Not sure you are the best fit for the job that you are applying for? You probably aren't, but odds are neither are any of the other candidates that are applying. Not long ago I was part of a panel that conducted interviews for an open management position. The candidates all had their unique criteria they brought to the table, but no one candidate was a shoe in. If there were, then the position would not have been opened for interviews, it would have been filled directly. With this in mind, here are four tips that were revealed.
Tip 1: No one has the skills you do
Early in my career, I worked with a woman that had the same education as I did. We both obtained our degree in Chemical Engineering, the same year, the same teachers. We even shared the same lab experience as partners working at the same black slate table. However, with the same education, we were nowhere near the same person. Ultimately, what she took from her education was a love of Thermodynamics and Mass and Energy Balances. This made her an extremely efficient engineer, and she found joy in her work calculating fluid flows through valves. Alternatively, despite the same background, I found a passion for business management and large-scale business efficiency. As a result, I continued down a path of project management and business development.
While we shared the same background, we were still unique individuals with unique experiences that molded us differently. The point is, despite competing for a job against someone that may seem to have the same training, it is what you did with that education and your unique perspective that can give you the edge.
Tip 2: Always Want the Job
It is amazing how many people will apply for a job and not want it. It makes sense; you may feel obligated to try for the promotion, even if you don't want it. You might just want to see if you could get an interview with another company to confirm how valuable you might be. That's all fine, but the surest way to sabotage an interview is to tell the interviewer you don't expect to get the job. Or that you don't have the skills required. Or that you think another candidate may be the better fit. This seems ridiculous, but it is rarer to conduct interviews in which this doesn't happen than you think. You applied, and you got the interview, so apparently, the company sees something in you, just don't prove them wrong.
Tip 3: Project Confidence
Just as you should show that you want the job, you also need to show that you can do the work better than anyone else. Sure, you may not have the technical knowledge, but perhaps you have better salesmanship, better professionalism, or just more confidence than the other candidate. Why does it sometimes seem that loudest and least knowledgeable person is the one that is in charge? Confidence.
When you are in an interview, always project confidence and come from a position of power. The interviewer will no doubt ask questions to highlight your shortcomings to see how you respond. If possible, convert this light on your weakness to a spotlight on your unique insights and experience that set you apart. There is a certain truth to fake it until you make it, and any employer worth their salt will see value in a candidate that can pull this off and want them on their team.
Tip 4: Do Not Fear more Qualified Candidates
If you are playing up a league, and applying for a job that you are barely or possible underqualified for, you will almost certainly be up against more 'qualified candidates.' But remember, skills can always be learned, and depending on the job, the employer may prefer to teach someone their way as opposed to an outsiders viewpoint.
Further, you never know when the most qualified candidate may blow their interview. Maybe they lack in leadership skills, or they are overqualified, or perhaps they called the interviewer the wrong name. Regardless, bring your A game, and keep in mind that the other candidate can always have a bad day.
Tip 5: Perfection is not when you can't add any more, but when you can take nothing further away.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery's statement is an eloquent quote you hopefully have heard before. Don't feel that you have to be long-winded. Remember, people remember first and foremost how something made them feel. For example, Star Wars. Just by saying that, you had an emotional response even before you thought about any particular scene or movie. It was either positive or negative, but there was an emotional response. In the same way, how you make people feel when you speak is more important than what you say.
Be mindful of your responses; long enough to answer the questions, but not long enough to shoot yourself in the foot or bore the audience. If you extend beyond that, it can leave the impression that you are dancing around the question. Along these lines, keep in mind the two sweetest sounds in the world is someone's name to themselves, and their voice. Address them by name when you can, and let them fill in the white space with open-ended questions.
You can't control who the other candidates are, so remember what you can control. Highlight the unique skills that set you apart, demonstrate confidence and desire in the position, and be mindful of your audience's engagement. Just because you are the underdog that nobody gives a chance to, doesn't mean you can't take the interviewers by surprise and win the job on your own merit. This is exactly what happened in the management position I highlighted at the start of this article.
What other experiences do you have that can help others succeed in their interviews? Share them in the comments below.