5 ways to stand out in an interview

By DeLoss Jahnke

Before you know it, company and organization representatives from across the country will be visiting your campus and conducting interviews to fill their highly sought-after job and internship openings. Take it from me; the competition if going to be fierce! How are you going to create a memorable impression that will get you the opportunity of a lifetime? Here are a few steps to remember:

  1. Dress professionally. This sounds simple, but the wrong look can dash your hopes for a job. Unless the company says otherwise, interviews are business formal events. This means wearing a dark suit, which is different than khakis and a blue blazer. Simple things are so important: Is your shirt ironed? Are your clothes clean (shirt stains will say more than you ever could)? Is your hair (including facial hair, men) groomed? Are your shoes comfortable? Also, be smart with food that day; make sure you don’t have anything in your teeth. And if the appointment is at 1:30 p.m., avoid onions, garlic, etc. for lunch. Arriving at the interview early will give you time to make sure you’re ready to go.
  2. Do your research. Understanding the company and the industry will make a big difference in the answers you provide. The job or internship for which you’re interviewing will have a specific description that you’ll need to know well in advance of the interview. Demonstrating that you understand and can accomplish the objectives within the job description will leave a lasting impression with your interviewer.
  3. Know your elevator speech. Many interviews begin with a seemingly simple, “Tell me about yourself.” This should be the easiest question to answer, but many interviewees ramble and search for words. The answer to this question should be 15-20 seconds, demonstrating that you are a focused individual who is ready to be hired. Pretend that you’re on a short elevator ride with the interviewer. That’s not much time, but it’s more than enough to make a good…or bad…impression.
  4. Practice, practice, practice. Ask a roommate, classmate or advisor to help you with a mock interview. Record the interview, maybe on your phone or a flip cam; it doesn’t need to be fancy, just enough to watch and listen to yourself. Take this mock interview seriously from beginning to end. Your school’s sports teams replicate game conditions as much as possible during practice, and you should do likewise.

    Chances are, as you’re watching your recording, you’ll realize some of your casual habits. Do you slouch or fidget? Do you make eye contact, or do you look elsewhere, as if searching for answers? How often do you say “like,” “you know” and “um”? Many jobs require excellent communication, so be sure to sharpen both your verbal and non-verbal skills.
  5. Finally, try to answer questions with a “CAR” format: Challenge, Action and Result. The interviewer may say, “Describe a specific situation in which you assumed a leadership role.” Your answer will explain the challenge you incurred, the actions taken to address the challenge and the result of your work. Practice using this format so that you’re ready to answer those questions.