Today's job interviews are more competitive than ever; here's how to make sure you stand out.

As a job candidate, you have one very specific task to perform in order to be hired. You must prove that you're the best person for the role by standing out from your competition - that will help you move along in the interview process.

And when unemployment is high, there are many similarly qualified candidates in the job market all vying for the same positions, making your task even harder.

This means that you must know and use every available option at your disposal to present yourself as a company's best hiring decision, whether you're interviewing by Skype or in person.

The following interview preparation tips will help give you that leg up in a competitive interview — as will our interview coaching service if you'd like more one-on-one assistance.

Before the interview

There are several things to do before a competitive interview that will put you ahead of the pack once you're in the job interview.

  • Research the company: This includes knowing the company's history, business philosophy, and culture. You should also have a good grasp of their financial status and knowledge of their products or services so you can frame your answers well. When you show that you've already invested time to learn about and understand the company's business, you'll make a huge impact on your interviewers and hiring managers.

  • Learn about your interviewers: If you're given the names of your interviewers, look up their profiles on LinkedIn or other networking sites to discover their professional skills and experience, contacting your network to ask what they know. During the interview, work this information into your answers or into a general discussion. 

  • Understand the position's duties and requirements: Use the job description to learn what skills and experiences the company needs for this role. From there, develop an elevator speech and potential answers that will convince the hiring team you have the experience, education, and skills to meet those needs. 

  • Prepare and practice your answers: Keeping the job description in mind, you can anticipate what interview questions will be asked and prepare solid, experience-based answers that show how qualified you are. Practice these answers on your own or with someone else in a mock interview so you'll be clear and concise during the interview, eliminating the “um” factor.

  • Develop insightful questions and don't hesitate to ask them: You can develop these from your knowledge of the company and the position requirements. Again, nothing is more impressive than showing you've taken time to learn about the company itself, its market status, and its on-going needs.

  • Use your connections: Ask for any information they have on the company. And if they're in any way associated with that organization, you can also ask for a recommendation to get you ahead of other qualified candidates. 

The work you do pre-interview will make the actual process much less stressful and present you as a stand-out candidate to the hiring manager.

During the Interview

The day of the job interview, it's all about handling your nerves, showing up strong, and presenting yourself in the best possible light.

  • Be “professionally friendly”: This can be a difficult balancing act, but getting it right is often how to nail a competitive interview. You don't want to be so professional that you come off as “stiff” or condescending, yet you can't be too laid back and familiar. It's often helpful to take your cues from the interviewer — and this is where an interview coach can be invaluable to work with.

  • Remember your body language: Make good eye contact, don't fidget, respect personal space, give a firm handshake, and sit straight.

  • Make connections: It's here in the interview that your insights or information about the company and interviewers can help you make a stronger connection with them. People hire candidates, and they tend to choose the ones with whom they want to create a future relationship with.

  • Be flexible and open: There may be aspects of the job that might not be included in a similar job at other companies. If you really want to be the leading candidate, express that you're open to performing these other duties as well as the normal responsibilities. 

After the Interview

There's really just one thing to do after a job interview that will rocket you ahead of your competitors: write a thank-you letter. Make it personal and relatable, and never send a form letter. Instead, have a separate letter for each interviewer.

A good thank-you includes:

  • Key discussion points from the interview and clarifications if needed

  • A reiteration of how your skills and experience meet the company's specific needs

  • Comments about something interesting you heard or learned

  • Things about the company and position that excite you

It's perfectly acceptable for job seekers to send your thanks as an email. However, a written note sent in the mail will have a greater impact — and a written thank-you sent by overnight delivery will make everyone take notice.

While it's true that every interview is a competitive interview, today's world makes the process more challenging than ever. Every extra bit of preparation you can do to impress the company will greatly increase your chance of winning the job offer over similarly-qualified competitors.

You know what every fierce competitor needs during the job search? A coach to support them. That's where our interview coaches come in.

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