Interviews have an outsize influence on whether you land the job you want. Even though your application materials reflect your lifetime of experience, a few hours of interaction with a recruiting team often end up being the determining factor in whether you actually get hired. So, clearly you need to stand out.
To do that, it helps to be mindful of what recruiters and hiring managers are trying to accomplish with the interview. Below are three of the questions they want answered.
1. What will it be like to work with you? You want to demonstrate to your prospective employer that you will be a valuable colleague and someone with whom they will enjoy interacting. If you treat your interviewer the way you would a trusted colleague — smiling, talking in a friendly way and making eye contact — they will begin to think of you as someone who belongs at the organization too.
2. Can you learn? You probably have the basic skill set required to do the job for which you are applying, but you’ll also need to learn as you go. How can you demonstrate that you’re willing and able to learn? One way to show that you intend to keep expanding your knowledge is to ask about continuing education opportunities. Inquiring makes it clear that you are interested in further development.
3. Do you take initiative? Interviewers want self-starters who take initiative (so much so that it’s become a cliché). The best way to demonstrate your effort and commitment is to arrive completely prepared. You should have a very clear idea of what the company does, its history, its strengths and its weaknesses. If you know people who work for the company (or have worked there in the past), ask them for inside information.
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.
(Written by Art Markman, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin.)