Job interviews. They’re not fun. Far from it. Unfortunately, they’re a part of life that is as inescapable as death and taxes for most of us. That being said, there are ways to make job interviews at least a little more tolerable. Being well-prepared for a job interview is a great first step, but sometimes it isn’t enough. Understanding how to highlight your skills in a job interview will help potential employers see all of the value that you can bring to the table. Everyone is unique and finding ways to showcase that in order to stand out in the applicant pool can help put your resume at the top of the list.
“Your answers should also emphasize the skills that are most important to the employer and relevant to the position.”
– Alison Doyle, Job Search Expert, The Balance Careers –
Hit the High Notes
When it comes to showcasing the skills and unique experiences you’ve cultivated along your professional journey so far, it’s vital to hit the high notes. If there are any specific work experiences that you’re particularly proud of, be sure to hone in on those when discussing the job opportunity at hand. Don’t stop with discussing previous high notes and accomplishments throughout your career, though, go above and beyond and draw lines and parallels between those experiences and how they’ll relate to the potential position.
Even if you are making a career change, or find yourself in a field adjacent to your prior one, there are ways you can use previous experiences to inform your job performance in a new role.
In some cases, it may even be okay to discuss challenges that you had to overcome in order to accomplish a goal or complete a project. This can display a sense of fortitude and self-motivation that many companies look for, especially in the virtual work environment so persistent today.
“When I’m listening to candidates speak, I want to hear about the accomplishments, yes, of course. More than that, though, I want to hear about the obstacles they faced along the way. Tell me about the journey. Plus, I can tell a lot about someone based on their reaction to adversity.”
– Cole Steverson, COO, Hybrid2Go –
Keep Things Concise
When showcasing your skills and highlighting your accomplishments, be sure to keep things concise. This is where that age-old adage, “practice makes perfect” stays relevant. Practicing your personal little elevator speech can help you identify words and phrases you specifically want to include in your answer.
Having a general 90-120 second overview of your career and its highlights is exactly what HR recruiters and interviewers are looking for. Let them ask follow-up questions and dig into any specific experiences that pique their interest. That’s what the interview is mostly for anyway.
“When I ask my potential hires to tell me about themselves, what I’m really looking for is for them to A. Verify their experience and tell me about their accomplishments, B. Tell me what makes them a good fit for this position specifically, and C. To leave me with something unique about themselves, either professionally or personally. Something I can follow up on.”
– Brandon Lurie, Marketing Director, Y Meadows –
Be Honest (With Yourself and With Them)
This may sound a little weird, but being transparent is typically seen as a good thing in interviews. This is especially the case in the economy post-COVID-19. Because so many people were either let go, put on temporary leave, or had to leave their jobs due to personal safety risks, unemployment skyrocketed. Adding onto this was the rise of what has been nicknamed the “great resignation.” The great resignation refers to the many individuals near retirement age who decided to leave the workforce in pursuit of early retirement or a late-life passion career.
Either way, many people were out of work for a long time for any number of complicated and personal reasons. Being open and transparent about why you couldn’t work for 8 months because your mother had COVID and you had to attend to her can be hard to admit to hiring personnel, but it can work in your favor over trying to beat around the bush.
Being honest doesn’t only pertain to gaps on the resume, though. It applies to experiences gained and not gained as well. Perhaps you have nearly every qualification needed to land a position except one little software you haven’t come across before.
Being honest about what you know and what you want to learn still can show that you’re eager and dedicated.
“I can teach someone almost anything in this industry, I’ve been here so long. What I can’t teach, and I don’t know if anyone can, is how to want to learn. That just comes from within I think.”
– Marcus Hutsen, Business Development Manager, Patriot Coolers –
Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
Believe it or not, many companies are desperately looking for candidates to add to their ranks. As such, despite the economy being where it is, it’s currently an employee’s market. In other words, the negotiation power is in the hands of employees and potential employees.
Don’t be tempted to jump at the first offer that hits your desk if you get the feeling that you’re being undersold. It always helps to do some market research and gauge your level of experience, industry knowledge, education, and other factors that play into pay range, but never be afraid to ask for what you’re worth.
In most cases, it will gain you more respect than it loses.
“Look if an employee comes at me with a number in mind it gives me a bit of confidence that they know what they’re worth and what they’re capable of. I like employees who are self-aware.”
– Gia Marie Jurosky, Director of Communications, RoseSkinCo. –
Make it a Conversation
Finally, one of the best pieces of advice I think anyone has ever given when it comes to interviewing is that it should be an open and honest conversation. Employees and companies should have a clear understanding of what to expect from one another upon entering an agreement.
“ How well you answer interview questions isn’t everything—though it is a lot. Interviewers are also consciously or subconsciously picking up on how well you use other interview skills such as active listening, small talk, and empathy. These skills not only help you impress an interviewer, but also give them a sense of what it might be like to work with you as a colleague.”
– The Muse Editors –