As a Job Seeker, you have become accustomed to hearing about the razor thin margin between candidates. Inevitably, when you ask a Hiring Manager why you did not receive the position, you receive a general answer about how strong everyone was and how difficult it was to choose from a worthy group of finalists. Amazingly, in many situations, this answer is actually true, as it was difficult to select from more than one qualified candidate.

So, if the margin is this thin and many candidates have similar qualifications for a position, how does a person differentiate themselves from the competition? Oftentimes, the deciding factor does not have anything to do with work history or education, but rather something that someone did (or did not do) that left just a little bit better impression than others.

The keys to making a positive impression are actually pretty basic and very much rooted in common sense. That may be why so many struggle with implementing them during the interview. Let’s take a moment and review some of the simple items you can focus on doing in order to make a positive impression.

  • You looked the part. Even during this COVID-19 pandemic, it is still expected that you will come to an interview looking appropriate for the role. It is a reflection that you “get” the need for professionalism and that you are always ready when needed.
  • You were prepared. In today’s online world, so much information is available to us with little or no research effort. Be sure to have a general awareness of the organization and what it does. Interviewers love when you know a little something about them, so try to obtain some information online. Also, make sure to have a couple of thought-provoking questions prepared to ask when it comes to your turn.
  • You had poise and communicated well. For many candidates, they have the qualifications and education for the position, but struggle communicating during the interview. This is another area where your preparation can lead to a positive dose of confidence and lead you to differentiating yourself from others.
  • You sold your accomplishments appropriately. You don’t want to sound like a “know-it-all”, but you do want to get your accomplishments across to the Hiring Manager. Employers want to hear what success you have had elsewhere in your career, and how you will be able to apply it to this organization. They look for people who will add value to the organization and will need relatively little training or lead time to start doing so.
  • You were positive and energetic. You would think that everyone would be positive during an interview, but that is certainly not the case. It is human nature to gravitate towards people who exude energy and are positive. It needs to feel genuine and fit within the context of the interview, but if you can come across as someone who has a great mindset and is eager to make an impact, then you have gone a long way to making an excellent impression.
  • You helped make it conversational. The best interviews I have been in (on either side of the table) were the ones that seemed to be more conversational in nature. Now it certainly takes two to make a conversation, so the Hiring Manager has to be willing to engage you, but your approach can play a big part. Try to express interest in what the Hiring Manager is saying, both with your own body language and by asking follow-up questions.
  • You were genuinely interested. It may be naïve of a Hiring Manager, but most want to believe that you really are interested in the position and that it is not just a job opportunity to you. You can show your interest via areas covered already, such as your preparation and energy level. You can also do this by asking forward questions regarding long-term opportunities available and more advanced ideas that you have for projects/improvements.

There is a reason why it is so highly recommended that an individual practice answering interview questions in a realistic setting. It provides the person an opportunity to evaluate all aspects of the interview, from the actual answers to body language and overall comfort level. Everything that will be considered and evaluated by the Hiring Manager when making his/her decision. Treat every interview like the decision will come down to whoever made the most positive impression and build your response(s) from there.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of RochesterJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein


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