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How do I stand out in a job interview?

Student Career Placement Consultant

A woman interviews another woman in a sunny, modern office. (Photo via http://wocintechchat.com)Students who are graduating soon are probably busily applying for jobs and scheduling interviews. While getting that interview on the calendar may suggest that you can relax a bit, it's actually the time to vigorously prepare for how you’re going to handle yourself when the pressure is on.

It’s obvious that job interviews are stressful, and one way to reduce stress is to be as prepared as possible. It may seem that there’s no way to know what you’re going to be asked in an interview, which leaves preparation a mystery. But, in fact, there are two crucial things you have to do in an interview: (1) stand out from the candidates who haven’t done their homework and (2) show how you fit in with the organization.

Here’s how:

  • Read everything you can find about the organization where you’ll have the interview. Look through their website thoroughly, but also do searches on the company name and see what other people are saying about them. Make notes for yourself about facts you uncover with which you connect closely—products you have used, people you admire, tasks or assignments or events with which you have experience.

  • Learn as much as you can about the position for which you are applying and the people you would be working with. Do a search on the job title, which will help you understand the different ways that title is used and what it means in different organizations, so you can ask explicit questions about the duties and responsibilities of the job. Use the company website and LinkedIn to learn about the manager you would work for and the people who would be on your team.

  • Prepare anecdotes about yourself that you can use to answer questions about your experience. Common questions in job interviews can take the form of “Tell us about a time when you… .” Your answers to these questions demonstrate your abilities in working with others, solving problems, analyzing situations, functioning independently, communicating clearly, and thinking on your feet.

  • Think carefully about why you want to work with the organization.  A friend of mine made it to the third round of interviews and was specifically asked to explain why he wanted to work there—not just that he wanted or needed a job, but why he wanted to work for that particular company.

Candidates who can show that they understand what needs to be done and are eager to contribute to the work of the organization are always going to be more interesting to an employer than candidates who are just looking for a paycheck. Be the person who knows what you want, why you want it, and how you can contribute productively.

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