6 ways to stand out as a candidate

Anyone reading this has undoubtedly had experience with all sorts of job interviews, from great ones to nerve-wracking ones. A frequent question we hear from the candidates we work with is how to best stand out amidst other candidates in a job interview process. In this article, we give our 6 best tips on how to make a great and lasting impression on the company you’re interviewing with.

  1. Ask questions.

As you’ve no doubt heard before: job interviews are a two-way street. One way to impress your interviewer is to ask questions about the role and the company. This not only shows you showed up to the interview well prepared, but also signals your level of investment and motivation for the role. You assume an active role in the process, transforming the interview into a genuine two-way conversation. Examples of questions to ask include:

  • “How do you expect this team to evolve in the short and long term? What position do you envision for this team within the company’s core business?”
  • “What are the possibilities for personal development in this role? Could you give an example of a growth path within the company, with this role as a starting point?”
  • “How do you see my background and experiences fitting into this team and company culture? What new contribution could I bring to the team and company?”
  1. Be clear about your passions.

Passion and commitment to a role counts for more than experience. If you are able to show clear ambition, well-defined goals and genuine passion to your interviewer, you will stick out in their memory.

One way to incorporate your enthusiasm and passions into the interview is to work it into your answers to the standard questions you will most likely get. There are many creative ways to do this. Here are a few examples:

Q: “What business accomplishment are you most proud of?”
A: “I am most proud of the deal I made with software company X. As someone who is passionate about computers, ICT and software, I was the only one in my team keeping an eye on software companies as potential clients. I used my entrepreneurial mindset to get into contact with software company X through cold acquisition….”


Q: “What is something you can still improve?”
A: “One aspect I can still improve in is time management. A few months ago, I noticed that I was spending a lot of time working ahead on writing strategic branding plans for our company’s new proposition. I am very passionate about branding and strategy marketing, and was therefore spending a lot of time on them….”

  1. Show your business acumen.

As with any other business meeting, the way you present yourself is more than half the work of making a good first impression. The first step to a successful interview therefore lies in projecting professionalism, enthusiasm and openness. In essence, a job interview is just another business meeting, so try to frame the meeting in your mind as open-ended from both sides. You just want to meet up to see what you can both do for each other. If you keep that thought in the back of your mind as you go into the interview, it will change your whole demeanor, and you will come across as a relaxed, open and interested business partner.

A job interview is just another business meeting, so try to frame the meeting in your mind as open-ended from both sides

  1. Don’t sell yourself short.

“I know that I don’t have direct experience in the financial services market yet, but….”

“I don’t have the managing experience you’re looking for yet, but…..”

“I don’t know if I have enough sector specific knowledge to fill this role….”

It is very common for candidates to feel underqualified for a role they’re being interviewed for. In fact, research has shown that the most commonly cited reason for not applying to a job at all, for both men and women, is feeling underqualified for the role because not all qualifications are met. However, it is very important to realize that the list of qualifications is an idealized candidate profile. If you’ve made it to the interview stage, you are being interviewed because the company considers you qualified. After all, they would not be wasting their time on someone they don’t consider suitable!

Being qualified does not always mean having the perfect resume on paper. In fact, a candidate that has enthusiasm, passion, and potential for a role will always be preferable over a candidate who is perfect on paper but has no commitment to the role or company. So instead of starting sentences like in the examples above, consider turning your situation into an advantage:

“I think that my experience in software and ICT could transfer over very well into the financial services industry.”

“I have developed a strong personal leadership style in my years of experience as a project manager.”

“I am able to adapt quickly to the new terminology and knowledge required in a new environment.”

  1. Share your career successes AND failures.

As we pointed out earlier in the article, it is of great importance to emphasize your career accomplishments and strong points and to not sell yourself short in front of the interviewer. At the same time, it is also important to share an example of a bad decision or choice. This shows capacity for self-reflection, which is a very necessary character trait for a successful collaboration with colleagues and with ambitious companies. Ability to self-reflect also shows your potential for further growth in the role. You can share an example of a bad decision by using the STAR method:

1. Sketch the situation.
2. Define what your task or assignment was.
3. Describe your action and the mistake you made in choosing this action and why.
4. Reflect: what caused you to make the wrong decision? What have you learned from this and how will you use this experience to prevent bad decisions in the future?

  1. Treat your interviewer like an ally.

One last, very important tip that can help you approach your interview in a more relaxed way is this: your interviewer wants you to get the role. So treat them as an ally in helping you get it! Ask questions and try to test how – not if – you would fit into the profile they’re looking for. Your interviewer is not there to make you fail their tests – they’ve invited you because they want to work with you and see how you can fit into their company culture and role. So treat your interviewer like an ally instead of an examiner, and you will surely stand out in their memory in a positive way.