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Saturday
May072016

03. Good interview skills: How to stand out from other applicants

It is a very competitive job market at the moment and good interview skills are essential.

One aspect of having good interview skills is the ability to differentiate yourself from your opposition. You need to be able to explain how you stand out from the other applicants, even when you don't know who else is applying for the job or being interviewed.

Sounds hard?

The key here is that you are not about to demolish the other applicants, nor are you about to brag about yourself. No! These are not good interview skills. Rather good interview skills require a more refined approach to your answers.

What I suggest you do is to highlight:

  1. The value of your differences and experiences, (in sales this is called your Unique Selling Proposition).
  2. The extra experiences that you have had that other applicants are unlikely to have had. 
  3. Small added skills you may have that are not included in the essential criteria but which may still be of value. 

Good interview skills: Examples

  • Let's say you are going for a specialist medical position and in addition to your strong medical background you also have teaching experience. Tell the interview panel this and sell the benefit.
  • If you are going for a Graduate Accountant position in Brisbane, in a firm who wants to expand its offices into the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory, and you have lived in both places, say so and sell this benefit. 
  • I know a computer programmer who got a position because all applicants were very similar in technical ability but he had won a short story writing competition. Yes, they took the computer programmer who had the necessary technical skills and experience but who ALSO had proven writing skills. They only knew this, though, because he felt confident enough to tell them. He had good interview skills!
  • If you are an academic and you have been invited to co-author a book, (which shows that other people honour and seek out your expertise), tell the interview panel, even if co-authoring a book isn't on the list of essential criteria. 
  • One of the school principals I provided job interview coaching for ended up being awarded the position, instead of two other equally well qualified principals, because in addition to all his required skills, experience and leadership qualities, he could also play the piano, and he told the panel. Another example of good interview skills! It turned out the music teacher had recently left and they had not yet been able to fill the position.

Whatever you have done, tell them. Even if you have something very tiny that you have done that no other applicant is likely to have done, mention it. (This isn't instead of mentioning your major strengths and experiences but in addition to those.) It does not have to be a big deal. It just has to help you add value to those potentially employing you.

In the end the interview panel may have three people on their short-list all with very similar levels of technical skill and experience. In these circumstances it can be the small differences that make you stand out and be chosen.

Good interview skills require you to talk about yourself, even if you feel reluctant to do so.