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How do I stand out from other candidates during an interview?

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interviewsYesterday (09.07.14) I was invited to be on the expert panel for the Guardian Careers Q&A on all things related to interviews and how to succeed at various interview stages. You can find the detailed discussion on the Guardian website.

Below I have posted some of the most interesting questions asked by applicants with my answers to them.

Q: I have an interview in a week and would really like to know what I can do to stand out from other applicants? I always do some research on the company and the interviewers and make sure I’m prepared with examples for competency questions – but what can I do to make sure I’m the candidate the interview panel remembers, in a good way of course!

A: All that you have been doing is correct – I would also add that you could meet some of the people from your target company ahead of the interview to get a better idea of what the company is about from the inside and what projects they have been working on recently. Getting to know people from inside ahead of the actual interview date is critical for standing out from the crowd and giving yourself a competitive edge. Good luck!

Q: I am interested to know how to answer the question what are your weakest points best?

A: This is the question a lot of candidates find to be one of the most difficult ones due to its ambiguity. A lot of companies now have decided not to ask this question as to be honest, it doesn’t demonstrate much. But if asked, I would suggest to be absolutely sincere about your weaknesses. But of course, try to find one or two that are not directly related to the responsibilities of the specific post you are set to interview for. For instance, if you are interviewing for a position of a teacher, you wouldn’t use ‘fear of working with children’ as your weakness for instance. So be honest but prudent in your selection of weaknesses. For strengths, it is easy – we all know our strong points so just provide an example to illustrate them.

Q: What are the best things to make up without getting found out?

A: Not sure what you mean but whatever it is I would strongly suggest NOT to make up anything as sooner or later it will get found out (especially during the interview process). 

Q: I’m having a phone interview at 6pm. I feel confident but very nervous. Any tips? Never had a phone interview.

A: First of all – all the best of luck! The most important point here is to behave, get dressed and speak exactly like you would during a face-to-face interview. Your aim is to convey a confident image of yourself despite the underlying nerves. Have a notepad near you and take notes of the questions they ask so that you can refer to it in case you forget anything. Have your CV in front of you as during phone interviews they tend to ask general questions about your career history overall. Most importantly, convey you are a likable person and smile just as you would in a face-to-face interview situation.

Q: I said in a recent interview for a graduate scheme to a manager position that I was sometimes not prioritising what needed to be done, but that through my studies I had really learned how to organise my time. The interviewer was very abrupt and stated that I the was a very disorganised person who wanted to be organised? How can one counter such aggressive comments in an interview?

A: I would let it go – your aim is to ace that interview and progress to the next round. Interviewers sometimes test how you can react under stress and can make such comments to gauge your reaction. Don’t act defensive – just point out again softly and clearly that you believe you have greatly improved your organisational skills as evidenced by (and provide some additional examples). The key here is not to show you are hurt by their comments or get defensive. Keep your emotions in check and continue as if nothing has been said (I know it’s hard but at least on the surface).

Hope the answers above will help you prepare for your upcoming interviews and if you require in-depth interview or case study preparation (including the most difficult questions), please get in touch via dasha@careercoachingventures.com

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