I worked for the Gallup Organization for 17 years, and the first ten years of that was focused on pre-employment selection. Companies would ask us to build interviews that would help them determine which candidates would excel in certain jobs. That means I spent ten years interviewing people – a lot of people. So although I’m mostly known for my work on leadership, strengths, and talent management tools, I can also offer (what I think) is good guidance for how to stand out in interviews.
#1 Do your homework.
When you are interviewing with someone, always remember that the most important person in the room isn’t you – it’s them (and their team, department, and company). There is nothing more flattering than curiosity, so do your research on the person who is interviewing you.
#2 Get articulate.
Most people will tell you to be articulate about all of your accomplishments – they’re wrong. It’s far more important to be articulate about what you loved about your accomplishments. What drew you in while you were doing it? How did the task – not the accomplishment or the reward – make you feel while you were doing it?
The most common answer to the question, “What are your strengths?” is “I like working with people.” Which is the epitome of vagueness. Don’t be vague, be specific and articulate about what you loved about your accomplishments.
#3 Flip the script.
Don’t tell people when you were the best, tell them where you are at your best. You’re not trying to appear better than anybody else, only smart enough to know when and where you perform best – where you are the most creative, resilient, and focused. You may have to clarify for your interviewer that a strength, in your world, is an energizing activity that you choose to do often and that you do well. Sharing your strengths allows you to let them know where you can bring value to their organization, without coming across as full of yourself. If you are self-aware enough to tell an interviewer where you shine, when you shine, and what situations bring out the best in you, you’ll giving them a beautifully specific gift.
I’m not suggesting that you’ll get every job that you interview for if you follow this advice, but you’ll certainly stand out in interviews.