Interviewing – whether for a new job or a different position with your current employer – can be a nerve-racking experience. You hope that your qualifications speak for themselves, but they may not be enough to make you stand out from a pool of equally talented applicants.
To get noticed, spend time developing a few key interview skills. By learning to form an authentic connection with the interviewer and clearly articulating your value to the company, you will move one step closer to the job you want.
1. Clarify interview questions
Most people are afraid to ask an interviewer to clarify a question, said Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of job listing website FlexJobs. You might worry that the interviewer will think you weren't paying attention, but ensuring that you thoroughly understand the question can really help you give a thoughtful, relevant response.
"Try to paraphrase the question and say, 'Is this what you're asking?'" Fell said.
You can also use this as an opportunity to turn the tables on interviewers and ask them questions. By treating the interview like a two-way conversation and asking intelligent and thoughtful questions, candidates can gauge whether the company is a good fit for them, says Dana Leavy-Detrick, certified career coach and founder of Aspyre Solutions.
"Candidates should pose questions that will ultimately provide them with deeper insight into the company's values, cultures and even challenges," she said. For example, candidates can ask interviewers to speak about their own career with the company, describe a typical day, or highlight the qualities that make someone successful with the organization.
2. Think out loud
One mistake that many interviewees make is stalling when they don't have an answer ready, or responding with "I don't know." Shon Burton, CEO of social recruiting tool HiringSolved, said that thinking aloud is a good tactic to combat this problem.
"The best approach is to have humble confidence," Burton said. "Repeat the interviewer's question, and work through your thought process out loud. The interviewer may give you a hint if you're actively thinking instead of stalling."
3. Communicate nonverbally
Being mindful of your presence and aware of your body language will help you appear more calm and in control.
"Good nonverbal communication speaks volumes about a candidate," said Jonna Myers, an instructor at the Everett Dobson School of Business at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. "It's something most people don't practice, but it makes it very evident when you're nervous."
Myers recommended conducting mock interviews with a friend or in front of a mirror to practice your eye contact, posture and other body language indicators of confidence.
"Since there's no quicker way to kill an interview than to come across disinterested, bored or unengaged, having an opportunity to practice and get feedback will help you overcome the little nuances of your interview persona that you may not be aware of yet," said Sanjay Sathe, president and CEO of the outplacement firm RiseSmart.
4. Know your resume
This may seem obvious, but knowing your own resume inside and out is crucial to interview success. You can take it to the next level by walking into every interview prepared to provide measurable specifics about the accomplishments documented in your resume.
"Whenever possible, include a statistic to put your accomplishments in perspective," recommended Sathe.
According to Sathe, it's much more compelling to say that you delivered customer service to more than 120 customers per week and achieved a 75 percent resolution rating than simply saying that you provided customer service and resolved issues.
"Whatever your contributions were, quantifying them will legitimize your accomplishments," he said.
5. Tell a compelling story
Hiring managers can collect bits and pieces of information about you everywhere, from your resume to your Twitter feed. In isolation, these individual details don't always accurately represent you, but you can use the interview to bring these fragments together, creating a fuller narrative of who you are and what you can offer an employer.
"The interview is your opportunity to tie everything together and tell a cohesive and compelling story about yourself and your brand," said Sathe. "Creating vignettes that tell a story of your accomplishments and your career trajectory that are tied into the needs of the employer is considerably more compelling ... than a disjointed list of past job responsibilities and a description of your skills."
6. Leverage knowledge of the company and interviewer
Every job seeker has been told to thoroughly research the company and position they're interviewing for, but it's just as important to know how to use that information to your advantage. Myers recommended researching not only the job description and organization, but the community in which it's located.
"It's very impressive when a candidate can talk about why he or she is a good fit for the position, as well as things that are going on in the company's community," she said.
Burton added that using LinkedIn to research the hiring manager and anyone else you might be speaking to before the interview can give you an understanding of each person's background and potentially some common ground to spark a discussion.
Additionally, following the company on Facebook and Twitter, as well as setting a Google alert to receive notices whenever the company appears in the news, will enable you to thoroughly research the company and its industry. By immersing yourself in this information, you can shape interview questions and talking points that speak specifically and intelligently to the business you are looking to enter.
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.