How To Differentiate Yourself in a High-Level Job Interview

No matter how far you get in your career, the job interview never ceases to be important. Yet, knowing how to differentiate yourself in a high-level job interview is far from easy.

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No matter how far you get in your career, the job interview never ceases to be important. Organizations don't hire based on who the best applicant is in theory or whose resume ticks the most boxes, but on who makes the best impression and is the best all-around fit for the role. Yet, knowing how to differentiate yourself in a high-level job interview is far from easy.

You've probably heard more than your fair share of generic advice about arriving at your interview 10 minutes early and asking questions at the end of your interview. Here are five tips on how to take things to the next level.

Be the Consultant

Most people think a job interview involves selling themselves and impressing the hiring organization. This is partly true, but it will put you in a position where the interviewer holds all the power and calls all the shots — a simple reframe can completely change this dynamic.

You're being interviewed because the company needs your expertise, so stop thinking of yourself as a job seeker and adopt a consultant's mindset. Instead of trying to make yourself look good (which can make you feel nervous), your goal is to learn about the project and give input based on your knowledge and experience. This should help you feel more confident and create a back-and-forth conversation with the interviewer.

Similarly, remember that you should be interviewing the interviewer as much as they're interviewing you. Are you comfortable with the company culture? Do you think the job responsibilities support your professional growth and ambitions? Leave the scarcity mindset at home and vet the company thoroughly — for your own sake and to show you're confident about your value.

Frame Storytelling With the Problem, Solution and Results

There are countless possible questions that could pop up in an interview, and it's impossible to predict the exact ones. But many questions tend to follow the same pattern: The interviewer asks you to name a time when you demonstrated a specific skill or behavior. These are known as situational questions — and a LinkedIn report from 2018 found that 58% of interviewers use them to assess soft skills.

On a surface level, it seems easy enough to answer that kind of question. Simply give an example in a few sentences. But do that and you're missing out on an opportunity to shine.

Many people automatically describe the problems they faced and the solutions they provided, but they fail to get specific about results — yet this might just be the most critical aspect of all.

Let's say you get a question asking you to name a time you led a team to success. What sounds more convincing:

  1. Saying you led your team to give a successful presentation to an investor?
  2. Saying you led your team to give a successful presentation to an investor that raised $5 million for the company?

Of course, the answer is B. Giving a specific, tangible example backed up by figures makes all the difference, so don't miss the opportunity and prepare some beforehand.

Always Secure a Follow-Up Date

Toward the end of an interview, the interviewer will usually let you know what to expect from the rest of the interview process. If they don't, you should definitely ask. If the answer is, for example, to expect one interview with your next manager and one competency-based interview before a decision is made, don't just leave things there. Schedule a fixed follow-up date or time for you to chat about the next steps. You might feel reluctant to do this out of fear it will seem too forward or desperate. But remember, you're the consultant in the interview situation — it's okay to prove you know your worth and deserve to feel included in the process.

Showcase Your Brand

Branding isn't just for businesses. As a high-level professional, there's no need for you to fit into some bland corporate mold instead of showing your true personality — you just need to be slick about how you go about showcasing it. For instance, you could brand yourself as a "bookworm" or "gourmand" and theme various answers and light-hearted remarks around this brand. Just make sure you choose something that's a genuine match for your personality. It might sound strange, but it can help you connect on a more human level. That said, if you're getting funny looks, it's also OK to keep things more neutral. It's all about the body language.

Stand Out From the Crowd

Anyone can read this advice and nod their head along, but the execution is what will truly separate the masterful candidates from the mediocre ones. To put yourself in the right group, you need to do more than just read the advice above — internalize it and make an action plan for how you can implement it in your next interview. You could even ask someone you trust to give you a practice interview and check that you're following all the steps you planned to.

Soon enough, you won't be worrying about how to differentiate yourself in an interview, but in the job itself.

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