job interview tips

Interview Tips – 3 Pieces of Unconventional Advice

Interviewing is about standing out – not fitting in. There is no shortage of interview tips available online, but most resources just rehash the same information in a different format: be polite, dress professionally, know the company, prepare some questions, etc. These tips aren’t bad, but they will only get you so far.

In this post, Human Jobs offers three pieces of unorthodox advice for how to stand out in interviews. Read on for some fresh ideas on how to be a powerful interviewee.

Tip 1 – Be a diva

It is super important to come across as personable and likeable in your interview, but do not let the drive to conform tamp down your own individuality. While being arrogant is a major turn-off for most interviewers, confidence and the ability to articulate your strengths is a huge asset.

Remember: everyone interviewing will be doing their best to be nice, so a good differentiator is being personable, while also presenting yourself as a formidable candidate.

If you have a real accomplishment on your resume, prepare a clear and forceful articulation of what you have done. Recognize the contributions of others in your past successes, but also take credit where credit is due and don’t shy away from accepting compliments. Projecting self-confidence can make you a desirable asset in the eyes of employers.

Some people reading this may feel they lack experience or have little evidence of past accomplishments. If that is the case, develop a plan of action to impress your interviewer.

Plan for self-improvement

Imagine you are applying to write for a scientific magazine but have little scientific training. Instead of just saying you are passionate about the area, explain to the interviewer how you are planning to master the new subject. Point to a list of books, online courses, or experts that you will speak with.

Or better yet, start taking those courses during the application process, so you can demonstrate authentic enthusiasm. This is the best way to overcome a lack of confidence in an interview situation – have a plan to show how you will grow into the position.

To get started, here are some of our favorite resources for building job skills online. Also, check out Eric Schmidt’s book Trillion Dollar Coach. Schmidt is the former CEO of Google, and in the book, he gives great perspective on building skills and self-confidence throughout your career.

Major takeaways:

  • Forcefully articulate your strengths
  • Don’t undermine your own abilities
  • Be humble, but highlight your achievements
  • Demonstrate a clear plan for ongoing self-improvement


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Tip 2 – Develop a relevant personal narrative

Having a clear narrative that matches your target industry is the key to preparing good answers to a range of interview questions. Apart from the most common interview questions, it is generally useless to prepare answers to specific questions. The better approach is to reflect on your own experiences and talents to craft a narrative that explains your motivations and professional goals.

A robust narrative will give you more flexibility in answering questions and it helps avoid giving canned answers.

It is crucial, however, to have a narrative that matches the field you are targeting. This tip is especially important for humanities people who might be moving into a new area after their university education. If your academic background is in medieval history, but you are applying to be a contemporary political commentator, you need to have a clear explanation for this leap.

Many interviewers are prejudiced against “academic types,” and fear they aren’t worldly enough to do “real world” work. Don’t let yourself be put into this box. Acknowledge your academic training, but build your narrative around job-specific skills.

Although it may feel disingenuous, resist the temptation to go too deep into the nitty gritty of your academic work if it is not directly related to the job. Highlight your major learnings but remain focused on what you can bring to the post. Even if your interviewer finds your academic work interesting, at the end of the day, they are hiring somebody to do a specific task and they need to be confident you can hit the ground running.

Developing multiple income streams is a great way to show ability and highlight “real world” skills, and we have an entire post just on that topic. Check it out here.

How to develop your narrative:

  1. Write down all of your past experiences and education – don’t leave anything out!

    Do not self-censor and exclude certain experiences because you don’t think they are worthwhile or impressive. Some aspects of your background that you overlook might actually impress an interviewer, so put everything down on paper

  2. Research the top skills and experiences of people who succeed in the job you are targeting

    Figure out what traits make top performers in the field you are interviewing for. Are there certain activities or practices that are common to leaders in the field? Do they all follow regimented schedules or do they devote a lot of time to freeform thinking? Research these leaders so you know what is attractive to your potential employers

  3. Build your narrative around the skills and experiences you share with the top performers

    Go back to your list from Point 1 and compare it to the list from Point 2. Find which things overlap and start constructing a narrative around those items. If there isn’t any overlap, develop an adjacency argument – show how your experiences/talents indirectly relate to those traits found in top performers.

Remember to remain laser-focused on the intersection of items from Points 1 and 2. Don’t let yourself get distracted – remember what your interviewer is looking for: they don’t want just a smart and interesting person.

They want a smart and interesting person, who is uniquely able to do the work required!

Tip 3 – Speak the language of your interviewer

This piece of advice is particularly important if you are trying to transition into a new field. Many promising candidates are frequently overlooked by interviewers for not understanding jargon or misusing industry-specific terms.

Imagine you have a background in English, but are applying for a job in finance. Many of the terms used in finance may be unfamiliar to you, even if you understand the underlying concepts. “Cost of goods sold,” for example, is an easy concept, but if your interviewer asks you about COGS – the common acronym for the term – you may stumble and appear unprepared in the interviewer’s eyes.

Being penalized for not understanding jargon is the interviewer’s fault, not your own. Good interviewers should be able to look past these superficial slip-ups and test your conceptual understanding. But many interviewers will quickly discount people who are not fluent, or at least, conversational in industry jargon. So, just accept this as a reality of the interview process and prepare for it.

How should I prepare?

Watch YouTube videos of leaders in the field you are targeting. TED Talks are especially good for this. If you watch a few lectures or interviews with important figures in the industry you are interviewing in, you will likely pick up key phrases that get bandied about. Look up anything you don’t know and get familiar with the manner of speaking common in the profession.

Your interviewer or other people in the field may have watched the same videos, and jargon usually spreads from the top down in industries. Listening to how people speak and what words they use will put you at ease during the interview. This means you will be less like to get stumped by some jargon-filled question.

Important caveat

Don’t pepper all of your answers with jargon just to sound “in the know.” The key here is not so much to deploy the terms and phrases you learn, but to understand them. If you go too far and start spouting jargon, you risk misusing a term you do not understand.

You will also be in danger of coming across as a poser – never a good look. Only use words you understand fully, but make sure you are conversant in what your interviewer might throw at you.

Final Thoughts

The vast majority of interview tips are the same, and these will make you conform rather than differentiate yourself. Never forget: getting through an interview is not only about demonstrating competence. It is just as much about uniqueness, personality, and how you stand out from the crowd.

Comment below with your questions/reflections, and subscribe to HJThoughts!

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Data is the new oil. So if you give away data for free, you are being robbed of an important resource. Even worse is getting hacked. VPN’s provide an important layer of protection between you and adversaries who are looking to steal data. Whenever you connect to public Wi-Fi, use a VPN. We think NordVPN is a fantastic option, so check it out below.

Careers, Entry Level, Interview Tips, Job search, Lifelong learning, skills, Uncategorized

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