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How to stand out in an interview


How to stand out in an interview Paul Boross, author of Pitch Up- Pitch Yourself for the job of your dreams, shares his tips
It seems that the recruitment market is getting more and more difficult every day. We continue to hear of redundancies in financial services and technology companies, and surely the competition must be getting tougher. Yet there are jobs, and people are successfully getting them. So the question isn't how to get the job that you want, because that's a daunting prospect when you're looking at the list of jobs that you want to apply for. Instead, let's turn the question on its head. The job of your dreams is already out there. The only thing that you have to concern yourself with is how to get in front of the right person.

In my work as The Pitch Doctor, one of the most common questions that comes up is "How do I make myself memorable?”

Standing out from the crowd is actually one of the easiest things to do. Standing out for the right reasons is one of the most difficult.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a moment. What makes other people stand out to you? Who is the most memorable person you have ever met? And most importantly, why were they memorable to YOU?

Psychologists tell us about the principles of ‘primacy and recency’, where our first and most recent experiences stand out to us most strongly. So that would tell you to be the first to do something. But history is littered with examples of people who were first, but were the first to fail. One hit wonders, as it were. And in any case, watch a typical episode of TV’s Dragon’s Den and you’ll see one entrepreneur after another trying to convince the Dragons that their new product is worth investing in, just because it’s new. The answer they often get is that no-one has done it before for a very good reason – because no-one needs it!

Let's turn to your CV for a moment. How do you make your CV stand out? A big colour photo? How about a really eye catching visual design? Pink text?

All irrelevant, and a waste of your time. When recruiters receive your CV, it is automatically imported into a database which strips out all of your formatting. If you're going through an agency, they will convert your CV into their template. The harder you make it, the more likely they'll miss the most important bit. If you're applying direct to a company then your eye catching CV just creates a headache for them, because a professional recruitment manager's job is to create a fair, level playing field.

Therefore, the way to make your CV stand out is to make it as short as possible, but no shorter, to paraphrase Einstein. Keep it concise and to the point. List your most valuable skills and assets in a way that makes it easy for the recruiter to match you to the right role. Have your friends and relatives check your CV, and if it confuses them, it's too complicated.

"But I don't want to make my CV so specific that it narrows down my options!”, you might say. And that is precisely why you will adapt your CV for each job you apply for, so that your concisely listed skills are a perfect match each time.

Finally, send a personal and relevant cover letter with each application that you send, explaining why you are attracted to the role and why you're the perfect candidate. Make it as easy as possible for the recruiter to put your name on the shortlist, because that's all that a CV is designed to do - get you to the next stage.

Another issue that often crops up is interview nerves. This is a sure sign of judging yourself from an imaginary interviewer's point of view. The reality is that you have no idea what the interviewer is thinking. Here's a simple test to prove it; think of something inappropriate during an interview. If the interviewer doesn't react, they can't read your mind either.

When you put so much emphasis on the interview, it's natural to be nervous because you feel that everything is resting on your performance in that one short meeting.

It's an easy problem to overcome, though, when you realise that the interview is one of many, and it is also just one hour in the long road you've already travelled to be there. You studied, gained experience, applied for jobs, had your CV and application form successfully shortlisted, perhaps made it through the pre-interview screening, and after the interview there might be a second interview too. The whole thing is a series of steps, and the meeting is just one of those steps. It's not the most important, either. Just to be at the interview means that you can already do the job, on paper. The only way that the interviewer can choose between the shortlisted candidates is to meet them all in person, so all that you have to do in the interview is bring your CV to life. Smile, relax, and answer their questions honestly. Don't inflate yourself, don't put yourself down. Just stick to the facts and let the interviewer reach their own conclusions.

My advice to you is therefore to stand out from the crowd by not trying to. Don’t try to be different. Don’t try to be louder or brighter than your competitors. Focus on the one person you want to impress and just be yourself. Be honest, open and sincere. Tell them why you want their attention, and why you deserve it. You don’t need to be confident, because the nervous energy that you build up to achieve confidence easily spills over into arrogance, and that’s a guaranteed turn-off.

Remember, the job of your dreams isn't 'out there' waiting for you to find it. It is inside you, waiting to be set free by the right combination of opportunity, hard work and investment.

Pitch Up, is available this February, priced £7.99 from CGW Publishing. See for more information.