How to stand out in an interview?
March 25, 2012 5:01 PM   Subscribe

How can I stand out in an interview among tens of other equally-qualified candidates?

I work for the largest organization in my country: the army. I am a commissioned officer applying for a new post. The way it works is, there are, say, 40 new openings in my field. So a pool is created of 40 officers fit for promotion, and after a series of interviews each of us is placed in the position most suitable for him or her, while taking into some consideration each individual officer's preferences.

I am going to, over the next few weeks, interview for a few positions I am very eager to fill. Supposing all candidates are equally qualified and the decision is based solely on the interview, what would you do in an interview to make yourself stand out among 40 people?
posted by alon to Work & Money (8 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
You can get farther than you'd think just by doing the basics, so I'll start with those. Make sure you're clean, groomed, and neatly dressed per military standards. Be well rested and do whatever you need to do to arrive punctually and in a pleasant mood. Make sure you've done your homework about the positions, both so you sound like you know what you're talking about and so you can ask genuine questions that show a fair amount of thought. Remember, they're looking for someone who can do the job, but they're also looking for someone they won't mind hanging around for a good chunk of their lives every day, so if you can show you have hobbies or similar interests or are otherwise the kind of person they'd want to hang around, it probably can't hurt to do so. If they offer you a drink or something, take it. Taking a sip of water can be a good way to collect your thoughts before answering.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:13 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you want to authentically stand out then you need to have some sort of personal connection with the interviewer. You basically just need to hit it off and that will happen or it won't, like in life some people just hit it off from the very beginning.

If you try to force standing out then you will, without a doubt, stand out but not in a good way. You'll be that guy who was too loud or trying too hard or who used all those stupid things that the internet tells you to say in an interview to "stand out."

Be professional, be prompt, be well-kempt, be personable, be knowledgeable, be confident, be consistent. Let the interviewer finish their questions before you start answering them, don't change your answers half-way through, don't tell them to hire you, don't try to stand out in any way except based completely on your knowledge/experience or if it comes up naturally.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:43 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Be aware of not just the basic job requirements for this new post, but also the job requirements of your particular rank, and think about what those two things will look like as they interact. For example, as a leader, how will you, specifically, help soldiers working under you achieve their professional goals?
posted by spunweb at 6:01 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree wholeheartedly with the first two answers. For my current workplace, I was able to hit it off with my boss because I uncovered he has a similar passion for volunteering and community organizations. Take whatever nugget you can get! Is it possible to do some research on the interviewers or work group?

I don't know about military resumes, and I'd like to know more in fact, but often people put bland interests on their resumes like movies and travel. Well, who doesn't? If you can, try narrowing your interests down to something like a particular sub-genre, like 50s comedies or something like that. That's one way to stand out.

Have you hear of the SAR method for describing things that you have done? This is something you can practice until it sounds natural, which is a bonus. It stands for Situation Action Result. SARs will probably be tied to some of your best achievements, and is a great way to highlight them in a simple way without rambling on. Good luck btw!
posted by Calzephyr at 6:32 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Focus on your accomplishments and why you're better than another warm body when answering questions. Close. Say "I want to be offered this position. And here's why..."
posted by bfranklin at 5:42 AM on March 26, 2012

I think enthusiasm and self-awareness is the best way to make yourself stand out and be remembered. I don't mean over-the-top gushiness, I mean making it really clear to the interviewer how excited you are about what this opportunity would do for you.

Assuming an otherwise even playing field where you all have roughly similar levels of experience and competence, this excitement and self-knowledge of why you want this job will be the thing that people remember. Employers want people who are not only qualified but eager, and have figured out for themselves what it is about job X that makes them want it. In other words, sure you want them to hire you because you want a paycheck, and you think you can do a good job for them. So will all the other applicants. But making your employer understand not only why you are qualified, but why you would be happy in this job is key.

Good luck!
posted by widdershins at 10:27 AM on March 26, 2012

@Widdershins, I disagree with focusing on what the opp would do for you -- they're working with the army, which is not a very "self" focused culture. Highlighting what they can do for the organization as a whole re: fulfilling the army's values, the mission objective, and encouraging the success of other soldiers seems like a better tactic.
posted by spunweb at 1:41 PM on March 26, 2012

When moving cities for a job, an additional mark in your favour is having reasons to go to a certain place, i.e. nearby friends/family, better opportunities for your S.O./kids, etc. It definitely helped win my latest move to another city.

Same for my boyfriend who's in the Canadian military, last time he transferred there were a few openings. He was able to indicate preference for the posting closest to some extended family members, and he got it.
posted by lizbunny at 3:36 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

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