You poured your blood, sweat, and tears into your resume, and you just snagged yourself an interview for your dream job. Now it’s time to wow the hiring team. Phone and video interviews can be daunting, between the awkward silences, technical difficulties, and the fierce job market competition out there right now. But if you are able to get past the resume stage and get to talk to someone at a company, make sure that you are putting your best foot forward. There are some surefire ways to set yourself apart from other applicants in the process. Here’s how you can stay ahead of the curve and blow them away during your virtual interviews:
1. Know what the company does and come up with a pitch about what they do- *before* your first call.
It’s good to have a quick pitch on what your current company does and the top three things that you have been able to accomplish while being there. The interviewer will likely ask about your current company and role, so being able to clearly communicate it will leave a positive impression. Being a performer, I like to write down my pitch first in my own words, then memorize it so well that I can riff a bit depending on my audience. I would always advise doing a mock interview call with a friend or former colleague- it could just be the performer in me but practice, practice, practice.
2. Be ready to pitch your current company.
Make your resume fit the role that you are applying for. I’m not saying that you need to create an entirely new resume for each application, but you should make sure to highlight the accomplishments that best fit the role you are applying for. One way to do this is to look at the “requirements” or “qualifications” listed in the job description and see if your resume highlights what is listed.
3. Have a good story for why you are looking for a new role.
A huge red flag for me is when someone bad-mouths their current company. Even if the place was a complete sh*t show, come up with a nice way to say it without saying those words in the interview. Most candidates will also talk about wanting growth in their next role, which is a great way to reconfirm the skills that you have and how the role you are applying for could help you achieve that goal. It’s also a good chance to learn about what the growth path at the company you are applying to would look like.
4. Come with examples.
During your interview, you will most likely be asked about specific projects or tasks that you have done in your current or past roles, so it’s important to prepare some specific examples of your work and highlight your value add- with specifics. Let’s go through an example:
In this scenario, although I feel for Candidate A, their story does not demonstrate how they add value to their company. It’s not an anecdote about how they applied their unique skills for a positive outcome; rather, it is a complaint about their job. Candidate B, however, was detailed in their response, talked through their process, and reconfirms the value they added to their company by retaining an unhappy customer.
5. Have questions.
Come up with a list of 3-5 questions that you want to ask the interviewer. It could be about the day-to-day of the team, team goals how performance is measured, etc. If you’re meeting with multiple people, have multiple questions for each of them. Ask specific questions for specific people. For instance if it’s the hiring manager, ask about their management style. If they are a potential peer, ask them what they think of the team’s management. It astounds me when at the end of an interview, a candidate doesn’t have a single question for me. I mean, I’m sure our interviewers are thorough, but there’s always something more that you can learn.
6. Lighting, body language and tone matter.
In this new age where we have swapped out in person interviews for Zoom ones, it’s important to try your best to find flattering lighting. You are building a rapport with the interviewer on the other side and they want to be able to see your expressions and get to know the whole you, so they need to be able to see you to do that. I know it’s difficult, but try to maintain eye contact and be aware of any gestures or fidgeting you are doing on camera that might distract from what you have to say. In addition, to create a good impression during your interview, you should have a positive tone of voice. This displays your confidence in your abilities and clearly demonstrates your communication skills.
7. Don’t let nerves stifle your confidence.
Cover letters can be great ways to show your deep passion and interest for the role; however, they can get lost in a sea of applications, especially if the role has a ton of interest. A better strategy would be to send a well crafted email or Linkedin message to the recruiter or hiring manager, to show your genuine interest in the position. However, I have been known to read a cover letter if I was one the fence about a candidate OR if I had a question about a candidate’s background that isn’t answered in the resume. TL;DR- a cover letter isn’t always the most strategic play, but it’s better than nothing at all.
I always recommend that candidates write a cover letter if the role that they are applying to is a career change. The cover letter can highlight the relevant experience in their previous role and how they might apply it to this new role.
8. ABC: Always Be Closing.
To ensure that the interviewer has no doubt in their mind that you are the right fit, ask them at the end of the interview if they have any concerns or reservations about you for the role. If they do have concerns, use this as an opportunity to address them and show that you’re open to feedback for your own personal growth.. This is also a good opportunity to ask what next steps will be in the process and show your confidence in asking difficult questions.
9. Send thank you notes or emails.
Sending a thank you note isn’t as commonplace as it used to be, and it will set you apart from other applicants. It’s also a great way to show your enthusiasm for the role, follow up on any key points you wish that you had covered and to solidify how you would add value if they had to on the team. Try to send a note within 24 hours of the interview, and send a separate note to each person you spoke to.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
With a master’s degree in Opera, Jen Paxton didn’t think she would have a career in Talent Acquisition, however, she fell in love with helping candidates find the right role. She started her career at a recruiting firm placing technical professionals, then after a few years moved in-house. She has grown teams at later stage startups like Fiksu and LevelUp and built Recruiting and PeopleOps strategies from scratch at small startups like Logentries and TrueMotion. Jen is currently at Privy, an eCommerce Marketing platform that helps small and growing brands get from $0 to $1 million in online sales, as their VP of People+Talent. She focuses on building a company that employees and candidates love.