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How to Be the Top Candidate at Every Interview

Nov 11 , 2015

It's not enough to be well qualified; one must be the top candidate to get the job.

In an IT job search, sometimes it isn't enough to have the exact qualifications for an open position. For positions where multiple candidates are well qualified, it is necessary to be the best candidate for the position. It's about demonstrating your superiority to other candidates so that you can be perceived as the best person for the job, without coming off like a know-it-all snob. That can be tricky.

Chances are, if you are getting interviews, you know enough about the resume process to write a quality resume and cover letter. You can make yourself look good on paper, but what about during the interview process? This is where it can all fall apart.

Preparing to Be the Best Candidate

Before the interview, you should find out as much as you can about the company and your interviewers as you can. Doing research can help you ask relevant questions and answer questions in a way that will show that you can fit into the company well.

Talk to your contacts and find out if any of them know your interviewers or upper-level management in the company. Not only can you find insight into what makes the interviewers tick, but you can also mention your contacts during the interview or use them as a reference, if the connection is strong enough. Having a personal endorsement from someone the decision-maker trusts can get you the job, many times.

If you don't have particularly good people skills, it's a good idea to practice interviewing with people who do. People skills used to be relatively rare in the IT field, but are becoming more important and necessary to many jobs as collaboration becomes more essential. Practice until you are comfortable and it doesn't feel awkward.

Being the top candidate will get you the job offer.

Showing That You Are the Top Candidate

Always show up to the interview well-dressed. It typically doesn't hurt to be overdressed for an interview, even if you will never dress that way for the actual position. Being too casual, however, can make it look like you don't care about the job or aren't taking the interview seriously. Body language is also important to your appearance, so stand and sit up straight and shake hands confidently.

When the interviewer asks you questions about your experience, respond with an example from a recent job. It isn't enough to champion your skills, you need to convince the hiring staff that you have been there and done that in the past. Being specific will show that you can put your money where your mouth is. Just be sure not to embellish, because the truth about these tall tales has a way of coming out eventually.

One question many people have trouble answering well is "What questions do you have about the position or the company?" Be ready for this question and have some good questions prepared from your research into the company. Don't ask about salary in the first interview; it's better to let the interviewer bring it up, but asking about it before the second interview makes you look presumptuous. Suzanne Lucas, who writes columns as The Evil HR Lady, states that the more you can get your interviewers talking about themselves, the better they will perceive the interview as having gone, so be sure to turn the conversation back on them and their needs and interests a few times.

Follow-up Is Key

Some hiring managers use follow-up as a screening process. If you don't send a thank-you note or email, then call back in a few days to inquire about hiring progress, they figure you're not really that interested and move on to the next candidate. Top candidates follow up appropriately to show that they are still interested in the position.

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