How to Stand Out During a Job Interview

Let’s be honest, looking for a job can be stressful.  High levels of un- and underemployment have made it a buyer’s market for employers, leading to a very competitive job market. These days, you have to work hard to stand out, and that means making a great impression in an interview.  This goes beyond simply answering questions like “What’s your greatest weakness?” and “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”  Making an impression comes from accurately conveying your passion and personality. How can you harness these important traits and land the right job? Let’s take a look.

Have you ever talked to a salesperson who seemed less than genuine?  They know the ‘ins and outs’ of their product or service, but they’re devoid of passion.  They go through the motions of a sale, but you get the feeling that they’re less than excited about what they do.  Interviewers sense this, as well, when candidates do a poor job of analyzing whether the position will be a good fit for their personality and skills.  Our economy has created the perception that we have to jump at the fist job we see, but if you look hard enough you can find the one that’s right for you. To do so, however, you have to do your homework.

Research helps you in a few ways.  First, by examining the company’s public relations messaging and mission statement, you can get a sense of their philosophy.  You might discover that the company isn’t a good fit for your personal values.  Your research will undoubtedly lead to questions you can ask your interviewer.  Yes, it’s okay to ask questions – it’s even encouraged.  Unfortunately, many interviewees are intimidated by the process, and often come across as sheepish. Asking questions shows that you take the opportunity seriously, and provides the interviewer with a deeper insight as to who you are. Questions lead to answers, which leads to conversation. If you’re able to transform the interview into a conversation among peers, you’ll stand out in a positive way.

So, what types of questions should you ask?  Well, that differs from industry to industry, but there are some general queries you can pose.  Jayne Mattson of Keystone Associates, a leading career management and transition services consulting firm, provided a great list of questions in her July 2012 Mashable article, “13 Questions to Ask During Your Next Interview.”  One of my favorites was “How receptive are you to feedback from your employees when you do something they disagree with?”  Unfortunately, many leaders are myopic, and routinely discount any feedback from their employees.  There is nothing that spells disaster more clearly than ignoring your most valuable resource – your people.  Employees can have tremendous insight – much of which can easily be overlooked by management members focused solely on their own responsibilities.  By learning how individuals react to constructive criticism you can learn more about the culture you’ll be working in.

Another great question is, “As a manager, what frustrates you about the people who work for you?”  Specific questions like that should lead to thoughtful answers.  This question helps you understand the individual’s frustrations and expectations – all helpful information for when you land the job.  A great way to flip the interview is to ask a question that is normally asked of the job candidate. For example, asking “What three things would your peers say you do extremely well?” can help you gain valuable insight about your prospective colleague’s work ethic and characteristics.  Or to find out more about the organization, you could also ask, “What was the most strategic decision made by the company last year? Could you describe how they came to this decision?” Employment is about growth, both personal and professional.  You want to know whether the company you work for has ambition and the means to support your employment and advancement.  Gaining insight into the organization’s strategic initiatives helps to understand management’s competence and vision – very helpful information for a long-term employment decision.

Don’t let all this good information go to waste – take notes during your interview and explore how this dialogue can help you earn employment.  To make lasting impression, send a thank you or follow-up message to your interviewer.  It’s another opportunity to sell yourself and to use their answers to illustrate how you’ll be a valuable asset. There are many more questions you can ask, and I encourage you to read Jayne Mattson’s original article on  Until next time, I’m Thomas Fox for Cambridge Credit Counseling.


2 thoughts on “How to Stand Out During a Job Interview

  1. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back
    to your weblog? My blog is in the very same area of interest as yours and my visitors
    would truly benefit from a lot of the information you present here.
    Please let me know if this ok with you. Thank you!

    • Sheldon,

      We are glad you enjoy the content. Please feel free to quote (with source) any of the Cambridge Credit Counseling blog/vlog posts. As a non-profit, much of our advertising is by word of mouth, so we would appreciate it if from time to time you can link back to either the original article, the blog home page (, or Cambridge’s website home page (

      John Henle
      Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp.

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