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How to stand out in the job interview

You’ve made it through the first-line selection, and now it is time to shine in person: the job interview. Here are some tips to help you stand out and ace the interview.

Prepare well
Preparation is key and will determine how you feel during the interview. If you are well prepared, you will be much more relaxed and natural during the conversation. This doesn’t mean that you should prepare an exact script of what you will say, this can even prove to be counterproductive. Here are some tips to help you get ready:

» Study the job description and tasks you will have.
» Practice introducing yourself with an elevator pitch. Briefly explain your motivation, experience and strengths in a logical and clear manner.

» Think about answers to questions you expect, for example about specific points in your CV or your motivation (see also the box).
» Make sure you know who you will speaking with. Don’t just remember their names, but also look up their CV on LinkedIn or on the company website. This will help you understand what they are interested in; and make it easier for you to ask questions.
» Prepare your outfit. Dress appropriately and professionally, and make sure you feel comfortable. If the interview is online, check if the colour of your shirt is fitting well with the background on camera.
» If the interview is online, make sure you installed the applicable meeting application, and you tested the microphone and camera settings.

Arriving at the interview
 » Arrive on time and plan in some buffer. 30 minutes is reasonable. Work out exactly where to go and how to get there, and always plan a bit of extra time. It is better to wait a little longer in a café on the other side of the street than being late.
» Be polite and kind to everyone, no matter who it is.

» Make sure your phone is switched off, and don’t play around with it while waiting.
» Usually somebody will pick you up and there will be some small talk to break the ice. It’s okay to be nervous.

The interview itself
» Listen carefully and ask if you are not sure if you understood correctly.
» Look the interviewer(s) in the eye, speak with clear and loud voice. There is nothing to be ashamed of, even if you feel uncomfortable.

» Use examples to answer questions. These don’t necessarily need to come from working life, you can also use private life experiences. A good tool to structure your answers can be the STAR method: S – describe the SITUATION. What happened, what was the challenge? T – describe your TASK. What did you have to do? A – describe your ACTION. What did you do, and why? R – describe the RESULT. What was the outcome of the situation? What did you learn from it?
» Ask questions yourself, so that the interview becomes a conversation. It also helps you to steer the conversation if you actively take part in it.
» Remember that it is always a two-way street: You want the job, and they want to hire the best candidate. If you don’t like the atmosphere at the company, people are unfriendly or the job turns out to be different than what you expected, finish the interview professionally. You can always decline the offer afterwards.
» Don’t talk about salary in the first round unless they bring it up.

Examples of questions during a job interview
» Why are you applying for this position?
» What qualifies you for this position? or Why should we hire you?

» What are your strengths and weaknesses?
» What was a major failure that you faced at work? What did you learn from it?
» Where do you see yourself in five years?

Inspiration for questions you can ask
» What are day-to-day tasks, and what does a typical day look like?

» What does success look like in this position? How is it measured?
» What are the most important skills for someone to succeed in this position?
» What do you think is the biggest challenge of this position?
» What do you and don’t you like about working in this company?

» Write a short message the same evening or next morning to thank them for their time and the conversation. If applicable, express that you are interested in a second interview or the job.
» If you don’t hear anything for a week, call to follow up.

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