By Corey Daxon, President
First off, congratulations! If you are participating in job interviews, your employment background and resume are attracting attention. Hundreds of individuals typically respond to an online posting or a search firm, or network directly with a targeted organization, and you have made the first cut. This is a significant accomplishment. You are in the very top percentile of candidates for the role – by inviting you to an interview, the organization has acknowledged that your career background, experience, education, progression, and expertise are an exceptional match to its needs.
While you’re now on to the next level, the game has changed. All five to 10 other candidates being interviewed are also top-tier matches for the role. Standing out from this smaller group must now extend beyond your resume and the other great resumes the hiring manager has in front of them.
With over 25 years of executive search and career transition experience, I am often asked for advice and support from individuals who have consistent success in obtaining interviews but are frustrated after going through multiple processes and not receiving an offer. Having personally conducted, facilitated, and received feedback from thousands of interviews, I know that successful candidates interview exceptionally well. They make an impression, sell themselves, and connect with the interviewer in a way that sets them apart. While each opportunity and candidate are unique, here are three components to consider for upping your interview game and standing out from the crowd.
1. Prepare and Sell Specific Accomplishments, Not Your Job Title
Focus more on very specific, key accomplishment stories. These stories are the skills and experience that you bring to the table. A successful accomplishment must tell what you did, why you did it, and what the result was. It must be succinct and relevant to the role, with the highlights presented in a maximum 60-second window.
The time you are given to sell yourself in an interview is limited and precious. I often encounter people spending too much time describing top-line components of their career history that really don’t make them stand out. Reviewing titles, responsibilities, and education on a resume is not an effective use of time. Consider that all candidates at this stage in the hiring process most likely have a very similar role, education, and/or career history to you.
For example, “I’m currently a director of marketing with XYZ Company, I lead a team of 10 people, and I’m responsible for all aspects of marketing including branding strategies, social media, communications, and advertising. I’ve been there for four years and have had a progressive 10-year career in marketing with three major brands following the completion of my MBA.” While these facts are all things to be proud of, they got you to the interview, but they don’t highlight you. They need to be quickly followed by a story such as “I’m really proud of a brand awareness win that I had (what you did). Through marketing research, I identified a low brand awareness issue in three of our five segments (why you did it). I created and rolled out a strategy that was focused on improving brand awareness. Within six months we achieved a 22% average increase in brand awareness that resulted in revenue gains of over 10%” (what the results were).
This statement is so much more impactful, and it is your win. It will also be unique from the other directors of marketing that are being interviewed. This is where you can really highlight your value proposition and what strengths you will bring to the role and the organization. It’s great preparation to identify at least two or three wins per role on your resume and create a story for each of them. Have them memorized and practiced so they are ready to go for interviews. These stories are the heart and soul of what you can do, and it should be the main objective for you to tell them during an interview.
2. Polish up Your Video “Game”
A more recent development and a key component of the interview process is now virtual interviewing via videoconference platforms. Making a great first impression is still critical but now that most interviews are online, first impressions are being defined by the quality, content, and production of your video setup. If you are not presenting a clear, sharp, and well-aligned image with high-resolution video and great audio, know that other candidates will be. There are a few easy things you can do to prepare your technology setup to ensure your image impresses during the interview:
- Equipment: Investing in relatively inexpensive add-ons to your laptop or home computer will dramatically increase your video and audio quality. High resolution webcams, external microphones, and video-quality lighting options are readily available, easy to install, and simple to use.
- Lighting: The best video equipment can still result in a low-quality image if you do not have proper lighting. Indirect natural light from window in front of you (not behind) can often be the best source of lighting. If this is not possible, there are a variety of adjustable and convenient lighting options available including selfie ring lights, room cubes, and other sources designed specifically for web videos.
- Alignment: Many of us are sitting at our desks during a video call, and a camera placed below eye level is not an ideal angle. Adjust your set up to ensure the camera is at eye level, creating a more natural and appealing image – this might include putting your laptop on a riser or a stack of books to ensure it’s at the right level. The other element of alignment is the framing of your face on the screen. A simple guideline is to have your eyes about two thirds up from the bottom of the screen. Lastly, look into the camera, not at the participant’s video frame. This mirrors the eye contact that would be taking place if you were attending an in-person interview.
- Background: Pay attention to what is on the screen behind you. Your background should be uncluttered, clean, and free of distractions. Use a temporary background if you’re not able to find a space in your home that works.
- Practice: Don’t wait until your interview to try out your video setup. Fine tune and familiarize yourself with your setup and options of the chosen video platform. Practice your interview well in advance of your interview so you are not scrambling to adjust things a few minutes before it starts.
3. Just Be Likeable!
Every year a few individuals I interview for executive positions really stand out and make a lasting impression. Usually, it’s their communication style and demeanor that are unique.
Without being overly informal, they are extremely warm, friendly, positive, and relaxed. Their approach is quite conversational, confident, and, for lack of a better word, comfortable. They have the ability to tell their accomplishments in a way that is engaging. They manage the flow of the discussion quite well, follow the interviewer’s lead, are not overpowering, and ensure that all relevant information is provided. Quite often, those that stand out inject some humour into their presentation. It’s a subtle nuance that shows confidence and can add to that likeability factor which can transition someone from candidate to new employee.
When navigating through the interview process, incorporating these three tips into your interview strategy can be the difference-maker that leads to that next great role you’ve been searching for.