How To Stand Out In The Job Interview Even When You Are Not The Best Candidate On Paper

Job interviews are a core part of the selection process.

Ahead of the interview those interested in the job will have submitted a CV or in some cases an application form.

Those CVs and job applications will have been reviewed.

A shortlist will have been drawn up to invite for interview.

Typically around 5 candidates.

When the shortlisting is done, interviewers will have in their mind who on paper is the best candidate.

If you are not the best candidate on paper does it mean you can’t stand out in the job interview and actually get the job offer?

Definitely not.

Now you might think that this is strange.

But let’s look at it in a bit more detail.

When it comes to CVs

  1. 1
    Many candidates get their CV done professionally by a CV writer.
  2. 2
    The CV looks great.
  3. 3
    It might even show the candidate as being really dynamic and delivering some amazing

The problem is

  1. 1
    A professional CV writer will never know you as well as you know yourself.
  2. 2
    The CV may well have been created after a relatively short phone call or online meeting.
  3. 3
    It’s often generic rather than being targeted to your specific professional field.

I remember getting a CV from a senior finance professional who was interested in working with me.  

It took me about 10 seconds to realise it was professionally prepared.  

Yes it looked great but it was never going to market the individual effectively.

That’s why I always ask clients to create their CV and then work with them to improve it.

In many respects being the stand out candidate on paper might actually be a huge disadvantage because:

  1. The hiring manager will have pre-conceived ideas.
  2. If the person who shows up for interview doesn’t match the person on paper, there will be huge disappointment for the hiring manager.
  3. This disappointment might well result in you getting a fair crack at the interview.

So how can you stand out in the job interview and get the job offer even if you aren’t the best candidate on paper.

Prepare better than the majority of candidates

You would think that smart people like accountants and professionals would prepare really well for job interviews.

You would be wrong.

I’ve asked thousands of accountants and professionals how long they typically spend preparing for job interviews.

60% spend 4 hours or less preparing for a job interview

28% spend between 5 and 9 hours.

12% spend more than 10 hours

If you are willing to put in the hours on the preparation you will stand out.

You will:

  1. Demonstrate you have done your research.
  2. Demonstrate your technical skills, non technical skills and personal attributes.
  3. Sell yourself effectively, showing what you have achieved, what you can offer and how you will make a difference if you get the job.

Change the way you think about the job interview

The job interview is a slightly more structured business meeting.

The purpose of the meeting is to:

  1. Explore whether there is a fit between what you have to offer and what the hiring manager is looking for.
  2. See if both you and the hiring manager could work together.
  3. See if you will fit into the team.
  4. Let you determine whether the organisation, culture and role is right for you.

If you go into the meeting with this way of thinking it:

  1. Changes the dynamic of the interview.
  2. It moves the interview to being more of conversation between equals.
  3. Reduces the nerves, pressure and anxiety.

Ask good questions in the interview

Appointing someone is a big investment from the hiring managers perspective.

It’s also a big decision for you as a candidate.

You want to make an informed decision.

Ask good questions that support your decision making.

Ask questions that make the hiring manager stop and think.

Ask questions that are relevant to the level of the role that you are being interviewed for.

The bottom line- you can stand out and get the job offer, even if on paper you are not the best candidate.