Give your interviewer a firm handshake. Make eye contact. Answer each question succinctly. Have questions to ask the interviewer at the end.
But if you want to move from being a viable candidate to the hiring manager’s top choice, you’ll need to go well beyond the basics. While the way you dress and present yourself is important, it will be the substance of your responses and interactions that leave the interviewer picturing you in the role—and, more importantly, being unable to imagine that anyone else could be a better fit.
Convey these four messages in your next interview, and you’re sure to hit a home run.
1. You Were Indispensable in Your Previous Jobs
Hiring managers want to hire people who have a history of getting things done. The logic goes that if you were successful in other jobs, then you’re likely to be successful in this one. Truly, nothing says “hire me” better than a track record of achieving amazing results in past jobs.
So, your first task in the interview is to describe how indispensable you were in your previous position. Now, you can’t just say, “I was the best Junior Analyst they’d ever seen, and the place will never be the same now that I’m gone”—you have to show the interviewer by providing specific examples of the actions you took and what results came because of them.
These are two of the four components of the S-T-A-R method for responding to interview questions. To use this method, set up the situation and the task that you were required to complete to provide the interviewer with background context (e.g., “In my last job as a Junior Analyst, it was my role to manage the invoicing process”), but spend the bulk of your time describing what you actually did (the action) and what you achieved (the result).
“In one month, I streamlined the process, which saved my group 10 man-hours each month and reduced errors on invoices by 5%.”
Don’t worry that someone else could have done it if they were in your position—they weren’t. It was your job, your actions, your results.
2. You Will Be Awesome in This New Job
Unfortunately, success in one role doesn’t necessarily translate to being a fit in another role—and to convince the interviewer that you’ll be able to hit the ground running and be awesome in the new job, you must explain how your skills translate. In particular, you want to highlight those skills that specifically address the issues that the hiring manager is facing.
To understand those issues, conduct industry research prior to the interview. Are there certain themes that come up again and again in job descriptions in your field, like being a shark at sales or a detail-oriented perfectionist? Also, listen closely to what the interviewer is asking—often, she’ll ask leading questions or share challenges that others before you have had in the role.
For example, say the interviewer asks, “We have tight deadlines and have to turn around our projects quickly. Can you work under time pressure?”
Don’t just say yes—give a response that showcases your skills and how they’d transfer, like: “Absolutely. In my last job, we often had short deadlines. I was great at managing these situations because I focused on consistent communication with the team, and used my organization skills to stay on top of everything we had going on.” Then, provide a specific example.
3. You’re the Perfect Fit for This Job
Companies have interview guidelines designed to hire the most qualified employees based on experience and aptitude, but let’s be honest: Often a big factor is likability.
Hiring managers don’t generally hire people that they don’t connect or vibe with. Of course, they don’t often say that—they cloak it in statements like, “She’s smart, but I just don’t think that she is the right fit for the role.” But the truth is, you won’t get hired if you’re not liked.
So, to get the job, you must connect with the interviewer. I’m not suggesting that you crack jokes or become buddies—but you should be confident and interact as if you’re already working together, through eye contact, active listening, smiling, and avoiding nervous laughter. I call it “relaxed formality.”
It’s an interview, so don’t get too comfortable, but try to be yourself and have a natural conversation.
4. You Really Want This Job
You’re almost there! But, it’s not enough that you’re capable of doing the job and would be pleasant to work with—you have to actually want the job. Hiring managers, after all, are looking for employees that really want to be there and will be part of the team for the long haul.
So, you want to show enthusiasm for the role. Not bouncy cheerleader “spirit,” but the type of enthusiasm that comes from understanding what the role entails, how you can add value in the role based on your previous experiences, and what new challenges it offers to you for growth and development.
Think, “One of the reasons I’m so excited about this role is because it allows me to leverage my client management skills [your expertise] with larger clients on more complex deals [the new challenge].”