How To Stand Out In The Interview Process

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You’re in a job interview and it’s going well, and then you get asked the final question: What sets you apart from other candidates? Why should we hire you over others?


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Interviewers are looking for a reason to hire you and the way you answer the questions could be your way in. You think back to your CV and what makes you unique. What should you focus on? How do you answer this question? ManpowerGroup South Africa’s managing director, Lyndy van den Barselaar, suggests that since you have an authentic job interview story to tell that’s different from that of anyone else, you should embrace it when you’re asked what sets you apart.

With South Africa’s unemployment rate at a high, it’s become more imperative than ever to be able to make a good impression during your interview process. “In today’s competitive job market, job seekers are constantly looking for new ways to make a lasting, positive impression upon their interviewers, and set themselves apart from the other candidates,” says van den Barselaar. She provides the following tips:

Be humble

Your first instinct may be to make it about you, and explain how you’re superior to other candidates in term of skills or experience. The problem is you don’t know the other candidates and what they have to offer. If you oversell yourself in relation to others, you run the risk of looking arrogant.

“We always encourage interviewees to let their true personalities shine through, be humble and showcase how they would successfully fit into a team, and provide a valuable role towards achieving the team’s business objectives,” says van den Barselaar.

Make it about them

Instead of making the question about yourself, perhaps share what you like most about the company and how you see yourself specifically contributing to this.

“Success in a job role is not just about your skills, but about how your skills align with the company’s needs. Emphasise not just that you have these skills, but how you want to use them to meet the goals of the organisation,” she says.

Tell a personal story

Anyone can recite a list of skills from a CV, but that doesn’t showcase your unique story and how that brought you to this company at this point in your career. Rather than repeating bullet points, tell a story that demonstrates how your education, evolution, and journey intersect with this job.

“Others may have similar skills, but your story belongs only to you. Often, when a candidate is telling a personal story, their true personality and energy is being portrayed, and your interviewer will appreciate that,” states van den Barselaar.

Show that you want it

All things being equal, the candidate who best demonstrates that they are passionate about this particular role is usually the one who will be hired. Set yourself apart by sharing what you admire about the company and why you want to work there. To accomplish this, ask yourself first why you are applying beyond the salary and benefits. Be honest with yourself, and you can be honest with others.

Perhaps the organisation has a message or cause that aligns with your personal beliefs, or a corporate culture you’d like to be a part of. Perhaps you’ve followed their work up to this point, and want to be a part of what they do and the difference they make to the local community in which they operate.

"Perhaps you have a vision for what the company – or the particular department you’re interviewing to be a part of – could do more of, and would like to drive this. All of these are reasons, beyond the salary and the benefits, that you’d like to take on this role, and your interviewer will appreciate that,” says van den Barselaar.

“While the salary and benefits associated with a role are important, they are certainly not what is going to fuel your passion and work ethic in the role, day to day.”

The question of “why me?” can be one of the trickiest questions to answer in a job interview because there’s no right or wrong answer. But it’s also an opportunity to dig deeper, show who you really are, and set yourself apart from other candidates with your authentic, personal story.

Small ways to impress the company

Memorise the company’s mission

The difference between two equally qualified candidates for a job can come down to, who really wants this particular job? You can set yourself apart from being just another job seeker by knowing what the company stands for. Don’t just repeat the company mission statement back to your interviewer, as this can sound insincere. Instead, relate a story to why what the company for resonates with you.

Look up recent posts on social media

A company isn’t a static entity, but an ever-evolving institution just like any person. To stay in touch with what’s currently going on with the organisation, familiarise yourself with any news the company has recently been posting about in social media. This will both help you get a better sense of what’s important to the company, and can also provide you great content to discuss in the interview.

Look up recent posts on social media

A company isn’t a static entity, but an ever-evolving institution just like any person. To stay in touch with what’s currently going on with the organisation, familiarise yourself with any news the company has recently been posting about in social media. This will both help you get a better sense of what’s important to the company, and can also provide you great content to discuss in the interview.

Show up with references

If things go well, your interviewers will call your references to see what others say about you. Give them a preview by typing up and printing out highlights of praise for specific skills that others have given you. You can reach out to references to get this, or simply compile a list from LinkedIn recommendations. A word of caution: there’s a fine line between looking prepared and looking arrogant, so save this until the end for after you’ve built up a rapport.

Ultimately, you want to keep these small gestures in perspective. They are no replacement for skills and ability. At the same time, going the extra mile in showing that you’re paying attention are the intangibles that hiring committees look for when selecting valuable members of a team.

“Putting in some extra effort may not require too much time, but will leave a lasting impression on your interviewer - and could be the factor that makes you the candidate of choice,” concludes van den Barselaar.

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