With a background in HR, I’ve interviewed 100’s of candidates. I may draw from dozens of potential questions, but at the end of the day, it boils down to three (3):
- What will it be like to work with you?
- Can you learn?
- Do you take initiative
WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE TO WORK WITH YOU?
You want to demonstrate to your prospective employer that you’ll be a valuable colleague and someone with whom they’ll enjoy interacting. Yes, you need to be knowledgeable, but you also need to help people envision you as a member of the team.
Don’t treat an interview like an exam – with clear right & wrong answers. Instead view the interviewers as people looking to find potential colleagues who will use this opportunity for everyone to get to know one another. You and the hiring manager share the same goal, and your meeting becomes a joint problem-solving effort – Do we want to work together?
If you treat your interviewer the way you would a trusted colleague — smiling, leaning forward, talking in a friendly way with energy, and making eye contact — they should begin to use the same language they already use with their favorite people in the workplace and begin to think of you as someone who belongs at the organization too.
CAN YOU LEARN?
Since you were scheduled for the interview, you likely already have the basic skill set required to do the job. But you’ll also need to be able to learn as you go. How can you demonstrate that you’re willing and able to learn?
There will likely be at least one interview question that might stump you. Don’t be tempted to bluff your way through an answer. Good interviewers can smell a phony response.
Instead, admit that there is something you do not know or understand. Interviewers want to see that potential employees will ask questions and seek additional information.
DO YOU TAKE INITIATIVE?
The best way to demonstrate your effort and commitment is to arrive well prepared. You should have a clear idea of what the company does, its history, its strengths, and its weaknesses. You’ve likely reached out via LinkedIn or other ways to someone internally to get a feel for the culture.
Prepare for the interview by practicing your answers to common questions. Sometimes people don’t practice interview answers because they feel it will make them sound rehearsed rather than spontaneous. You’ll probably get several unanticipated questions, so there will be ample opportunity to show off your improvisational skills. In addition, your preparation for the interview will be noted, and that will count significantly in your favor. So, don’t skimp on getting ready.
Ultimately, the best way to stand out in interviews is to think carefully about what prospective employers really want to know about you before you are hired. From there, you will be able to address concerns before they even have them.