confident during the interview is to practice some answers before the interview. Consider how you want to articulate your skill set or experience. The more you research the company and practice describing your experience, the more confident you will sound.

Nonverbal communication is very important for both virtual and in-person interviewers. Be cognizant of the limitations faced in virtual interviews. Your upper body is likely to only be showing. Therefore, you can rely more heavily on your facial expressions and demonstrate active listening. In both virtual and in-person interviews, should maintain eye contact. This is particularly important during a virtual meeting because the interviewer does not know what you are looking at when you look away from the camera. Wandering eyes can make you appear distracted and less engaged. Practice actively listening through nonverbal communication to show your attentiveness to the interviewer. You can do this with a straight posture, eye contact, nodding, and smiling.

Ending the Interview

Quick tips on ending an interview:

  1. Provide a quick summary to the hiring manager and an opportunity to clear up any concerns or unanswered questions they may have. For example, you can say, “Based on this interview, it appears that you are looking for someone with XYZ, which I believe compliments my background experience with XYZ. Is there anything regarding my candidacy for the role that we haven’t already discussed?”.
  2. End the interview by expressing your appreciation for the hiring manager taking the time to meet with you. Reiterate your interest in the position and ask when to expect feedback.

Conclusion

It can be difficult to stand out during an interview especially when you don’t know how other candidates express themselves or what they say. Building a personal brand allows you to show up to an interview with confidence. The interviewers are also able to get a clear sense of who you are. Being intentional with what you do before and during an interview can help you succeed in the job application process.

NADIA BUHOT

Nadia Buhot

As a Technical Recruiter for Jarvis Consulting Group, Nadia helps fill open roles by creating an exceptional candidate experience and providing top talent to clients. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a passion for technology and helping others land their perfect job.

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Seanei Gibbons - jarvis-logo-red-highres

Jarvis is a leading IT consulting firm headquartered in Canada that provides total talent solutions with ongoing partnerships across North America’s top financial institutions, cutting-edge startups, and major technology companies.

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