The truth is, if you are one of the top three or four final candidates being considered for a job, you are probably no more or less qualified for that job than the others being considered. Everyone who gets beyond the initial screening interviews can probably do the job and do it well. Employers are too busy to waste their time interviewing unqualified candidates.
When I was the head of human resources at USA Networks and TV Guide, I frequently had to choose among candidates who, on paper, looked pretty much the same. Yet by the time we finished the interview process, there was usually one candidate who all the interviewers agreed was the best candidate for the job. That candidate found a way to make them stand out from the other candidates.
Contrary to popular belief, there is usually no one candidate who is clearly more qualified than all of the rest. What gets someone hired is that he:
The keys to turning an interview into a job are confidence, a positive attitude, preparation and enthusiasm. To win the job over other, similarly qualified candidates, you need to project confidence.
Employers are looking to hire George Clooney, not George Costanza. So make sure that you that you are unabashedly positive and exhibit a “can-do” attitude.
I was recently at a job fair. What impressed me about some of the attendees I spoke with was their unfailing optimism. Those are the individuals employers want to hire. A smiling Annette Melendez, formerly the director of public operations at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J., told me she decided to come to the job fair along with a friend at the last minute because she “thought she might get lucky today.”
That kind of positive outlook is what makes a candidate stand out. Shauna Brice, a recruiter for DCG, looking to fill a number of financial-analyst positions for her company, noted the importance of the attitude a job applicant exhibits. While they “have to have the right skill set to get hired,” there are some candidates who are so enthusiastic that they make you “wish there was something you could give them.”
Put everything in its best possible light.
Always be positive when talking about yourself, even when asked to describe your weaknesses. (I tend to care too much about getting everything right," although a little disingenuous, is a lot better than "I have a bad habit of stealing pens from the office.") Never say anything bad about a prior employer, even if it’s true. The prospective employer won't know if what you are saying is true or false but will wonder if you will talk about them that way after you leave their employ.
When your prospective employer looks at you, she needs to see someone she feels certain can help her with whatever is most important to her. You need to give them that sense of security that you can deliver for them. There are a few ways to instill this:
This starts with how you look. Update your wardrobe. Get the best-quality clothes that you can afford. Get a new haircut. Polish your shoes. Dress appropriately for the position. Dress like someone in that position at that company would dress for an important business meeting. When you look good, you feel good, and it shows
Preparation will make you feel more confident. Learn everything you can about a potential employer. Identify the challenges they are facing. Know who their competitors are and what makes them different from their competitors. Research the job and the interviewers as well. Show a potential employer not only that you really want to work for him but also that you have something to offer them that he needs. Focus on what is most important to the employer. Learn everything you can about the company and the challenges they face. Find out what things at work keep your prospective boss up at night and show how you can help him get a better night sleep by fixing those problems. At the end of the interview, ask for the job. Let him know you want the job, not that you need the job. Remember: People want to hire people who really want to work for them.
Practice interviewing. Go on every interview you can. Practice role-playing possible interview questions with a friend. Know how you will answer the tough questions you will certainly be asked: “Tell me about yourself.” “What are your weaknesses?” “Why should I hire you?”
The job market remains tough. Competition for jobs is fierce. Yet millions of people are being hired every day. Someone is selected to fill every open job. There is no reason you should not be the one selected. If you are going to be the one selected from the myriad qualified candidates vying for a given position, show the employer that you are the candidate that wants the job the most and will work the hardest to make sure that you help them get the job done.
And don’t forget to smile. It just might put you over the top.