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How to Set Yourself Apart and Have a Great Interview

Ashley Jezek | October 23, 2020

We have good news and bad news, job hunter. The good news: Because you made it to the interview stage, you’ve got the qualifications for the position. The bad news: So do all the other candidates.

How are you going to set yourself apart from the pack?

Preparation is key

You know the questions they’re most likely to ask: What are your strengths/weaknesses? Why are you looking for a change? Tell us about a challenge you overcame. Why should we hire you?

These questions are classic for a reason: They offer insight into the character of a candidate.

If you’re the recruiter, you’re looking for someone who is going to meet the demands of the job while advancing the goals and values of the company, all while meshing well with the group in which they perform their day-to-day tasks. If you want to stand out, you need to show them how you can embody these qualities.

When you prepare for your interview, don’t be shallow in your research. Look into the values and goals of the company. Are they civic-minded? Do they have plans for expansion? What’s their mission? Do they value skill development and promoting from within? These are just a few examples, but if you can find places where you overlap with your potential employer, you’re on the road to leaving the other candidates behind.

Besides thoroughly reading the company website, look up members of the leadership team on LinkedIn or other social media. If they’re using these platforms effectively, you’ll be able to find some very useful information.

What kind of conversation partner are you?

Now that you’re prepared, it’s time to sit down for the main event. When the interviewer asks you these open-ended questions, don’t just recite a prewritten answer. Tie your answer to points you’ve already covered in your conversation, and try your best to give it a fluid, natural feeling.

A good tip is to stop thinking of it as an interview and approach this appointment as a conversation. Like a normal conversation, it will have a natural rhythm of give-and-take, back-and-forth. It should be an interactive experience. When you present yourself as someone who’s truly engaged in the process, you’re creating a positive experience for the interviewer.

Here are a few tips to follow to help that engagement along:

Try to ask follow-up questions

This conversation should be a two-way street, which means you need to be asking questions, too. Use your time to find out what they’re looking for in a candidate or about the challenging parts of this particular position. Then listen to their answer, and if possible, use it as a springboard to keep the conversation moving. If you want to create a connection, having an authentic conversation is a great way to make this happen.

Don’t rely strictly on your script

Be flexible enough to discuss any new topics that come up during the course of your meeting. You want to find ways to highlight your experience and strengths, and you never know when an opportunity might present itself. Like any good conversation, spontaneity can be the ingredient that makes it truly memorable.

Thank-you notes

Be sure to email your interviewer within 24 hours to thank them for their time and consideration. For a more personal touch, consider sending a handwritten note. This sort of gesture is a great way to help cement the positive impression you’ve left as the organization moves forward in its decision-making process.

By the end of the interview, you want to come off as being unique, memorable, positive and professional. Preparation will get you part of the way there, but engaging with your interviewer and being ready to capitalize on the natural flow of conversation is going to set you apart from the competition.

Are you ready to really put some space between you and the rest of the pack? Apply for a position at Paycom today!

About the author
Author picture, Ashley Jezek
Ashley Jezek
As a recruiting marketer for Paycom, Ashley Jezek helps the recruiting teams determine their goals and assists with strategy development. Her efforts include campaign management, engaging with top talent and increasing brand awareness. After earning a public relations degree from the University of Oklahoma, Jezek served as marketing team lead for OU's Tom Love Innovation Hub and joined Paycom as a marketing database specialist. Her hobbies include spending time with her family, attending concerts and cooking.