6 tips from HR pros on what candidates can do to stand out in an interview

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There are hundreds of people applying for the same position. Dozens of people are selected for the interview. How do you stand out from the rest of the applicants? These HR professionals explain what candidates have done to ace the process.

The candidate did the work before the interview

“We were hiring someone to do PR and outreach for us. His interview went really well, and he asked us some thought-provoking questions that illustrated he was interested in us as a company and not just as a job. We asked him why we should hire him over anyone else, and he opened his laptop and showed us five high-quality PR releases and links he built to our website, stating that his actions backed up his words. We hired him on the spot.”

Tom Buckland, HR and marketing Ops.


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The candidate inquired about we could offer her

“We always find the questions that candidates ask at the end can often make or break them: usually, they’re veered toward the break category, such as when they ask about breaks, holidays and salary. However, once we had a woman turn the interview on us. She asked at the end, ‘So tell me why I should work for you over the other companies I have spoken with?’ This took us aback at first, but it was a great question, and it showed us that she was interested in what our company had to offer. It also gave us introspective on why we are good employers. The talent pool is competitive, and we need to stay current, fresh and attractive to recruit top talent.”

– Ramya Menon, HR for Bayut.

The candidate asked good questions

“I always find it impressive when a candidate proactively flips the process around and starts interviewing the company. What’s our long-term business strategy? Are there any incentives for them to put in extra work? How long do employees stay with the company? What are some areas we want to develop? What’s our biggest weakness? It demonstrates that the candidate is serious about their applications, and is not afraid to take the initiative. Obviously, this should be done in a polite way; disrespectful overconfidence won’t get you far in any job interview.”

 Balazs Hajde, content manager with Authority Hacker.

The candidate understands the company

“Make sure to research the company prior to interviewing, and be clear about why you want to work for that organization. It is very likely that during your interview, you will be asked why you want to be there. You will do well if you can give a thoughtful answer that also references something you learned about the company – and/or its people – while researching it. I am often disappointed when candidates have no clue what we do because they didn’t take 5-10 minutes to look at our Web site. To me, this says a lot about their initiative and effort. Candidates who show they know something about the company will invariably stand out.”

– Elena Gallud, director of HR with Phonexa in Glendale, California.

The candidate explains his or her value

“Candidates who impress me are those who take a step back and think more strategically about why the company would be mistaken not to hire them. Knowing your specific value-add to an organization demonstrates that you not only understand the role, but that you are confident in your skills and ability to succeed in it. Depending on the nature of the role, being as specific as possible to how you will add immediate value in the first few quarters proves helpful in making a strong case for why a company should hire you.”

– Alexandra Clarke, director of recruiting for ForceBrands in New York.

The candidate understands the job

“Applicants who have impressed us the most were the ones who came across as if they were meant to be hired for the role. We were impressed with a recent college graduate who gave the best answers – above seasoned professionals we interviewed for the job. They did this by expressing a solid understanding to meet the objective needs of the job; how this role impacts the company’s bottom line; and offered a fresh, creative perspective. The candidate discovered our pain and came up with great solutions. In comparison, other candidates were going through the motions of the interview, showing little excitement and low creativity in their answers. Overall, it’s not always that more experience will win: at times, it’s the understanding of the role and perspective of the candidate that can make a difference in landing the job.”

– Sandra Arrighi, a corporate HR manager for eBacon in Phoenix, Arizona.