Passing a few interview rounds, along with a technical evaluation, might be enough to get you to the final stages of a company’s hiring process. But to actually land the position, you need to win out over professionals with comparable skills.
If you’re faced with strong competition, how can you position yourself as the preferred candidate? Here are some effective strategies:
Add a New Checkbox
Recruiters and hiring managers typically select applicants who check off the most boxes on their list of requirements. That generally means there’s a lot of parity among the top contenders for any given job. If you want to win out, you’ll need to focus on something that makes you unique; that will separate you from other candidates who boast similar experience.
“Look beyond the job description and the required technical skills to find an attribute that gives you a huge advantage, preferably something that will impact the business or address the hiring manager’s implicit concerns or issues,” said Bruce Eckfeldt, Inc. 500 CEO and business coach for early-stage and high-growth companies.
To understand what distinguishes you from other applicants, put on your marketing hat. Create a competitive map or conduct an attribute analysis (a tool used to identify competitors’ positions and a challenger’s key differentiators). For instance, are you one of those rare developers who is able to communicate with product managers, as evidenced by your track record of successful cross-team collaborations?
Alternatively, can you show that you are in a constant state of adapting and learning, which points to future success? Does something in your record show that you’ll mesh well with your company’s culture? Those kinds of things will make you a “less risky” hire.
You might not boast all of your rivals’ strengths (and you might not even know who you’re competing against, most likely), but you can nonetheless influence the hiring manager’s decision-making if you can emphasize something that makes you the best fit for the company’s specific needs. Just insisting that you’re “skilled” or “experienced” won’t necessarily cut it; show why you’re ideal for the firm at this moment in its history.
Appeal to the Hiring Manager’s Emotions
A recent study revealed that managers tend to base their hiring decisions on emotion; specifically, whether they feel excitement and enthusiasm for the candidate.
That means forming an emotional bond with the hiring manager (and any prospective teammates who appear during the interview process) is key. Let your personality shine through; remain friendly and inquisitive. Demonstrating passion for the company’s mission and people is nearly as important as showing that you have the technical chops for the role.
Draw Subtle Comparisons
Don’t bash other candidates, even hypothetical ones; that only puts you in a bad light, weakening your chances of landing the job. Instead, draw very subtle comparisons by emphasizing your unique strengths. Take the time to describe examples of your previous work that are relevant to the current job, especially if the results were stellar.
For example, you could say something along the lines of: “While most programmers commit an average of three coding errors an hour, my average is less than one. I’ve improved my bug to code ratios through experience and by supporting my manager’s stringent code review process.”
Fix What You Can
If you botched an answer to a technical question, you can attempt to clear that up during the final stages of the hiring process. Don’t interrupt the flow of the interview to revisit a particular instance—that may only annoy the interviewer. Instead, seize any opportunities that arise organically to revisit those previous topics. By providing additional examples or proof statements, you can show that you indeed know your stuff.
Summarize and Close
Connecting the dots between your attributes and the manager’s needs is not only a powerful way to close your job-interview argument, it’s a key differentiator, explained Dana Manciagli, president of Job Search Master Class.
Here’s how to plan for your closing statement: Before the interview, create a document with a two-column layout. Highlight the manager’s top requirements in one column; in the other, list your specific successes (i.e., the results you’ve achieved in your previous roles) and relevant experience. Any requirements that align with your successes/experience are your key talking points.
For example, if the role requires someone who’s skilled in iOS development, and you built an iOS app at your last job that increased the company’s engagement and revenue by a significant amount, that should form a key aspect of your closing argument: You know how to leverage the technology in ways that profit a company.
Whatever talking points you decide upon, make sure to lay out your case in a logical manner. That will increase your chances of landing a job, especially when you face stiff competition.